I learned a new term this week as I read an article on sustainable development in my favorite magazine, Sustain: “Glocal”. I’ve been coming across a new term every week in the “sustainability” world, and it’s getting hard to keep up with the jargon. This new word, however, rings true to what Sherwood and the Greenbuilding development industry is facing on a more frequent note. We often challenge the idea of what it means to be “sustainable” as we consult for our international clients. And this word seems to address the issue nicely, as it can be a challenge to understand the different economic and environmental issues involved with sustainable development when working with a vastly different cultural with individual values. It made me think.
The article mentions a new project in Urridaholt, Iceland incorporating a “glocal” design approach to create a new level of sustainability. In this sense, “glocal” is defined as where universal sustainable principals are retooled by the local professional and citizen community to create a system that addresses the highly specific regional issues. The article outlines the importance of enhanced local and community involvement to achieve a successful goal. Is designing this way easy? No, I would say not. It takes commitment, deep thinking, and local collaboration such that a design goes forward so that it fits the sense-of-place and regional cultural values. One must be willing to adapt. “Humility is a consultant’s most valuable tool when working overseas” confesses Eric Holding of John Thompson and Partners based in the UK.
Glocalization is a new paradigm for international relations and an innovative practice of development cooperation. The Glocalization strategy empowers local communities, linking them to global resources and knowledge while facilitating initiatives for peace and development. It provides opportunities for the local communities to direct positive social change in the areas that most directly affect them, and to shape an innovative and more equitable international system.
‘Glocal’ Design in the US?
Sure … this concept is not really all that new. For example, we in the U.S. struggle to design best management practices for stormwater that will work as well in rainy Portland as in he deserts of Las Vegas. Without local influence and expert know-how much of our sustainable design would not and cannot be fully successful.
We must remember that we do not live in a country such as the Netherlands where the climate and environmental concerns can be regionally simplified. The US contains one of the most complex and varying environmental systems and cultural mixes in the world.
So why make this comparison between work in the US and working overseas?
Working on national designs within the US brings similar issues as seen in global sustainable design. To use the eloquent words quoted earlier, we as designers must remember where ever the project may be located,
In sustainable design, humility is a consultant’s most valuable tool.
We are always listening and learning. We do not come to the table with all the answers, the answers are found. That is what makes our growing field so fun.
Posted by: Ken