A key aspect to building bridges between different disciplines is a common understanding of language. Sometimes a new word is required to describe new connections. This glossary includes words compiled by students in the 2014 and 2017 versions of the course as part of an exercise in comparing definitions of key terminology in heritage conservation and sustainability.  The words come from glossaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, policy documents, or scholarly work that includes definitions as part of positioning their research. The meanings of words change over time, and in different contexts of use, so this glossary is a starting point rather than a definitive source. Examples of additional glossaries to review include: Evergreen City Builder Glossary; Parks Canada/Historic Places Heritage Conservation Glossary of Terms; the Cultural Landscape Foundation Glossary of Types and Styles; or the First Peoples’ Cultural Council Indigenous Cultural Heritage Glossary.

Adaptive reuse

“Adaptive reuse has been identified as a process to ameliorate the financial, environmental and social performance of buildings (Langston et al., 2007; Bullen, 2007). It is best described as “a process that changes a disused or ineffective item into a new item that can be used for a different purpose.””

Bullen, P.A., & Love, P.E.D. (2010). “The Rhetoric of Adaptive Reuse or Reality of Demolition: Views From the Field.” Cities, 27(4), 215-224. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2009.12.005.


“Authenticity, considered in this way and affirmed in the Charter of Venice appears as the essential qualifying factor, concerning values. The understanding of authentic plays a fundamental role in all scientific studies of the cultural heritage, in conservation and restoration planning, as well as within the inscription procedures used for the World Heritage Conservation and other cultural heritage inventories. […] Heritage properties must be considered and judged within the cultural context to which they belong.” Thus, “depending on the nature of the cultural heritage, its cultural context and its evolution through time, authenticity judgement may be linked to the worth of a great variety of sources of information. […] The use of these sources permits elaboration of the specific artistic, historic, social, and scientific dimension of the cultural heritage being examined.”

ICOMOS. (1994). The Nara Document on Authenticity.

Bio-climatic architecture

“Archi­tec­ture that has a con­nec­tion to Nature. Build­ing designs that take into account cli­mate and envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions to help achieve optimal ther­mal com­fort inside. It deals with design and archi­tec­tural ele­ments, avoid­ing com­plete depen­dence on mechan­i­cal sys­tems, which are regarded as sup­port.”

BioclimaticX: Integrating Climate and Energy with High Performance Buildings. (2009). What is Bioclimatic Architecture?


“An ecological notion that refers to the richness of biological types at a range of hierarchical levels, including: genetic diversity within species,the richness of species within communities, and the richness of communities on landscapes. In the context of environmental studies, however, biodiversity usually refers to the richness of species in some geographic area, and how that richness may be endangered by human activities, especially through local or global extinction.”

Freedman, B. (2003).  “Biodiversity.”  In M. Bortman, P. Brimblecombe, & M. A. Cunningham (Eds.), Environmental Encyclopedia (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 131-134). Detroit: Gale.

Brownfield reuse (regeneration)

“In rapidly urbanizing areas, brownfields –if reused –can host new development and new uses that would otherwise spread through undisturbed landscapes far outside urban centers. Brownfields can help balance regional land-development processes, so that fewer virgin Greenfields are despoiled and at the time underutilized land can be regenerated…if integrated into a broader strategic planning framework, brownfield reusecan address broader societal challenges of improved energy efficiency, reduced consumption of natural resources, cleaner air, water, and land; and an overall reduced carbon footprint.”

Hollander, Justin B. , Niall Kirkwood, Julia Gold. (2010). Principles of Brownfield Regeneration. Washington, USA : Island Press.

Built environment

“The term ‘built environment’ encompasses all of the physical structures and elements of the human made environments in which we live, work, travel and play.”

Frank L, Engelke P.  (2005) “Multiple Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health: Walkable Places and the Exposure to Air Pollution.” International Regional Science Review 2:193-216.

Carbon neutrality

“Carbon neutrality is the achievement of zero net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a specified organization or building. This is achieved by measuring GHG emissions and then (for all emissions identified) offsetting them through the retirement of an equivalent amount of qualifying verified emissions reductions or removals. Carbon neutral is not the same as having zero emissions.”

Lui, J. (2011, July 20). CSA Launches Carbon Neutral Program to Help Organizations and Building Owners Demonstrate Carbon Neutrality.

Climate change

“Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”


Contaminated land

“Land which has had its quality and usefulness reduced by the presence of one or more contaminants in the soil and/or groundwater.”

