The United Nations has written a set of “principles for sustainable and inclusive urban design and architecture” for architects to sign up to called the San Marino Declaration, which architect Norman Foster is set to launch. Set to be ratified in the republic of San Marino, the declaration outlines a set of standards that architects and other built environment professionals should adhere to.
“Next month I’m going going to be launching a United Nations declaration, which is the equivalent of the oath that physicians in ancient Greece undertook to uphold ethical standards,” Foster said.
Signatories to the declaration would agree to design buildings and cities “in a way that limits the use of energy, uses only sustainable energy sources, reuses rainwater and limits the use of other natural resources”, as well as using recycled materials where possible. The principles would also require architects to “respect the identity and cultural heritage of places and buildings”.
The UN’s 26th annual climate conference COP26 addressed carbon emissions from buildings for the first time last November during a dedicated half-day, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dedicated two entire chapters to buildings and cities in its most recent report.
Below are the UN’s principles for sustainable and inclusive urban design and architecture:
People-centrality, social responsibility and inclusivity: urban planning, design and architecture need to foster and support social responsibility and integrate diversity and equality through due consideration of the needs of individuals and households across all races, age groups, gender, cultures, abilities and income levels, including intergenerational planning.
Cultural identity, values and heritage: urban planning, design and architecture should respect the identity and cultural heritage of places and buildings as well as the cultural values and traditions of communities.
Resource efficiency and circularity: every city, urban infrastructure and building should be designed in a way that limits the use of energy, uses only sustainable energy sources, reuses rainwater and limits the use of other natural resources and reduces resource losses.
In addition, every city, urban infrastructure and building should, to the extent possible, by design: use recycled materials; reuse and re-qualify spaces; reduce the production of waste reuse water; and encourage food production through urban agriculture, orchards and food forests.
Safety and health: every city, urban infrastructure and building should be based on internationally recognized quality standards as well as safety standards for workers and citizens, including fire safety.
Homes should provide a comfortable, safe and healthy living space, while cities and urban spaces should be designed with the imperatives of ensuring the safety and health of citizens; providing safe and sustainable mobility systems, including rail, road, inland waterways as well as walking and meeting spaces, green areas and urban forests that are accessible to all. Port cities need to ensure that port facilities are up to international transport and safety standards.
Respect for nature and natural systems and processes: every city, urban infrastructure and building should be designed in a way that limits its impact on the ecosystem of surrounding spaces, including by respecting plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and natural habitats.
This implies conducting ex-ante environmental impact assessments, allowing spaces for biodiversity and using natural materials as well as low impact production assembling and dismantling processes.
Climate neutrality: cities, urban infrastructure and buildings should be designed and re-qualified to minimize the associated climate footprint, by adopting creative solutions that reduce pollution and energy use; phase out unsustainable mobility systems; use modern, energy-efficient, climate-neutral systems; and integrate green energy generation systems in city designs and buildings.
People-smartness: technology and smart information and communications technology solutions should be used to improve livability, including the most socially disadvantaged, bolster transparency and curb corruption.
Resilience, durability, functionality and foresight: city and architectural design should support solutions that make homes, buildings and urban spaces resilient to natural disasters, especially those caused by climate change, including hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, flooding and high winds; and making buildings and infrastructures durable and flexible, incorporating spatial adaptability to accommodate new conditions and usages over time.
Affordability and accessibility: cities and homes need to be affordable and accessible to all citizens. Designers need to keep this factor in mind and design high-quality environments for meeting the needs of all citizens.
Inter-disciplinary cooperation and networking: cities and urban spaces should be designed to foster cohabitation, community engagement, solidarity and social cohesion taking into account the needs of citizens across all races, age groups, gender, cultures, abilities and income levels;
Engagement: consultation with and participation of the local communities is essential for any urban project, including small, medium and large-scale projects. Continuous engagement with various stakeholders, including longitudinal research, will foster trust, ensure responsiveness to the needs of all citizens, and consolidate shared ownership of the city’s future.
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