Positive development and assessment

Birkeland, Janis Lynn (2014) Positive development and assessment. Smart and Sustainable Built Environment, 3(1), pp. 4-22.

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– There has been a tendency in sustainability science to be passive. The purpose of this paper is to introduce an alternative positive framework for a more active and direct approach to sustainable design and assessment that de-couples environmental impacts and economic growth.


– This paper deconstructs some systemic gaps that are critical to sustainability in built environment management processes and tools, and reframes negative “sustainable” decision making and assessment frameworks into their positive counterparts. In particular, it addresses the omission of ecology, design and ethics in development assessment.


– Development can be designed to provide ecological gains and surplus “eco-services,” but assessment tools and processes favor business-as-usual. Despite the tenacity of the dominant paradigm (DP) in sustainable development institutionalized by the Brundtland Report over 25 years ago, these omissions are easily corrected.

Research limitations/implications

– The limitation is that the author was unable to find exceptions to the omissions cited here in the extensive literature on urban planning and building assessment tools. However, exceptions prove the rule. The implication is that it is not too late for eco-positive retrofitting of cities to increase natural and social capital. The solutions are just as applicable in places like China and India as the USA, as they pay for themselves.


– Positive development (PD) is a fundamental paradigm shift that reverses the negative models, methods and metrics of the DP of sustainable development. This paper provides an example of how existing “negative” concepts and practices can be converted into positive ones through a PD prism. Through a new form of bio-physical design, development can be a sustainability solution.

Impact and interest:

2 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 88571
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Sustainable development, Urban ecology, Resilience, Ecosystem services, Net positive development, Building assessment, Building rating tools, Regenerative design
DOI: 10.1108/SASBE-07-2013-0039
ISSN: 2046-6099
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Deposited On: 09 Nov 2015 01:06
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2015 01:12

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