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Designing a certification system for sustainable urban areas

Key considerations and their implications for the development of Citylab Post-Construction

Time: Fri 2020-02-21 10.00

Location: E3, Lindstedsvägen 3, Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Strategies for sustainable development Planning and Decision Analysis

Doctoral student: Jonas Lind , Hållbarhet, utvärdering och styrning

Opponent: Professor Emeritus Örjan Wikfors, Arkitekturanalys Sthlm AB

Supervisor: Docent Tove Malmqvist, Samhällsplanering och miljö, Arkitektur, Infrastruktur, Hållbarhet, utvärdering och styrning; Docent Josefin Wangel, SLU


In future development dealingwith ongoing global urbanisation and sustainability challenges,urban development is often seen asa key component. To support urban development, various certification systems that define 'sustainable'buildingsor urban areashave been developed world-wide.For a Swedishcontext, Sweden Green Building Council (SGBC) has developed Citylab as asupporttool forsustainable urban development. This tool contains several certification systems and a guiding document forthe planning and construction phasesof urban development. The intention from start has been to include also a certification systemfocusing on follow-up requirementspost-construction inurban development projects, butthe role and function of thiscertification system havenotbeenspecifiedby SGBC. Inthis licentiate thesis,Researchthrough Design (RtD) and a transdisciplinary approachwere appliedto contribute to thedevelopment ofa credibleandready-to-use certification system for sustainable urban areas in a post-construction phase, called Citylab Post-Construction.Through that process the thesis also identifieskey considerations when designing such a certification system.There is little information on how existingcertification systemsfor sustainable urban development were developed,andthere is no well-known and widely used framework for their development. To guide the development of Citylab Post-Construction,a framework of key considerations was formulated,based on a literature review. The framework defines(1) benefits a certification system should provide, (2) principles it needs to fulfil in order to provide those benefits and (3) how to handle the principlesin the developmentprocess. Using theframework in the research presentedinthis thesis madeit clearer what was at stake in each decision and thus the development process more transparent.To identify needs and ideas forCitylabPost-Construction, potential future users of the certification systemwere interviewed. No consensus was reached regarding the role and function the certification system should have,but fouralternatives wereformulated. By comparing thesealternatives with the principles in the framework, differences and shortcomingswere identified. Situationsin whichdifferent principles within the framework may conflict with each otherwere also identified, e.g.the most scientifically credible solution may not always be practically feasible. Thus,the principles cannot all be fulfilled simultaneouslyand mustbe prioritisedand balancedagainst each other. Overall, thisrevealed aneed for deliberativeand transparent decisions regardingthe role and functionofthecertification system,and which principles are prioritisedin decision-making. For the specific case of developing CitylabPost-Construction, it was decided that the system should assess how urban areasperform in terms of sustainability, i.e.assess whether implemented measures have sufficient impact in terms of sustainability. Measures implemented to achieve that performance were not to be included in the assessment.Citylab Post-Construction includes two types of indicatorsfor evaluatingthe sustainability performance of an urban area: First, general indicators that assess sustainability aspects of relevance to all urban areas,and for which the level of performance required forcertification is the same for all urban areas;second,site-specificindicatorsthatareformulatedfor each individual urban areato be certifiedandassesssustainability aspectsimportantin the local context thatare not covered by the general indicators. When choosinggeneral indicators to include in Citylab Post-Construction, indicators already used in different contextswere long-listed, including e.g. Agenda 2030, planetary boundariesand Sweden's Environmental Objectives. Thelist was then processedby working groups comprisingdifferentstakeholders and competencies. Theirsuggestionswerefurther processed by the project teamand discussedwith a reference group,resultingin15 indicators to be refinedtogetherwith experts in each subject area. The entire certification system wassent out for public consultationand underwent workshop testing,where the indicators were testedon two different urbanareas.Based on feedback fromthe public consultation and workshop testing, the certification system was finalised. The Citylab Post-Construction manual developed will be used by SGBC in future certification processes.Based on this work, some conclusions can be drawn regarding the development of certification systems. First, the workhighlighted the importance of using a design-driven and transdisciplinary way of working,starting with the needs of future users,to clarify needsthat the certification systemshould meet. This can help distinguish thetype of certification system that willbe developed from other potentialsystems.Second, the framework of important considerations helpsidentifydifferent principlesthat must be balanced, based on the type of certification system intended. The framework can also be used when analysingexisting systems,to reveal how different principles have been balanced and prioritised. This can lead toa deeper understanding of differences between certification systems,andto a discussion on what kind of assessment a certification system should implyand how they should be used in different contexts. Third,the work in this thesis indicated that development of certification systems in accordance with the framework should use a transdisciplinary approach. This helps tobalancetheprinciples in the framework and to definesustainability, as thatrequires a discussion between different actors and different competencies. To confirm whether the certification system balancesthe principlescorrectly, different types of tests can be used iteratively during the developmentprocess. In this thesis, the development ofCitylab Post-Constructionis discussed and justified in a more transparent way than for many other certification systems. Whileachievingsustainable development in society as a wholewill requiremore than certification of urban areas, Citylab Post-Construction can support urban development as a component in a sustainable society.

Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Dec 20, 2019