Indicators of Urban Sustainability in Mexico

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The 2007-2012 National Development Plan (PND) of the Executive Branch of the Government of Mexico, in the fourth of five central themes on public policy described (PND, 2007), sums up environmental sustainability in three main aspects: the sustainable use of natural resources, protection of the environment and the knowledge and culture needed for sustainability; and even though this theme has errors in some concepts and is incomplete with respect to the definition of sustainable development presented by the Brundtland Report (UN, 1982), emphasizes the sustainability as an important factor in the development of the country, particularly in the use of water, forests, jungles and biodiversity; at the same time it emphasizes environmental management and ecological order leading to controlling climate change and appropriate management of dangerous solid waste. Though it is not the central theme of this paper, we should mention that this national plan, in the section of that theme or chapter 4, there is no mention of the sustainable management of energy, of raw materials or how economic and social aspects should interact with the environment, in order to complete the triangle of sustainable development in every way; in any case, the paper also mentions that scientific environmental research is necessary for social development, as well as education and environmental cultures (PND, 2007). On the other hand, Mexico has been taking steps towards the moderation and reduction of environmental impact in diverse sectors of production, like fisheries, forestry and industry, with the dispositions and considerations described in the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, in the section of environmental impact (LGEEPA), but when it comes to city planning and construction there are no existing norms which directly regulate the design of architectural and urbanization projects or products. Recently the National Housing Commission (CONAVI, 2007) published a code for the construction of housing which includes in part VI a reference to sustainability, chapter 27 is entitled Sustainability where an approximation is made to what could be an urbanarchitectural sustainable design, including some consideration about energy, bioclimatic design at an urban and architectural level, water, green space, climatic maps and small section referring to thermal materials, which can be of great use for home design though not at a norm or regulation level for sustainable construction, and in the case of an individual wanting to apply these recommendations, there is a lack of methodology which would help to apply the recommendations to any type of project.

This paper is an introduction to Sustainable Urban Development or sometimes called New Urbanism, and will discuss the principles and advantages of its application (CNU, 2008), to understand the indicators of sustainability which are must be taken into account for there to be good planning in sustainable urban development, and to understand the factors that influence cities in particular, specifically through the concrete study of: housing, neighborhoods and whole communities.

2. THE CONCEPT OF SUSTAINABLE URBAN DESIGN

Sustainability is when the current society can satisfy all of its needs without compromising the needs of future generations (UN, 1982), taking advantage of the natural resources while controlling and changing the environmental impact caused by any productive activity (Ingwe and all, 2009). On the other hand, design is a creative process in the production of objects, projects and services that serve to satisfy any necessity. In the case of architecture and urbanism design serves to satisfy the needs of inhabitability. So, sustainable urban design is a creative process for the implementation of urban projects under sustainable premises and practices. The sustainable principles and practices in terms of urbanism are (Serrano-Barquin et al. …