Managing Projects to Build Better Futures

Sustainability is no longer a buzzword. Since 2016, when the City of Newark’s Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance was enacted, city planning officials have been required to get more information from developers to ensure that projects are sustainable.

Newark’s Planning & Sustainability team ‘works to develop plans and land use regulations that will guide private and public development across the city. We seek to create livable, walkable, safe and environmentally sustainable communities throughout the city that will provide opportunities for housing, employment, retail services and recreation.’

How does a developer make a community project sustainable? The key is to plan.

Why you need a sustainability plan

Though it is a requirement to provide information about a project’s sustainability, the most successful proposals are those that treat sustainability as far more than a tick-the-box exercise.

By including a comprehensive sustainability plan in your proposal, you demonstrate that you are concerned about the long-term viability and success of your project. This is a key element to convince planners that your proposal is the most suitable. It shows you have great awareness of the community in which you are constructing and that you are fully engaged with helping to deliver sustainable communities.

3 Key elements of project sustainability

There are three elements that you should cover to show that the project can maintain itself over the long term:

  1. Financial sustainability – the ability of the project to continue financially, and the sources of funding that will enable it to do so

  2. Organizational sustainability – the ability of your organization to survive throughout the project lifetime and, potentially, any guarantee periods

  3. Community sustainability – how well the project is developed and accepted by the community

You’ll need to show that you are financially stable, with proper planning and development strategies, and that your organization is led well with good governance and compliance policies.

How to develop a community project’s sustainability

Within your sustainability plan, you should include details about how you intend to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment and maximize social and economic impacts. 

You’ll need to discuss construction methods, energy use, the materials you will use to build, how waste will be dealt with, and access to the building (including parking).

All these topics should be aligned with the needs of the community. Here are five steps to consider when developing a community project sustainability plan.

  1. Develop key partnerships

The partnerships you develop are key to your success. They should bring diverse strengths to the project, and help by adding the skills and experience that city planners will be seeking. 

You’ll need to show that these strengths will help deliver the sustainability you promise, with your goals aligned to the needs of the community. One way to do this is to develop community projects that can be delivered throughout the build, such as apprenticeships, employment, and education projects.

  1. Involve the community

Consult with the community that your project will serve from early stages. Learn what their needs are and encourage them to become involved in the project. Give them ownership of ideas and help them to feel valued as partners toward successful completion.

  1. Evaluate and communicate regularly

Show how you will evaluate the project regularly to ensure that it remains aligned with the stated needs of the community. 

Ensure that you communicate with the community regularly, too. You’ll need to open and maintain communication channels to deliver ongoing messaging to large audiences. How and what you communicate is a big determinant of maintaining community support and engagement. 

Make certain that you maintain open communication channels with key community members and your partners.

  1. Demonstrate previous success in sustainability

Can you demonstrate how your projects have achieved the success of their original promise, and that they align with your own values and beliefs? Selecting the right partners will help you to establish which of your projects are best to highlight your successes and demonstrate that you develop for sustainability within communities.

  1. Build immediate momentum by supporting local businesses

The City of Newark has been leading the state by contracting work to local businesses, helping to recycle residents’ taxes back into the community. Since 2010, I have personally managed projects that have met over 40% resident participation and 30% local business participation. I believe that it is time that our counties, cities, and municipalities follow this lead. 

You can help to deliver sustainable community projects by supporting local businesses, and demonstrating how you will do this in your sustainability plan.

Manage your projects for sustainability

What aspects of your construction project will have the greatest impact on the sustainability of the community? In this article, I have touched on several key points that you should consider from the planning and design stage and then apply to your sustainability planning to deliver to community need and help create more vibrant neighborhoods.

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