Neighborhood sustainability assessment tools (NSATs) have been one of the most important tools for gauging and assessing sustainability practices on an urban scale. It is also the modern day tool used to mitigate undesirable changes due to urbanization while systematically and simultaneously improving communities or cities environmental, economic and social well-being. From the early 2000s till date, several tools have been developed in different regions of the world. The initial set of tools came from more industrialized parts of the words with tools such as BREEAM Communities - UK, LEED Neighborhood Development - US and CASBEE Urban Development - Japan. Slowly, less industrialized countries have followed suite, with tools such as Green Building Index- Malaysia, Green Township-India and BERDE Clustered Development - Philippines. Yet closer inspection showed that no such NSAT exists in the region of Africa. This observation was quite astounding based of the current situation in Africa, which include but not limited to rapid urbanization, severe impact of climate change such as droughts and floods, limited water access, lack of energy access, economic poverty, institutional failures in governance and planning, archaic or draconian technologies and infrastructure etc. These issues are heavily prevalent in African nations and yet it is baffling that no NSAT has been developed for countries within this region, especially since they stand the chance to gain immensely from the NSAT initiative, if applied properly. Further investigation also showed that these tools were not without their flaws and were not as effective as presumed to be. Some of these flaws include their overly environmental focus, the subjective nature of the point based system which NSATs have all come to adopt, their overly top-down method in indicator selection etc.
Considering the abovementioned motivations, this study aims to investigate the properties and characteristics of previously developed NSATs, in a bid to provide the means for African nations to develop their version of NSATs. The DNA of NSATs consist of three major phases (1) The selection of headline sustainability indicators (HSI) (selection of main sustainability issues to be tackled) (2) the selection of sustainability indicators (otherwise called criterion in NSATs) that provide the metric to achieving the given HSI (3) the selection of the point based system to assign sustainability points. This research investigates the first stage, as this stage (early selection of HSI) provides the first point of action in the optimization process and research will subsequently show that some key flaws in NSAT development can also be addressed here. This study also utilizes the city predicted to becoming the most populous mega city in Africa by 2025, Lagos, Nigeria as a case study to illustrate the parameters to consider in not only the adoption of the tool to a different context but the optimization of the tool as a whole.
To achieve the above, a proposed indicator selection framework was developed to aid the early selection of HSI. Through a detailed analysis of selected NSATs, the concept of a sustainability pathway model (SPM), was developed, and based on the earlier conceptualizations of Valentin and Spangenberg (2000) was used to appraise and characterize the various Dimensions of sustainability (DoS) i.e. environmental, social, economic and institution; in order to coherently understand their relationships and applications in any given NSAT. The SPM approach was used to analyze 15 different NSATs. This was not only to bring out inherent traits of developed NSATs; it was used as a process to enhance the selection process of HSI. Subsequently, it was shown that the predominant focus of these NSATs was mainly environmental. It was also shown that the DoS under a given HSI need to be interrelated to enhance their ability to be more impactful in terms of sustainability operations in the implementation phase. In line with this, the study argued and demonstrates that the reason for the environmental aspect being the vantage point from which most NSATs are developed is due to the “top-down approach” and “local context” considered in the design of these NSATs. Accordingly, we posit that if such a “top-down approach” is adopted as the basis for the design of NSATs for African countries, there would be significant impediments particularly in the implementation phase.
Following our detailed critique and analysis, we then attempt to recreate a scenario, where elements of the NSATs concentrating on the themes of “Land use and Transportation” are designed using the results from questionnaires of 200 individuals residing in Lagos metropolis (the most densely populated region in West Africa). The methods used involved an extensive review of literature (variations of content analysis), survey based method (utilized the concept of critical case sampling) and analytical comparison of a range of NSATs. Our findings demonstrated that the “green agenda” which most NSATs usually pursue do not necessarily reflect the reality of the “populace” whom these NSATs are supposed to serve particularly from the standpoint of the prevailing developmental challenges in Lagos and African cities as a whole. Thusly, with the strong social and economic requirements displayed by the “populace” we were able to identify aspects in which a principally “expert-led” development of NSATs would falter for the specific case of Lagos as an example of an urbanizing sub-Saharan African metropolis. Based on the analysis of our results, we were able to identify congruence points between the “experts” and “populace” which then served as the basis for the design of an effective NSAT template for sub-Saharan African cities.
In line with our findings, we thus come to the conclusion that NSATs which would adequately serve Lagos, Nigeria’s and indeed Africa’s quest for sustainability must have the following characteristics:
(i) Indicators for NSATs should be developed or selected based on the interrelationship between the four dimensions of sustainability. An indicator that considers one dimensions is far less sustainable than that considers multiple dimensions.
(ii) Sustainability though important in the African context must not be “imposed”, but rather be designed through detailed concentration on the social and economic aspects which are important to the “populace”, and integrated with the environmental aspect which “experts” usually focus on, coupled with being able to adequately fit with institutional directives that are implementable and realistic
(iii) The early selection of HSI through an integrated of participatory process can be obtained through three steps:
a. Use of sustainable pathway model (understand previous NSATs and associated HSI).
b. Select HSI from preexisting NSATs developed by experts.
c. Validate the selected HSI and introduce new HSI if necessary through the community participation.
|Date of Award
|8 Mar 2019
- Univerisity of Nottingham
|Ali Cheshmehzangi (Supervisor) & Arthur Williams (Supervisor)
- Integrated participatory framework
- Sustainability indicators
- Neighborhood sustainability assessment