The Power of Synthesis: the Pursuit of Environmental Sustainability and Social Equity Through Design Practice

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The paradigm of architecture and design is changing. Centuries of industrialization and rapid urbanization have placed profound stress on the earth’s natural systems, presenting new challenges for architects and urban planners. As our collective awareness towards these challenges increases, designers are increasingly called upon to partake in the global transition towards a low-carbon future. These professionals are re-assessing their priorities and practices, striving for better ecological and social scenarios.

This dissertation explores how architects and designers successfully integrate environmental sustainability and social equity deliberations into architectural design practice by implementing more holistic sustainable design approaches. It advocates for a future reality where these considerations are naturally incorporated into the design process of any architectural project, and suggests a framework for their more effective integration.

The dissertation opens with a review of current sustainable design approaches and practices in the architectural design profession, focusing on the tools and methods commonly used for their integration in the design process. Next, it presents three case studies of exemplary architectural projects, each demonstrating a progressive design approach that successfully integrates both environmental and social sustainability agendas within the design process. Data collection methods included a series of semi-structured interviews with designers, architects, developers, clients and other stakeholders in the respective projects, as well as site visits. In each case study project, the process of its inception, development, settings, and design methodologies were explored, aiming to evaluate the potentialities and effectiveness of these attributes for better integration of socially and environmentally sustainable design agendas.

Synthesis of the collected data ultimately offers a framework for more effective integration of these virtues within architectural design processes. The conclusions point to a multivariate threshold containing a combination of external conditions, recommended processes and design-based tactics to achieve such projects.

The conclusions underscore the method for application of these factors, not as isolated deliberations but as parts of a holistic, integrated process. When applied concurrently, these factors perform synergistically to produce holistic, well-rounded living environments that foster environmental stewardship alongside social and cultural wellbeing, empowering a community to flourish.