Park, C and Allaby, M. Eds. (2017). Oxford Dictionary of Environment and Conservation (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Cultural ecology

“The study of the relations between humans and their environment, paying particular attention to processes of adaptation through cultural means. […] Cultural ecology combines anthropologists’ interest in the ethnographic study of non-industrial societies with an understanding of key ecological concepts such as resilience, stability, and biodiversity.”

Castree, N., Kitchin R. & Rogers A. (2013). A Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cultural Heritage

“For the purposes of this Convention, the following shall be considered as “cultural heritage”:

  • architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
  • groups of buildings:groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
  • sites:works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view.

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]. (1972). Convention Concerning the Protection of Natural and Cultural Heritage.

Cultural landscape

“Cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent the “combined works of nature and of man”. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal.”

UnitedNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2008). Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. (p. 47). UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Cultural sustainability

“If we take the broadest concept of what culture is, cultural sustainability must fully embrace environmental, economic and social sustainabilities. Human relations with their environment, economy and society all involve culturally specific values, beliefs, attitudes, knowledge and behaviours. […]Cultural sustainability is often […] conceived in terms of its inter-linked (not isolated) relationship with the other three strands of sustainability.”

Memmott, P., & Keys, C. (2015). “Redefining architecture to accommodate cultural difference: designing for cultural sustainability.” Architectural Science Review, 58(4), 278–289.

Cultural tourism

“The commercialised manifestation of  the human desiring to see how others live. …It is based on satisfying the demand of the curious tourist to see  other peoples in their ‘authentic’ environment and to view the
physical manifestations of their lives as expressed in arts and crafts, music, literature, dance, food and drink, play, handicrafts, language, and ritual.”

Jafari, Jafar. (2002). Encyclopedia of Tourism. London,Routledge.

Dissonant heritage

“Tunbridge and Ashworth utilize the concept of “dissonance” in discussing the principles and practice of heritage management. According to them, the idea of dissonance conveys two key elements: ideas of discrepancy and incongruity; and an implicit analogy with musical harmony which implies the possibility of a move towards consonance or some form of optimum balance. Dissonance therefore “provides both a tool of description and a guide to planning interventions” (p.21)”

Hall, C. M. (1997). “Dissonant heritage: The management of the past as a resource in conflict.” Annals of Tourism Research, 24(2), 496-498. (p. 497) doi:10.1016/S0160-7383(97)80033-3


“The ability of a facility, its components, or its constituent materials to perform satisfactorily over a minimum specified period under the influence of all actions, including various environmental influences”

Mirza, Saeed. 2006. “Durability design of infrastructure and some related issues.” Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering.

Ecological integrity

“Ecosystem health, which may apply to some nonpristine or degraded ecosystems provided they function successfully; ecosystems abilities to regenerate themselves and withstand stress, especially nonanthropogenic stress; ecosystems optimum capacity for undiminished developmental options; and ecosystems’ abilities to continue theirongoing change and development unconstrained by human interruptions past or present.”

Lemons, J. (2001). Ecological Integrity. In D. Cuff., & S. Goudie (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Change. Oxford University Press.

Economic sustainability

“The long-term maintenance of economies and other economic systems for the benefit of future generations. / The use of various strategies for employing existing resources optimally so that a responsible and beneficial balance can be achieved over
the longer term.”

Kaliski, Burton S., and Thomson Gale (2007). Encyclopedia of Business and Finance. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

Embodied energy

“The sum of energy consumed for the main processes involved in production of the material (direct energy input) and the energy spent for procurement of raw materials and other resources required for the main production processes (indirect energy inputs). It is the total primary energy required for extraction of resources, transportation, manufacture, assembly, disassembly, and end of life disposal of a product.”

Monahan, J.C. Powell. (2011). “An embodied carbon and energy analysis of modern methods of construction in housing: A case study using a lifecycle assessment framework.” Energy and Buildings 43(1): 179-188.

Environmental mitigation

“The term, mitigation, means to reduce. In an environmental assessment context, environmental mitigation refers to any actions taken to avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, eliminate, compensate or offset potential adverse environmental effects during the planning, design, construction, operation, and decommissioning phases of development projects, activities, works and undertakings. It also includes remediation or restoration of habitats disturbed, damaged or destroyed by the development or activity.”

British Columbia Ministry of Environment. (2010). Towards an Environmental Mitigation and Offsetting Policy for British Columbia: A Discussion Paper.

Environmental sustainability

“The avoidance, to the maximum practicable extent, of irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources.”

Fulton, Scott, et al. (2017). “Environmental Sustainability: Finding a Working Definition.” Environmental Law Reporter News & Analysis 47(6): 10488-10491.

