Has social sustainability left the building? The recent conceptualisation of 'sustainability' in Danish buildings

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Abstract

Sustainable buildings have often been niche products, but in recent years a new approach has emerged in Denmark aimed at mainstreaming and normalizing this mode of construction and seeking to attract ordinary Danes through market conditions. The aim is to present an alternative conceptualization of sustainable buildings to the ecocommunities’ vision and to involve traditional building firms in their design and development. From a theoretical perspective, the mainstreaming of sustainable buildings can be seen either as an example of ecological modernization or technological transition. The new conceptualization has implied a narrower approach to sustainability and a lack of social sustainability measures. While earlier paradigms of sustainable buildings emphasized themes such as community building, self-provisioning, local empowerment, and shared facilities, such objectives are largely absent in the new types of sustainable buildings. We question to what extent it is possible to design sustainable settlements without social sustainability. By viewing sustainable buildings as technological configurations, we argue that the multiactor approach, fragmentation of roles, and absent initiatives for social sustainability influence the buildings’ environmental performance and should be important for the next generation of these structures.
The aim for this paper is to discuss what happened to 'social sustainability' in these new types of buildings, compared to former paradigms of sustainable buildings. It seems as if 'social sustainability' more or less has vanished from the agenda; whereas former paradigms of sustainable buildings emphasised themes as community-building, self-supply, local empowerment, shared facilities etc., such themes are largely absent in the new types of sustainable buildings, which represents a more narrow approach to 'sustainability' than former paradigms of sustainable building in Denmark.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainability: Science, Practice and Policy
Volume8
Issue number 1
Pages (from-to)94-105
Number of pages12
ISSN1548-7733
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

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