LESS (Local-area Envisioning and Sustainability-scoring System) is a design decision-making framework developed by HASSELL to generate sustainable design solutions that lessen emissions, use of resources and social disparity.
HASSELL identified a need for a robust and flexible method of assessing urban sustainability. Following a detailed study of available tools, several gaps became evident. Most existing tools adopted a ‘one size fits all’ checklist approach and failed to consider the specific issues that are of importance to the community or area being assessed. Most were unable to provide unified and easily interpreted results that integrated multiple criteria according to their relative importance; and none linked their results with targets or benchmarks. To overcome this deficiency, HASSELL undertook a research and development program to design the comprehensive framework.
LESS uses the Drivers-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) concept being followed by international bodies such as the United Nations and European Union. It helps answer the questions of: what is happening to the urban environment and why, what the consequences are for the environment and humanity, what is being done and how effective these measures are, and what actions could be taken for a more sustainable future.
The framework enables integrated mapping, measuring and monitoring of sustainability in urban areas across the four domains: social, infrastructure, governance and environmental. This allows for a triple bottom-line assessment in both the built environment and society, along with diagnosis of problems, and identification of strengths, weaknesses and successes in policy and planning.
As the jury citation from the 2010 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects NSW Awards observes, ‘HASSELL has shown an entrepreneurial spirit in deciding to research and ultimately redesign a method of assessment for urban sustainability … LESS demonstrates a willingness to expand the traditional skills of the profession.’
The framework has been independently assessed against a range of alternate climate change tools. In 2010, the Climate Adaptation Tools for Sustainable Settlements (CATSS) project carried out a comparative analysis of 54 available tools. LESS was rated the most effective in ‘measuring how we define and work towards adaptable, sustainable human settlements.’
Earlier this year LESS was granted federal government funding through the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network, based at Melbourne University, to develop up to six new sustainability indicators for the City of Melbourne.
IMAGES | HASSELL