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One Planet Living: Sustainable Communities and Business from the UK to China, and an Open Source Framework
16 Jun 2012 - 16 Jun 2012
4:00 PM - 5:24 PM

Windsor Barra hotel

Our last speaker of the day rounded up with a sentiment from 19th century French surgeon Dr Victor Pauchet that encapsulates the problem that we need to overcome. "The repetition of acts form habits: habits form character; character forms destiny." And this was ultimately what we are here to talk about; how to break the unsustainable patterns of behaviour that have gotten us into the planetary crisis position we find ourselves in.

With globe-spanning speakers convening on Rio to set out their businesses successes in using One Planet Living (OPL) principles and its overarching framework, we received a fascinating expose of low impact, sustainable communities from the UK to China, by way of Abu Dhabi, Portugal and sunny California.

Debunking the myth that these sort of green communities are luxuries, deliverable only at increased costs / reduced profits, BioRegional co-founder Pooran Desai kicked off with how the One Brighton housing development on England's south coast not only came in at standard costs, but the sales rate was well above standard. And a year later, three quarters of the new residents residents have indicated that not only have they a massively reduced environmental impact by living there, but their quality of life has improved immeasurably at the same time. The business opportunity – environmental / social sustainability link couldn’t be clearer. So no surprise that progressive companies are interested - with over $25 billion of property developments across the world currently employing the OPL framework.

Jason Hu, VP of China Merchants Property Development company (one of China's biggest developers) set out how they are employing OPL to transform their development arm into one that has shifted from properties, to green properties, to green communities and now to green lifestyles. All part of their 'Green Habitat vision, their current OPL project in Guang Zhou, Jinshan, is very large scale, with 20,000 people living there all enveloped within their '5 minute walking principle' (something increasingly common in OPL developments). That is, you can do all four 'walkings', says Jason, within five minutes - walking to school, for recreation, to work and to shop - with all the necessary commercial and retail space in the development. This OPL-inspired development won the 2009 UNHabitat award for best sustainable business.

Paolo Reis Silva, of the Portugese developer Pelicano, was up next setting out how the development-cum-reforestation project Mata de Sesimbra had employed OPL priciples from the earliest land use planning stages to ensure maximum impact and value were realised for the project. Getting these big decisions right in relation to density, mobility, food, etc was seen as key.

With less than half of the development area being built upon - the remainder being left for wildlife and wilderness (a key consideration for One Planet Living) – it was crucial that modes of transport and access to low environmental impact services were right. Using environmental psychologists to best understand the needs of their end users, the results are stunning (presentations will all be available on the BioRegional website shortly).

Swiftly crossing the Atlantic, the session (ably moderated by UNHABITAT'S Raf Tuts) moved on to how OPL can filter through into the public policy-making process to great effect. Andrea Traber of DNV KENA explained how OPL isn't just lending itself to the creation of a super-sustainable development in Sonoma, California, US, but has seen significant changes to local municipality regulation.

The negotiation process surrounding the development - which again takes a 5-minute living approach - has pushed California's already progressive state legislation such that regulations governing renewable energy use, water harvesting are much more developer-friendly, while maintaining the highest environmental credentials.

This 200-acre development will make a massive positive impact on its residents’ lifestyles, while making progress towards reducing the five planet lifestyles that most Americans enjoy.

And it is not just at single development scale that OPL is employable. Edson Yabiku of global architecture and masterplanning firm Foster and Partners went out to outline how the new Abu Dhabi city of Masdar had used OPL principles to develop this car-free city (in one of the world's most car-dependent and resource hungry nations - having a 6-planet lifestyle!).

This 600-hectare city (about the same size as Venice) uses the OPL principle of 'Health and Happiness' as its cornerstone. That was the target from day one when they won the government-led competition to design the new desert city. As a young, fast-growing country Abu Dhabi hasn't benefitted from the best urban planning and the trick for Masdar was to achieve a design that reversed the car dependence of the rest of nation. While at the same time making a city that was a comfort and joy to be in in the midst of the fierce desert heat. Looking through the window of OPL's Culture and Heritage principle they drew upon centuries-old, but recently overlooked, desert construction techniques to deliver coolth and comfort through the city and its buildings.

With wind towers to flush heat out of the atmosphere, the ambient temperature will be a balmy 20 degrees lower than in Abu Dhabi city. I could go on and on, as the wealth of fascinating speakers filled the session with invaluable insights of how One Planet Living could deliver sustainable yet increasingly profitable business opportunities in wildly varying geographic locations around the world. The OPL gauntlet is there to be picked up by business everywhere.



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