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Has social sustainability left the building? The recent conceptualization of “sustainability” in Danish buildings

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Author(s): Jesper Ole Jensen | Michael Søgaard Jørgensen | Morten Elle | Erik Hagelskjær Lauridsen

Journal: Sustainability : Science, Practice and Policy
ISSN 1548-7733

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 94;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: buildings | housing | interest groups | energy efficiency | architectural design | social environments

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.
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