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Environmental goals and responsibilities were secondary to pressing socioeconomic and political objectives.
The Earth Summit +5, which took place during the 50th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in June 1997, was the first opportunity to review progress on Agenda 21 and the environmental treaties and agreements adopted since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992.(*) While acknowledging that a number of positive results had been achieved, the Assembly expressed deep concern that the overall progress of sustainable development was less in 1997 than in 1992.
Despite the recommendations of the Special Session of the General Assembly on the Review and Appraisal of Agenda 21, which called for strengthened partnerships among local, subnational and national levels and surveys to examine barriers to Agenda 21, there has been no comprehensive research on the response of local authority interests involved in large-scale infrastructure planning, design and development. In addition, there has been little research activity to gauge the scope of sustainable development knowledge among public sector architectural design professionals, one of the primary groups influencing the integration of environmental principles in the preliminary planning stages of building and other infrastructure projects.
This article profiles a study that was conducted by the author to determine the degree of sustainable development [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] knowledge and application among public works building design professionals by using a mail-back questionnaire survey of architects in 21 countries and personal interviews with senior management in selected public works authorities. (See Appendix).
Survey scope and variables
The study sought to measure the level of integration of sustainable development policies and strategies in the following areas: building design/construction and resource conservation; reduction of harmful outcomes; protection of the natural environment; environmental performance measurement; and information technology and sustainable development. The survey also explored the social dimensions relative to sustainable development integration by public works authorities, in particular the attitudes of architects to renewable energy resource use; reference sources for environmental principles and strategies; influences on and barriers to adoption and assessment of organizational practice in communications and training; recognition and rewards; and the respective public works authorities' overall environmental performance within the building industry.
The study of public works departments used a combination of three research methods:
* a mail-back questionnaire survey of public works authorities architects in 21 countries
* a mail-back questionnaire survey of public works authorities government architects in 21 countries
* detailed and in-depth interviews with senior public works authorities in 14 countries.
The stages involved were as follows:
* develop methods for investigation
* develop the survey methods and questionnaire
* conduct a sample study from a representative number of New South Wales Public Works and Services architects to field-test and validate the questionnaire
* conduct a pilot survey of New South Wales Public Works and Services architects to benchmark the scope and impact of activities
* refine and adapt the questionnaire as appropriate for an international audience
* direct interview of organization heads
* issue departmental questionnaires and conduct the survey analysis.
The final stages of the methodology involved the formulation of a framework for the segmentation of public works authorities according to status and basic orientation, and the development of an ecologically sustainable service delivery guideline for the architects within the context of their public sector operating environment. A time-line chart depicting key aspects of the research methodology was developed, specifically survey design and pretesting, travel, interviews, receipt of surveys, thesis argument development and final submission.
Given the nature of the research, there was a need to extend the enquiry beyond the existing survey methodology in order to isolate the broader socioeconomic factors that influence the adoption of …