Create Eco-positive Onsite and Offsite Impacts
How Will Ecological Space Be Leveraged?
Offsets granted for creating new offsite spaces for ecosystem/hiodiversity habitats should ensure both projects combined are net-positive and avoid interference in offsite ecosystems.
Net-positive cities would reseed the regions, just as reefs replenish the oceans. Physical development can offer a unique variety of orientations, edges, minerals, microclimates and so on that different biodiversity habitats require. Sometimes developers are given additional (beyond code) floor area simply because they reduce other impacts beyond code requirements - the legal minimum. However, incentivizing architecture that creates more space for ecological gains and/or environmental amenity may warrant a floor area bonus. The eDR should justify any trading/offsetting arrangements.
Ecological compensation, which is generally only remedial, should require net-positive offsetting (onsite or offsite), and trading systems should include retrofitting for ecological space.
As discussed earlier, biodiversity offsetting schemes have usually been partial.18 That is, they allow extra damage in exchange for remediating sites, yet do notdeduct points for the ecosystems damaged during resource extraction. Sometimes greenfield development is compensated for by retrofitting other buildings.19 The idea behind offsetting is to allow compensation where it is cheapest to make improvements, and some buildings are more easily retrofitted than others. Therefore, retrofitting incentives should prioritize the most harmful buildings or most threatened habitats.
How Will the Project Increase Future Options?
Design credits should not he offered for innovations (novelty) alone, especially where these neither change unsustainable construction norms nor contribute to systems transformation.
Some RTs give credits for innovations regardless of the value of the outcomes, and some even give credits for applying a known technology to a new situation.20 Some RTs even require an extra application fee.21 One tool simply sets high mandatory standards/targets to encourage innovation.22 These provide little real incentive to improve whole-system efficiency.2’ Moreover, many new technologies can actually lock-in old directions (e.g. ‘clean coal’). The eDR should therefore explain how the innovation will contribute to the PD Test.
Reversibility and/or keeping options open is fundamental to sustainability, yet assessments have ignored this basic principle, partly because public choice is not considered.
RTs have failed to reward many building features that have positive ecological impacts or to penalize many with negative impacts. Building products can be energy efficient yet create unnecessary adverse ecological impacts. For instance, a zero-energy residential building can cause excessive traffic in a congested area or other negative impacts, yet still receive a high RT score. The eDR would consider projects in terms of their potential irreversibility for future public choice, as well as describing their measurable environmental impacts. (See GO analysis.)
How Will the Building Footprint and Ecological Footprint Be Reduced?
Land coverage should be reduced and permeability increased where appropriate, but these should not suffice as indicators of adequate biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Both reducing a building’s ground coverage and increasing building occupancy are generally considered virtues in green building design.24 One RT gives one point for minimizing ground coverage to increase the landscaping area. However, the benefits of vegetated open space will usually depend more on landscape design and plant selection than the dedicated horizontal area. For example, layers and edges can support more ecological functions than lawns. Off-ground, internal and/or vertical open spaces can add eco-services that benefit occupants and neighbors.
Residential areas should be largely self-sufficient in food, water and oxygen for public and environmental health, as well as to reduce transport impacts.
Social housing usually lacks many amenities other than basic shelter. The onsite production of nutritional food can save residents substantial funds.26 A few square
The Eco-Positive Design Review 313 meters of garden in courtyards, balconies, green roofs and green walls can provide most of an individual’s vegetable needs. A rule of thumb for the minimum (vertical) building-integrated food is 10 square meters per person. The eDR should describe how the functional green space is designed to provide each resident’s fresh air, water and food needs.27
How Will Sensitive Natural Areas and Construction Sites Be Protected?
The use of brownfield sites is often encouraged over greenfield sites, but this is not enough to counteract losses of sensitive areas elsewhere.
Some RTs award credits for construction on brownfield sites or areas of low ecological value.28 Remediating brownfield sites is, coincidentally, a good investment since contaminated land is cheap.29 One RT simply withholds certification for projects on land near ecologically sensitive sites.30 This, again, does little to preserve land of high ecological value, since harmful projects simply do not seek certification. Where applicable, the eDR would explore means to preserve any relatively natural areas that are under threat, through net-positive offsetting/trading schemes. (See CD analysis.)
Offsite waste/pollution should he prevented and remediated, not just managed within the boundaries of construction, as pollution flows in environmental media across borders.
Green construction management guidelines usually focus on reducing site damage from construction. This can include soil loss, sedimentation due to storm sewers, dust and particulate pollution or the preservation of onsite natural elements.31 One RT includes the protection of vegetation and watercourses.32 This approach reduces or repairs the immediate damage caused by construction site activity. It does not ensure ‘ongoing’ land/water management. The eDR should outline how the landscape will reduce maintenance, and state the provisions made for future maintenance.