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Author, Dr Janis Birkeland, has hit out at the green building industry claiming there are fundamental problems with the way sustainability is measured.

The originator of net-positive design admits green buildings have made a difference, but they still do more damage than no building at all.

“Each green building increases the problem,” Dr Birkeland said.

“Even though there are numerous sustainable building initiatives and processes that purport to contribute to sustainability, the industry is still analysing and assessing all the wrong things in the wrong ways.

“For example, there are dozens of things fundamentally wrong with green building rating tools.”

Moreover, Birkeland said construction is the source of so much environmental destruction.

“True sustainability is possible and affordable, but not if we continue with current strategies,” she said.

In her new book entitled Net-Positive Design and Sustainable Urban Development, Birkeland explains why current theories and practices are not effective.

She said the book systematically dissects these failings and reverses their underlying concepts. 

The book builds on this critique to show how urban development can give back more than it takes over its lifecycle. It provides examples to show that development can increase - rather than just repair, restore or regenerate - overall social, ecological and economic sustainability. 

“Technically speaking, in a net-positive city, nature's ‘positive’ ecological footprint would exceed humanity's ‘negative’ ecological footprint, relative to pre-urban conditions,” Birkeland said.

“Positive Development theory has led to new methods, strategies and tools that enable professionals and students to design (and assess) net-positive buildings and environments that increase the natural and social life support systems.”

Net-Positive Design also provides a free STARfish computer app.  The STARfish enables designers to go beyond zero (or recycling systems) to create designs that yield net-positive environments.  It defines new criteria and benchmarks based on fixed, objective biophysical conditions, rather than relative to conventional (unsustainable) buildings or current conditions.

This new approach not only up-ends building assessment tools, it integrates assessment and measurement with design.

Commenting on the release of the book, architect, Dr Kathi Holt, said it is essential reading for all decision-makers.

"By re-engineering our approach to urban development, Birkeland reveals how cities could become our most powerful resource in reversing the trends associated with climate change,” Holt said.

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