About the event
In 1985 the United Nations designated the first Monday of October as the annual World Habitat Day (WHD). This day highlights the state of our towns and cities, as well as the basic right of adequate shelter for all. Observing this day is intended to remind us that we all have the power to collectively build fair, sustainable and dignified places to live.
The need to improve our built environments is greater than ever. Cities are responsible for some 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions with transport, buildings, energy, and waste management accounting for the bulk of urban greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, good housing and public spaces are not universally enjoyed, with significant inequality between national regions and other countries. The future of our planet depends on all sections of society working together to create sustainable, carbon-neutral and inclusive built communities.
How to approach it
Housing and urban design is integral to everyone’s lives and the way in which it is done reveals much about a society. This is a great day to highlight how these issues form part of the wider, interlocking crises of inequality, pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss. You can do this by an imaginative exercise in which you help your students to think through what more inclusive, sustainably designed built environments would look like.
There are two things to consider here. Firstly what kind of values do we want to promote? Some examples might be carbon-neutral, accessible, attractive, safe and fairly distributed. Secondly, how do these values translate to the design of cities, towns and communities? Some examples for this might be, insulated homes, walkable neighbourhoods, affordable or free-housing, community spaces and urban biodiversity. For a good example of this, have a look at the design of an ‘Earthship’ house which uses waste materials and clever design for virtually zero emission homes.
Help students to visualise what these kinder, greener spaces might look and feel like. Ask students to close their eyes and imagine themselves walking through one such neighbourhood. Ask: what can you do? What’s different? What do you like most? Suggest that we can build communities like this now, the only missing piece is the collective desire and effort to do so.
Jungles, deserts, wetlands and forests are all different kinds of habitat. Did you know that humans live in habitats too - from villages to cities? Like animals, we all want a nice place to live. If you could design your dream habitat to live in what would it look like? How would you make it sustainable?