Omnibus: Becoming a Good Sustainability Planning Practitioner

18th October 2010

Session 3: 4.00 - 5.00

Introduction to Sustainability Planning Tools - Standards


In this session we examine the ways in which "standards" are developed and used in sustainability planning. Standards and their close cousins regulations and guidelines, are employed widely and diversely in today's world and have huge implications for planning. Begin by getting a sense of this by reading about their breadth and diversity of use as laid out in Wikipedia. Also see how how the International Standards Organization (ISO) defines standards and related regulations. As you do these and the other readings below think about your responses to the questions on the agenda at the bottom.

Then review how four standards-related terms often used in sustainability planning are defined: Best Practices, Best Available Technology, Appropriate Technology, and Intermediate Technology

To examine how standards are being developed and used in sustainability planning in Canada we will consider five major illustrative examples.

1. InfraGuide: The National Guide to Sustainable Infrastructure

The InfraGuide is a product of collaboration between the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and government agencies that provides Best Practice Reports on sustainable infrastructure along with illustrative Case Studies and E-Learning Tools for those involved in planning for sustainable infrastructure. Take a look at the following examples; you will find each of them contains discussion of many of the topics we are considering:

Case Study of reconstructing a road in Gibsons BC

Best Practice Reports > Decision Making and Investment Planning > Managing Risk

E-Learning Tools > An Integrated Approach to Assessment and Evaluation of Municipal Road, Sewer and Water Networks

2. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

The US Green Building Council is responsible for developing and implementing the increasingly widely used LEED standards. Go to their web site to get a basic introduction to the LEED rating system, project certification, and professional accreditation. The Canada Green Building Council is responsible for adapting and developing the USGBC standards to meet Canadian conditions.

3. "Living First" in Downtown Vancouver

Read Larry Beasley's short article to get an introduction to the unique and highly successful approach that has been created to develop and implement urban design guidelines in Vancouver. Think about how guidelines relate to standards and how they can be employed in areas other than urban design.

4. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) of Canada

The FSC resulted from concerns about forestry practices worldwide and was established after the UN Rio Conference in 1992. Read the FSC's About tab to learn how they are involved in developing Forest Management Standards (note the BC Standard); in preparing learning resources and running training programs for certifiers; and its work on market development for FSC-certified products.

5. Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)

In 2006 UBC was awarded a Campus Sustainability Leadership Award by AASHE for its Sustainability Leadership Strategy. AASHE is now developing a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) for Colleges and Universities (pp. 12-18) How does this approach to standard setting and monitoring compare with others?



  1. What are the fundamental characteristics of any standard? How do standards compare with regulations? Guidelines?
  2. What are the particular characteristics of sustainability standards? And what challenges do they generate for their formulation, adoption and use?
  3. Who participates and how in the development of standards?
  4. Where do you find standards being (a) developed; and (b) used in your case study planning process?
  5. Do these standards reflect weak or strong sustainability? In what ways?