Heritage conservation

“heritage conservation encompasses the identification, protection and promotion of things that are important in our culture and history. The term heritage covers a wide range of tangible things: it can be an object in our built environment, such as a railway station, a bridge or a neighbourhood; it can be an artifact or moveable cultural property, such as a painting or a dress; or it can be part of our natural environment, such as a park or a garden. It can also be intangible, as in folklore, customs, language, dialect, songs and legends.”

Fulton, Gordon. (2006). Heritage Conservation. The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Heritage value

The aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social or spiritual importance or significance for past, present or future generations. The heritage value of a historic place is embodied in its character-defining materials, forms, location, spatial configurations, uses and cultural associations or meanings.

Parks Canada. (2010) The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

Historic place

“A structure, building, group of buildings, district, landscape, archaeological site or other place in Canada that has been formally recognized for its heritage value by an appropriate authority within a jurisdiction.”

Parks Canada. (2010) The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

Historic urban landscape

“the urban area understood as the result of a historic layering of cultural and natural values and attributes, extending beyond the notion of “historic centre” or “ensemble” to include the broader urban concept and its geographical setting….”

UNESCO. (2011). “Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape.” UNESCO General Conference 36C, Annex, 5-12.

Integrated design process (IDP)

“One widely adopted approach that has emerged for the design of “advanced,” “green” or “sustainable” buildings is the Integrated Design Process (IDP). The IDP is an interdisciplinary team approach, which facilitates thinking of the building as a system, and considers competing and complimentary aspects of the local site including code and bylaw requirements; climate; building form and space planning; envelope; energy efficiency; renewable energy potential; mechanical, electrical and other systems; landscaping and user preferences, in the design of a building or community.”

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2012).  “EQuilibriumHousing InSight: Integrated Design Process”.

Lifecycle analysis

“Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its life cycle.”

This definition builds from ISO (2018).

Minimal intervention

“Minimal intervention in the context of heritage conservation means doing enough, but only enough to meet realistic objectives while protecting heritage values. Minimal does not mean doing little or nothing, or the least possible.In fact, enough intervention to arrest and correct deterioration, meet codes, or introduce new services, can be quite extensive. Determining minimal intervention is a matter of rigorous assessment, options analysis and creativity to identify the intervention that balances technical and programmatic requirements with protecting heritage value.”

Parks Canada / Canada’s Historic Places. 2010. The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

National historic site

“Located in every province and territory, national historic sites can be found in almost any setting, from rural and urban to wilderness. These sites allow us to learn more about Canadian history, including the diverse cultural communities who make up Canada, and the history and culture of Indigenous peoples. They may be sacred spaces, archaeological sites, battlefields, heritage houses, historic districts, places of scientific discovery, and much more.”

Parks Canada.n.d. National Historic Sites.

National park

“A natural area of land or sea, designated to:

  1. Protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for present and future generations;
  2. Exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area; and,
  3. Provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.”

Source: “Guidelines for Protected Areas Management Categories” (IUCN) The World Conservation Union, (1994).

Natural heritage

“For the purposes of this Convention, the following shall be considered as “natural heritage”:

  • natural features: consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view;
  • geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation;
  • natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.”

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]. (1972). Convention Concerning the Protection of Natural and Cultural Heritage.

Nature conservation

“Active management to ensure the survival of the maximum diversity of species, and the maintenance of genetic variety within species. The term also embraces the concept of long-term sustained resource use or sustained yield from the earth.”

A Dictionary of Plant Sciences.


“The term was first coined in 1972 by Bill Mollison of Tasmania, Australia, by merging the terms, “permanent” and “agriculture.” Although originally developed for small subsistence farms, the practice has expanded to apply to gardens and urban settings. …Permaculture systems typically feature: passive energy systems and minimal external energy needs; on site climate control; planned future developments; on-site provision for food self-sufficiency; safe on-site disposal of wastes; low maintenance structures and grounds; assured and conserved water supply; and control and direction of fire, cold, excess heat, and wind factors. …This land practice makes the most of small landscapes, with intensive practices with minimal waste and minimal exerted efforts are necessary for high yield.”

Steinfeld, C. (2003). “Permaculture.” Environmental Encyclopaedia. Vol.2 pp.1065-1067. Gale Virtual Reference Library.


“The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused specially by compressive stress. An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Merriam Webster Dictionary. n.d. Resilience.


“A process is said to be reversible if, and only if, the system which under goes that process, together with all parts of its environment which are affected, can be restored reproducibly to their original state.”

