Sustainability language in operation of different built environment settings - perceptions, actions and motivations

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School of Engineering | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2019-02-25
Degree programme
42 + app. 66
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 5/2019
Due to the significant contribution of the built environment to all the sustainability dimensions, it has become a potential sector for achieving sustainable development. To facilitate sustainabilityintegration, a growing number of approaches have been developed. However, ambiguity and conflict in proposed approaches have raised concerns among academics and practitioners. Therefore, further research on the function of scientific sustainability frameworks and methodologies in the practice of the built environment sector is of value. The overall aim of this dissertation was to increase knowledge on the manifestation of sustainability in the operation of the built environment sector. To achieve this, first the sustainability literature in the context of the built environment was reviewed to identify the existing approaches. Second, the perceptions and actions of two main actors (public and private) in the built environment sector were analysed using the existing or self-created frameworks. Third, the motivations that drive the actors' perceptions and actions were discussed. To address the research aim, a number of qualitative methods were combined. The empirical research involves three case studies in Finland, as well as literature review, content and discourse analysis of the secondary data. The findings show a large variety of approaches and frameworks to address sustainability. In addition, results reveal that perceptions and actions of private and public actors regarding sustainability are different. Moreover, legal requirements and financial incentives found to be the main motivations for the actors. Based on the findings, this dissertation argues that private and public actors should be treated and evaluated differently. Developing context-specific approaches would better fit the context and increase comparability. In addition, this dissertation suggests that integrating social sustainability into processes could legitimise the trade-off in the process that is caused by inherent conflicts between different actors and between the sustainability dimensions. Furthermore, the present dissertation claims that sustainability is nascent and evolves along with society; therefore, the focus should be on processes in which the change is stimulated. The academic value of this research is in the understanding it has developed on the complexrelationship between the built environment system and sustainability, which is essential forachieving progress in theory and practice. Moreover, this research helps academics to understandhow and why diverse actors perceive sustainability differently. This can improve the effectivenessand legitimacy of built environment sustainability strategies in practice. The empirical findingsbring new evidence to the stakeholders and help them in obtaining a holistic understanding ofsustainability and addressing the shortcomings identified in this research. This can in the longerterm advance the integration of sustainability in the built environment.
Supervising professor
Viitanen, Kauko, Prof., Aalto University, Department of Built Environment, Finland
Thesis advisor
Toivonen, Saija, Dr., Aalto University, Department of Built Environment, Finland
built environment, real estate, sustainability, social sustainability, planning policies, planning processes, corporate social responsibility
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Yrjänä, Laura; Rashidfarokhi, Anahita; