Sustainability of the Natural & the Built Environment



Homogenous Environmental seb-Zones. Part of a land suitability exercise along the Red Sea coast

Sustainability in both the natural and built environment is a major issue facing policy-makers, planners, developers and designers. There is no project, neighborhood or city that have yet achieved the right sustainability balance (the 3 Es). The assessment and exploration of existing built forms allows us to learn more about weaknesses that can be enhanced and improved in future projects, plans and designs.

(1) Based on the lecture and discussions in class, please write a single page introducing the most significant environmental components influencing the area you live in. Give examples of how such factors interact with or influence people’s life.

(2) In one page, mention and explain two major elements of the built environment that are crucial to sustainable development but not implemented properly in your area and will impact people’s quality of life.

(Sustainable Development in Cities, USP 514 Class Discussion)

Urban Forest of Africa | Johannesburg, Lagos & Cairo

By: Joe McBride

The urban forests of Johannesburg, Lagos, and Cairo were surveyed to provide a data base for a comparison of their composition, structure, and condition.  Tree species diversity in these three urban forests was compared to the species diversity of trees in each biome in which the city occurred and to climatic parameters of each biome to measure the correlation between urban forest characteristics and the characteristics of the biomes.  Structure of the urban forest was examined in relation to historical precedents for urban design in each city.  Current problems of urban forest condition and management are discussed.

To obtain a copy of the presentation, click on the link below:

Urban Forest of Africa (Johanesburg, Lagos & Cairo)

Building Authenticity in the Landscape | Hawaii


Inspired by the existing modernist façade, the new courtyard at IBM Victoria Ward tower showcases a landscape expression of modern Hawaiian architectural motifs and powerful cultural history. The  historic IBM tower was designed by Vladimir Ossipoff—Hawaii’s quintessential modernist. The new landscape is a distilled expression of Hawaiian identity and serves as an introduction to a larger mixed-use master plan of over 60 acres in central Honolulu.

Building within the flood plain, Lake Naivasha | Kenya


Picture taken 29th March 2014 in Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

If this is the situation for a development occurring within a park that is full of environmental researchers and park rangers, then what is the fate of other development that is occurring in absence of any environmental or climate change considerations.

The Mekong River: Threats to a unique human-ecosystem | South East Asia


The Mekong River is unique among the world’s great rivers in the size of the human population supported by its ecosystem. Approximately 60 million people derive their livelihoods from aquatic life in the river system. Largely unregulated through most of the 20th century, the Mekong River system is undergoing extensive dam construction throughout the basin for hydroelectric generation, with over 140 dams planned, under construction, or built. What will be the cumulative effects of these dams on the geomorphology, ecology, and human populations of the river and its delta? How will these changes interact with other changes such as deforestation in steep uplands, levees and channelization, and accelerated sea level rise?

Greening & Opening the Banks of the Nile, Cairo | Egypt


Picture taken from the Nile in Cairo looking at its western bank, Nov2013

The Nile, in general, and particularly in Cairo, is an ecological, cultural and social corridor that is not yet fully utilized. The 2011 Cairo workshop “Connecting Cairo to the Nile” identified the potential to increase accessibility to the river, suggested longitude trail system, proposed connecting the waterfront with adjacent neighborhoods and proposed expanding the ferry system. I studied a 2-km reach of the east bank in Maadi, a wealthy suburb about 10 km upstream of the city center, with relatively greener banks, availability of resources at the district level, higher awareness of local residents, physical setting allow for banks re-use, existence of community organizations (i.e. Tree Lovers and Midan). Findings of fieldwork and interviews show that: (i) species of native vegetation found are Phoenix Dactylifera, Jacaranda, Cortedarea and Papyrus alba; these are concentrated in 115 meter in southern part of the study area. (ii) Public access was categorized into: public space (accessible), private or semi-public space (accessible with conditions), and prohibited (inaccessible). Along this representative stretch of the Nile, the public access was limited to 16%, the private or semi-public makes 29% and the prohibited zones are 55%. (iii) Boating operations found to be in three categories, floating hotels (Nile cruises), motor boats (including ferries) and sailing boats, all are scattered along the banks without an overall plan or organization, which affects water flow and block public access to the banks. To better develop the banks, I recommend (i) maintaining existing riparian vegetation and expand it to other areas with healthy banks or planted nurseries, (ii) connecting open public spaces to create a pleasant walking trail along the banks in addition to improving public access by relocating government buildings (such as the police or military facilities) and facilitate access to the river for general public, (iii) reducing the anchoring points to two locations and redistribute boating operations to group all motor boats to use the ferry anchoring points and all the sailing boats to use Al-Yacht club marina.