Manson, Neil A. (2007) “The concept of irreversibility: its use in sustainable development and precautionary principle literatures.” The Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development.

Smart growth

“Can be defined as directing the development to existing communities to more town-centred, pedestrian and transit oriented, which will help in providing a greater mix of housing, commercial and retail uses than current development patterns do, while discouraging continuing development in outlying areas. In other words, smart growth is the development that serves the economy, community, and the environment. It provides a framework for communities to make informed decisions about how and where they grow.”

Vassan, P. S. (2015). Background Paper on Smart Growth. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Electronic Library. p.3.

Social sustainabillity

“the capacity inherent in individuals and communities to meet their own needs and achieve a balanced quality of life. It should be stressed that despite the generalisation of the ‘social’ attribute, social sustainability usually includes aspects related to the inner self or, in other words, it involves ‘human sustainability’ understood as the capacity of individuals to develop themselves on the basis of their human capital, that is, health, education, culture, skills, and knowledge.”

Pareja-Eastaway, M. (2012) “Social Sustainability.” International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home: Elsevier Science & Technology. p.502-505.


“In its broadest sense, stewardship is the recognition of our collective responsibility to retain the quality and abundance of our land, air water and biodiversity, and to manage this natural capital in a way that conserves all of its values, be they environmental, economic, social, or cultural.”

The Centre for Environmental Stewardship and Conservation Inc. 2009. A Stewardship Road Map for Canada. A Report of the Strengthening Stewardship … Investing at Every Step Conference. p. 2. Calgary, AB.

Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) / Indigenous ecological knowledge

“a body of knowledge built up by a group of people through generations of living in close contact with nature.”

Johnston, M. (1992). LORE: Capturing Traditional Environmental Knowledge.

Traditional land use

“Traditional land-use systems optimise resource use and minimise risks through poly-culture and other forms of multiple uses. … In traditional systems, land-use is intended to meet individual needs more than to maximise economic profit. Therefore, traditional land-use systems involve numerous uses that are spatially and temporally differentiated, but applied on the whole land. This leads to a discontinuous change between periods of human impact and periods of regeneration.”

Hochtl, F., Plieninger, T., Spek, T. (2006). Traditional land-use and nature conservation in European rural landscapes.317-321.

Urban conservation

“Those steps necessary for the protection, conservation and restoration of such towns and areas as well as their development and harmonious adaptation to contemporary life.”

ICOMOS. (1987). Washington Charter

Urban density

“a measure of how many people live in an area such as population per square kilometer. It is often used as a sustainable urban design technique as dense cities tend to use less resources per person such as land and energy. Properly designed they are also walkable with access to public space, green spaces, employment, shopping, entertainment, cultural activities and schooling. As such, urban density is a way to accomplish both a high quality of life and a low environmental impact.”

Spacey, J. (2016, May 26). Urban Density vs Vertical Cities.
Urban ecosystem

From an ecological perspective, an urban area is its own fully functioning ecosystem. An ecosystem is defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment, a concept that clearly applies to urban areas. The major difference between our traditional understanding of ecosystems and one that covers urban areas is that the physical environment in cities has human-made as well as natural elements that are affected not only by the natural environment but also by culture, personal behavior, politics, economics, and social organization. The urban ecosystem thus contains both individual and nested systems from three spheres: the natural, the built, and the socioeconomic environments

Jha, A.K. et al. (2013). Building Urban Resilience: Principles, Tools, and Practice. World Bank Publications,  p.29.

Values-based conservation

“Conservation practitioners operate in what is referred to as a ‘values-based context’ using a system that identifies and manages historic places according to values attributed through an evaluation process. These values generally include the aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social and/or spiritual importance of a place”

Parks Canada. 2010. The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

Vernacular architecture

“Vernacular architecture embeds cultural wisdom and an intimate knowledge of place in the built environment. It comprises technology, or applied science, that has evolved by trial and error over many generations all over the planet as people designed and built the best possible habitat with the resources available to them.”

Kibert, C. J. (2013). The Cutting Edge of Sustainable Construction. In Sustainable Construction: Green Building Design and Delivery (3rd ed., p. 491). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc

Voluntary simplicity

“A way of living that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.”(p. 93) “Voluntary simplicity is not an ‘ascetic simplicity’ (of strict austerity); rather it is an ‘aesthetic simplicity’ where each person considers how his or her level and pattern of consumption can fit with the grace and integrity into the practical art of daily living on this planet.”(p. 102)

Elgin, D. (2009, November). Voluntary Simplicity (2nd ed.) [Kindle EPubversion].

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