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Defining absolute environmental limits for the built environment

Lowe, R; (2006) Defining absolute environmental limits for the built environment. Building Research and Information , 34 (4) pp. 405-415. 10.1080/09613210600772482. Green open access

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Abstract

The question addressed is whether it is possible to define working limits on environmental impacts from the built environment in terms of global carrying capacity. The main focus is on energy-related impacts, since these are global and relatively well-understood. Four possible approaches to defining limits are explored: static equilibrium, asymptotic, integral of excess and planned future. The conclusions that emerge from this exploration are that global environmental constraints are very tight, but also that they are dynamically and strongly influenced by the trajectory of social and technological development over the coming century. Their use as the basis for practical, quantitative metrics of sustainability, therefore, involves a large measure of subjectivity. A fifth approach - the developmental approach - is identified, which instead of focusing on long-term external constraints to human activity, focuses instead on the internal, short- to medium-term dynamics of the built environment itself. It appears likely that the developmental approach, guided by qualitative conclusions from the analysis of global carrying capacity, is likely to be most fruitful.

Type: Article
Title: Defining absolute environmental limits for the built environment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/09613210600772482
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/2290
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