Often synonymous with the social service sector, the developmental sector today holds great potential. With the need to improve the standards of resource generation, human resource development, information technology, and strategic planning, especially in a developing nation like India, the development sector offers many opportunities for current professionals. With people wanting to ‘find purpose’ and look at more meaningful job profiles, the development sector aims to improve the well-being of the people and economic conditions of a country, region, or community. With the timeline of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 staring us in the face, the role of the developmental sector needs to be recognized. From zero hunger to net zero carbon emissions, from clean air to sustainable sanitation, from peace to justice, the work of the development sector is wide-ranging. 

Building on the core concept of the five capitals or assets of human life that guide much of the work of the social developmental sector, architecture plays a crucial role in promoting each to trigger a positive cycle of human well-being. 

Looking at the developmental sector from the lens of an architect - Sheet1
Pentagon of capitals_©urbancamps.wordpress.com

Physical capital includes all infrastructure-related resources and all tangible man-made goods that assist in creating services. Buildings, from offices and warehouses to homes and schools, are considered part of physical capital. An architect can suitably contribute to the development of physical capital by designing spaces and infrastructure in response to users’ needs to minimize the need for untimely replacement or unnecessary maintenance.  Physical capital is usually the first to be invested in, given the visible form and experience it offers, enabling the generation and improvement of other resources. 

Looking at the developmental sector from the lens of an architect - Sheet2
Physical capital_©grayline group

Natural capital includes natural resources, from water and crops to land and air. The fundamental building block of all other assets, natural capital is usually the first to be exhausted and misused—the connection between natural capital and physical capital is undeniable. A recent study, ‘The changing wealth of nations 2021’, finds that our material well-being is under threat, courtesy of the unsustainable exploitation of nature, including mismanagement and mispricing of assets necessary for the growth of the economies. The greed for faster and more significant growth trajectories, lack of sensitivity, and apathy of authority figures are also contributing factors to this exploitative behavior. An architect can be a crucial agent to change to minimize the ecological footprint of various buildings in their construction and operation. 

Looking at the developmental sector from the lens of an architect - Sheet3
Natural capital_©forbes.com

Financial capital is the one we think of when we refer to the word ‘capital’. The financial capital includes all monetary resources. All areas, including economic investment, facilitation of trade, risk management, and mobilization of monetary funds, are all included in the financial capital. It makes for a significant factor when considering the improvement of the developmental sector. Often the cause of many ills faced by society, financial capital has a great hold on the functioning of the development sector. Architects are both consumers as well as generators of financial capital. This is amply evident in creating commercial and institutional buildings with heavy investments but a huge revenue generation potential. 

Political and social capital includes political representation and social relationships. It may be reputational or representative, relying on public impression and social credibility. Architecture plays a significant role in creating political capital. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) is an excellent example of representative political capital. An initiative by the government of India, the PMAY aims to provide affordable housing for the urban and rural poor. 

Social capital_©hindustan times

Defined as networks of relationships between people, associated norms, and values, social capital has considerable importance with regard to programs related to poverty alleviation and development. Social capital is about the value of social networks, ensuring bonding between similar groups and bridging gaps between dissimilar ones. Architecture plays a crucial role in forming such social relationships by influencing the effects of built spaces in creating distance or bringing disparate groups together. Well-designed spaces can be instrumental in promoting the inclusion of traditionally marginalized groups such as women, children, the elderly, and physically challenged persons into the mainstream. Common spaces such as community centers, schools, etc., have a considerable role in promoting social inclusion and cohesion. The use of ramps to ensure universal access, adequate lighting of common areas for the safety of women, and choice of child-friendly elements such as low-height toilets are some basic examples of how architecture can promote the social capital of a society. 

Human capital refers to the economic value of a worker’s experience and skill. It includes assets such as education, training, skills, good health, etc. it has various intangible assets that increase the productivity of workers, thereby profiting the respective organizations and the nation at large. Anthropometrically designed, thermally comfortable, well-lit spaces are critical for promoting human capital development in a society.  

Rapid changes in the world around us have called upon the need for infrastructure development. The role of architects goes beyond the need for space design and into the realm of planned progression for the development of a society. Architects, over decades, have identified and worked upon clear roles to promote and strengthen all the above-discussed forms of capital that define a society. 


Article title: Development Sector Ecosystem
Website title: ISDM
URL: https://www.isdm.org.in/knowledge/development-sector-ecosystem


Author P Chhabra
Article title: Development sector is a preferred career choice of professionals and young minds
Website title: Thehansindia.com
URL: https://www.thehansindia.com/hans/young-hans/development-sector-is-a-preferred-career-choice-of-professionals-and-young-minds-734266


Article title: The Five Capitals – a framework for sustainability
Website title: Forum for the Future
URL: https://www.forumforthefuture.org/the-five-capitals


Author J.R. Behrman
Article title: Development, Economics 


Website title: Academic.oup.com
URL: https://academic.oup.com/book/26791/chapter/195742270


Article title: Social Capital
Website title: Socialcapital.com
URL: https://www.socialcapital.com/



Tara is a student of architecture, with a keen interest in exploring futuristic solutions for problems related to the built environment. As a budding writer and researcher, she looks forward to a future marked by harmony between the built environment and nature, marking the age of ‘ecological building’