GaiaGroup : Gaia Research : Training & Facilitation : Sustainable Development Model : Back

Sustainable Development Model for Communities

Gaia Group (Gaia Architects, Gaia Planning and Gaia Research) are presently developing a Model for Sustainable Development. The aim of the model is to:

  • assist regeneration of communities

  • assist communities to become intelligent clients, participating in and taking ownership of the process of safe, healthy and sustainable community development, through defining and auditing indicators.

  • demonstrate practical applications to community clients, designers, developers and others.

    It is intended that the model will be developed into a generic tool for broad dissemination in the light of feedback from work into sustainability indicators, re-visiting of existing development projects, practical experience, workshop discussion, peer review and validation. The project will be undertaken with a range of projects including Healthy Living Centres looking for viable long term management strategies and Housing Organisations looking for self-management tools based on continual improvement of the built environment.

    The work is underpinned by a commitment to respect stakeholders and to provide a safe and healthy built environmental specification at the same cost as conventional alternatives.


Over the past twenty years there has been a reluctance on the part of communities - and often also their professional advisers to take on board sustainable construction issues. The Gaia Group have sought out areas where there is a clearly definable and direct benefit to such communities in their project work. We have been developing methodological tools to assist in moving community architectural projects (Housing Estates, sports and recreation facilities) towards the aims and objectives of Agenda 21. Sustainable construction has been taken to include Social and Economic criteria alongside physical interventions as the construction industry cannot deliver sustainability without this contextual approach. It has been necessary to put in place post-construction economic and social structures in order to guarantee long term viability.

One model shows particular promise. It has been developed over a number of projects to incorporate Sustainable Development issues as an integral part of the approach to regeneration of peripheral estates. It is an approach to construction which has been used to:-

  • assist communities to become better clients and

  • facilitate their participation in, and ownership of, the process of sustainable development;

  • deliver environmentally benign housing at no additional cost;

  • relate project inception and development to sustainable development indicators.

The model balances bottom up approaches to sustainable development (locally determined) with top-down (European & International commitments & priorities) in order to encourage an inclusive and participatory approach. It promotes self-identification of sustainability indicators and self-auditing of year on year improvements.


The Diagram above is a simplified version of the overall approach. The present need is to further develop, validate and disseminate the model - amended in the light of literature reviews, workshop discussion and peer review - in cooperation with clients. Relevant issues identified originate from both the Global context (top down) and the Local situation (bottom up).

The work is at the leading edge of good practice and would allow government to be an active partner in positive work with communities and clients seeking sustainable development strategies from a bottom up approach whilst addressing international objectives.

 GaiaGroup : Gaia Research : Training & Facilitation : Sustainable Development Model : Back

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