There is a general awareness of sustainability issues in the built environment professions as well as a growing focus on using technical skills to provide sustainability solutions. In recent years the subject of sustainability has increasingly come to the fore at a strategic level within organisations. However, at present there is still relatively little clarity about which skill sets genuinely facilitate the delivery of sustainable outcomes even though – or perhaps because – education and training providers deliver a bewildering array of products. While sustainability knowledge and skills continue to be so poorly defined, sustainability itself will continue to lack credibility, which in turn will hinder people’s ability to identify and acquire the skills they need to deliver sustainability solutions.
This paper primarily seeks to draw together the latest thinking on what the core knowledge and skill sets among white collar professionals across all sectors of the built environment industry should be. This core knowledge and these skills are essentially the building blocks of sustainability literacy. In addition, they have other important ramifications – in particular in terms of the methods that are used
in sustainability training and education, and the ways in which these skills may be translated into business opportunities.
Despite a shared interest in social sustainability, academics, professionals and policymakers often hold varying perspectives about what social sustainability is, and how it can be implemented and assessed.
We began our network by trying to forge a definition of social sustainability, but have come to appreciate the value of a holistic idea of sustainability that does not differentiate between social, environmental, and economic sustainability because in our experiences, these distinctions are superficial and unhelpful.
Competencies in Higher Education Frida Besong and Charlotte Holland
Dublin City University, Ireland
The concepts of sustainability and sustainability competence are controversial, complex,
difficult to define and measure, and have varied meanings for different people and
practices. Given the complex nature of sustainability, there is limited availability of
paradigmatic frameworks to guide educators in assessing sustainability competencies.
This paper introduces the Dispositions, Abilities and Behaviours (DAB) framework,
which influenced the design of an intervention in 2013ñ2014 that profiled sustainability
competencies among final year undergraduate students in a higher education institution.
The results of the mixed methods study indicate that the DAB framework has good
potential as a guide to educators or researchers in understanding and profiling sustainability-related
abilities, attitudes and actions (areas of performance) of cohorts of students
within higher education settings.
Key competences in sustainability: a reference framwork for academic program development
Wiek, A., Withycombe, L. & Redman, C.L. Sustain Sci (2011) 6: 203. doi:10.1007/s11625-011-0132-6
The notion of sustainability usually refers to environmental and resource economics and was
only recently extended to its social implications. This paper attempts to explore these social
aspects of sustainability. Therefore, a definition of sustainability that applies the ides of external
effects to intertemporal problems is suggested. Two effects on sustainability can be identified. First, social security instruments may affect a sustainable growth path (indirect effects), second, the stock of social capital may diminish (direct effect). It is shown that indirect effects are ambiguous and significant direct effects are unlikely to occur.
Background note from the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
A central aspect of the social dimensions of sustainable development relates to social conditions and factors that shape processes of change. These “social drivers” relate to social structures and institutions that shape people’s preferences, behaviour and possibilities, and to agency, that is, the capacity of individuals and groups to influence change. Social structures include forms of socioeconomic stratification (class, ethnicity, gender and location). Institutions include the informal and formal “rules of the game” that pattern the behaviour of people and organizations in fairly predictable ways.