Constructing sustainability: connecting the social and the technical in a case study of school building projects

Moncaster, Alice (2012) Constructing sustainability: connecting the social and the technical in a case study of school building projects. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis traces the political interpretation of sustainability, and its translation into practice in English school building programmes during the period 2000-2010. Social power theory is used to analyse the complex network of decisions, and their consequences, through case studies of policy development and of building projects.
The thesis describes how the control of appointments to task forces and of the issues considered allowed Government to manage the framing of the policy agenda while seeming to validate industry perspectives. The process led to a political interpretation of sustainability that translated into two main technical solutions: improved operational energy efficiency and low-carbon energy technologies. Within construction projects the potential power of professional experts to produce alternative solutions is also demonstrated, through the example of the successful introduction of cross-laminated timber to reduce embodied carbon. Outcomes are therefore shown to have been substantially influenced by the exercise of both political and professional power.
The thesis also shows the unintentional power effects of procurement processes and design tools in defining and limiting possibilities, the restricting power of the professional systems within which the actors operate, and the power of numbers to provoke unreflective trust. These effects are shown to have led to some irrational solutions, with the thesis demonstrating that the energy technologies installed in three projects are likely to produce higher, not lower, carbon emissions.
These multiple power effects have therefore constrained thinking and possibilities for the interpretation of sustainability for construction, have limited the subsequent translation into practical solutions, and have had a substantial and at times negative effect on the material performance of the resultant buildings. In addition the technologies and numbers have not only been used, and therefore governed, by the actors but also appear to have governed them, limiting their actions and understanding of sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Users 2259 not found.
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2012 16:28
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2012 16:28


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