What is Holistic Sustainability?
Sustainable development is now a global trend, which is great in that it promotes environmental health and consciousness in design and development. The problem with globalized trends is they get too big to be helpful. The current trend has led to green-washing areas. Slapping a solar panel on a skyscraper does not lead to sustainable architecture. A holistic approach to sustainability, however, has the potential to promote a more synergistic understanding of the environmental, social, cultural and economic factors of a certain location and how each of these factors leads to a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle of an area and its inhabitants.
A reductive approach to sustainability, on the other hand, turns green design into a checklist— wildlife preservation- check, recycled materials- check, mixed-use planning- check— without really approaching what each of these techniques is trying to achieve.
A holistic approach uses four pillars of sustainability—social, cultural, environmental and economic— together to create projects that work with, as well as within, an environment and lead to the growth of strong, integrated, healthy communities in every sense.
Starting with the local culture and already existing communities and geographies, developments can enhance the interesting and unique aspects of a location. Using local traditions, beliefs, and resources reinforces the cultural heritage of a location, making these new areas thriving cultural hubs. These communities hold the social values of the residents that connect them to their culture and history, and they also promote the education of these values, which attracts tourists and visitors who are interested in understanding local culture.
This increased flow of people boosts local businesses, which in turn supports the community by building a strong economic foundation. These communities become economically sustainable without needing to import homogenous chains, allowing the local culture to flourish and create an even more vibrant community. The interactive connection between people and environment creates environmentally healthy living that again emphasizes the regional culture. The combination of social, environmental, cultural, and economic factors positively reinforce each other to increase the quality of life of an area and enhance growth.
Our development Khawr Awqad in Salalah, Oman uses these concepts to create an integrated lifestyle destination that comprises an educational eco-park, resort, and sustainable residential community. The eco-resort is targeted toward nature tourists who want access to the natural beauty of the wildlife preserve, as well as close proximity to local residents and activities. The residential area is a pedestrian village built on green principles, with a mixed-use recreational area. The eco-park is a wetlands reserve that is dedicated to environmental protection and education. Together, these three components create a diverse but integrated community where local culture can interact with global trends in an environmentally friendly way.
Oman considers the protection of wildlife a top priority and has been creating nature preserves for over two decades. The wetlands in our design is one of these preserves, and we strive not only to protect the wildlife, but to use this area as a tool for education, turning inhabitants and visitors into stewards for the preservation of local flora and fauna. Instead of isolating the preserve, we want to incorporate nature into the local community and create a destination that is enriching.
The community will have a river walk area that holds local businesses, such as retail locations, galleries and restaurants, that gives the neighborhood a distinctive personality. These businesses will also attract local visitors who can now turn their trip to the wetlands into a recreational day trip. This river walk will bring residents, visitors, and eco-tourists from the resort together into a socially active place where tourists have the opportunity to meet local residents and learn more about the culture of Oman.
The holistic approach to sustainability promoted in this project brings together disparate aspects of the same community so that they support each other and support development and growth. It is the integration of cultural, social, economic, and environmental growth into a long term plan for supportable, healthy living in unique, diverse environments.