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Positive Development: From Vicious Circles to Virtuous Cycles through Built Environment Design Paperback – August 20, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


'One of the best books on sustainability I've read in a long time ... clear, compelling, and dead on.' - David Orr, Oberlin College, author of The Nature of Design and Ecological Literacy

'Birkeland's book takes the next step ... it argues that design for nature, or 'design for eco-services', is long overdue, and explains how we can do it.' - Hunter Lovins, President and Founder of the Natural Capitalism Solutions

'A heralding work of how a positive and innovative design agenda for the built environment, underlined by an uncompromising valuation of ecology and nature's services, can mobilize our efforts in becoming native to the planet.' - Michael Braungart, Professor of Material Flow Management at University Luneburg, Germany and co-author of Cradle to Cradle

'What a great book! Thank you so much and congratulations on its great feat in effortlessly combining erudition with simplicity.'- Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Australian Greens

'Invaluable not just to designers but to all those whose work impinges on the environment.' - Ken Yeang, Architect, Llewelyn Davies Yeang, UK

'An unusual, and heartening, combination of the radical and the realistic.' - Clive Hamilton, former Executive Director of The Australia Institute, author of Growth Fetish and co-author of Affluenza

'Birkeland is one of the world's leading thinkers on sustainable built environments. In this book she distils her wealth of experience into a very accessible text on how we can achieve net positive development.' - The Natural Edge Project, authors of The Natural Advantage of Nations

'Birkeland convincingly argues that we can 'develop' in a way that replenishes and increases the planet's life-giving services. I urge that this book be read and championed by our infrastructure designers as well as all others.' - David A Hood, Chairman, Australian Green Infrastructure Council

'Birkeland brings a fertile and inventive mind to bear on the critical problem of how to cope with the planet's disappearing carrying capacity.' - David R. Godschalk, University of North Carolina in Urban Land

'This is a wonderful book that should be on the desk of every architect and planner.' - Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, President, Australian Conservation Foundation

'I highly recommend Professor Birkeland's book...a required text for IGP's course on 'Sustainable Architecture' that is a partial prerequisite for the Member (MIGP) or Fellow (FIGP) designations.' - Grant W Austin, President of the Institute for Green Professionals

'This book made me think. It will be a book that I will come back to on many occasions as it questions the conventional approach to sustainable development and goes far beyond, offering advice towards positive development. I will keep it to hand in order to stimulate thinking and to provoke debate.' - International Journal of Sustainable Engineering

'The author is a known champion for sustainability in built environment with excellent critique and good solution and best practice examples, the book gives new ideas in 54 boxes. This book can be read again and again.' - Built Environment

'As a handbook for architects and planners willing to embrace those ecological principles and wanting to reflect more deeply on what is involved in making the transition, this is a book that can be warmly recommended.' Frank Stilwell, International Journal of Water  


About the Author

Janis Birkeland worked consecutively as artist, advocacy planner, architect, urban designer, city planner and attorney in San Francisco before entering academia in Australia. She has authored over 100 publications on built environment and sustainability and wrote the highly successful and widely adopted Design for Sustainability (Earthscan, 2002). She is now Professor of Architecture at Queensland University of Technology, Australia.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (August 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844075796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844075799
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,076,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is an ambitious book, at times strident in tone, written `to leapfrog the intellectual and institutional barriers that are entrenched in the foundations of urban and regional planning'. The central notion is `Positive Development' defined as a `physical development that achieves net positive impacts during its life cycle over pre-development conditions by increasing economic, social and ecological capital.' As such it embodies a strong critique on the notion of sustainability that has held sway since the Brundtland report in 1987. `Sustainability' as it was originally defined comes down to seeking an appropriate trade-off between economic growth and the associated environmental cost. Technology plays a key role in decoupling growth from impacts as much as possible. Birkeland assumes a more radical stance that opposes equating sustainability with `industrial growth with less impacts' and the underlying substitutability of economic, social and environmental goals. She refuses to see negative impacts as inevitable and argues that a productive infrastructure needs to be built that enhances our natural resource base, not merely minimizes our impact on it.

The central task for Positive Development, therefore is to come up with a design and planning approach that is able to increase natural capital: a `surplus' of renewable resources provided by natural systems. However, thinking in terms of trade-offs is so deeply ingrained in the planning practice that it needs to be reconceptualized from the ground up. Building rating schemes and sustainability assessments are based on analytic frameworks that are reductionist, aggregative and sequential: "They prioritize bean counting over design, accounting over accountability, and prediction over performance.
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