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SDAT Arrives on Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii to begin their sustainability work

On Thursday morning I attended the monthly meeting of the Lihue Business Association. The guest speaker was Peter Arsenault. Peter is the National VP of AIA (American Institute of Architects) from Syracuse, NY. Peter has been interested  in environmental protection and sustainability for a long, long time.

It was just about a year ago that Pat Griffin from the LBA got together with other notables including former Honolulu mayor Jeremy Harris and Dr. Clark Llewellyn, the dean of UH school of Architecture, and this team began to write Lihue’s application for an SDAT – that is, a sustainable design assessment team. The SDAT program provides broad ASSESSMENTS to help frame future policies and sustainability solutions. SDATs bring a diverse team of experts to work with community decision-makers.PETER ARSENAULT AT THE LBA Meeting at Duke's Canoe Club Restaurant in Lihue

Lihue, Kauai was selected as one of ten cities in the United States to participate in this process. The district of Lihue runs from the north fork of the north bank of the Wailua River down to what is known as the “Tree Tunnels”, the entryway to the Poipu –Koloa area of the island. The SDAT process is an expansion of the R/UDAT (pronounced ROO Dat) for Regional Urban Design Assistance Program, which was started in 1967. SDAT began in 2005 and it is a progressive approach to creating sustainability in a region or area. Lihue was one of 10 cities selected for the SDAT process and by the end of the year there will have been 31 SDATs completed. I’m excited that a small town on Kauai, an island with rich natural resources like sun and wind, and with its diversity of populus, has been selected for this process. Kauai’s population was around 63,000 according to the latest census and is project to grow to  66,000 plus by 2012.

The three main principles applied to the SDAT process are:
     1.    Multidisciplinary approach – experts from multiple disciplines form a team to provide specific expertise in a given area. The AIA currently has enrolled over 100 expert volunteers who get involved in the SDAT process.
     2.    Community participation – this is probably the most important principle since the team is comprised of outsiders to our locale, but they get info by listening to community. As Erin Simmons, the Director for Communities by Design put it, the team members perform their best “sponge impersonations” to learn what people love, what are the areas weaknesses, what is the communities’ vision. This includes an “open mike night” where any community voice can have a forum
     3.    Objectivity – there are no preconceived answers/solutions. All the volunteers will return to Lihue after this initial visit by the team leaders. The expert volunteers receive no compensation and must sign an agreement not to take any paid work in their field of expertise for at least three years after the SDAT work. The volunteers will arrive with a blank slate and without any hidden agendas, and then reflect back what they hear while here on assignment.

The SDAT team’s use the UN definition of sustainability which is the ability of a community to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Arsenault talked about adopting a precept from  the Iroquois Nation who have a belief that they must make their decisions based on how those decisions will affect not only the current  generation, but also seven generations from now. That’s what I call LONG TERM.

The SDAT will focus the consulting task into three elements. Review the chart below to get an understanding of the elements. 

In November, actually right after Veteran’s Day, the team will bring 6 volunteers from around the country and work for three days to develop  a presentation that will present the basic scope of the areas the SDAT intends to address.

After the presentation, about twenty minutes was spent interacting with LBA members and guest and questions were answered. One person stated they were happy that the SDAT’s work involved Lihue, but how would that interact with the rest of Kauai.  Peter Arsenault responded by saying that any local community impacts its surrounding area. The SDAT process will look at a bigger picture and that will include the rest of the island too. The SDAT teams have already encountered dealing with the Latino community, Indians, and cultural groups that feel like they are invisible and silent. Hopefully the native Hawaiian community will be proactive in this process and represent their heritage and culture so that influence is integrated into the SDAT process.

Be looking for some exciting community-focused sustainability work when the SDAT group returns to Kauai for their meetings from November 12th to 14th. I'll be sure to let you know when the schedule of events is firmed up.

Ron Margolis, RA, CDPE, ABR Hawaii Life Real Estate Services 808.346.7095 email: ron@hawaiilife.com

Comment balloon 0 commentsRonnie Margolis • August 04 2008 02:11AM