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Sustainability / trans-disciplinarity : a concern for people and environments between confusing terminology and outdated approaches

Salama, Ashraf M (2007) Sustainability / trans-disciplinarity : a concern for people and environments between confusing terminology and outdated approaches. INTBAU Online Essays, 1 (20).

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There is a great deal of discussion in design, architecture, and construction circles on creating sustainable environments, and there are also widely varying opinions as to exactly how sustainability can be introduced and approached. Current debates indicate that the term encompasses more than the physical and economic aspects. It includes social, cultural, and behavioral dimensions. Observing contemporary architectural practices, however, reveals that there are two major missing dimensions. On the one hand, there is an emphasis on the physical aspects of sustainability, while socio-cultural and socio-behavioral dimensions are oversimplified. On the other hand, there is a heavy reliance on top-down policies and strategies with the aim of developing guidelines to be implemented for the betterment of environments. Strikingly, this takes place at the expense of other bottom-up strategies that aim at sensitizing users toward understanding the key issues underlying sustainability. These two missing dimensions — socio-behavioural dimensions, and bottom-up strategies — offer a rationale for the professional community everywhere in the world to use sustainability as a term in their daily discourse. Nevertheless, even while talking about it, they do not yet use sustainability or utilize it in their daily practices. This article presents a critical voice on the current developments and efforts in dealing with sustainability of built environments, by adopting an alternative comprehensive approach that places high value on "trans-disciplinarity". This is achieved by adapting previous efforts developed in the field, and by addressing users as key players in the process of creating sustainable environments.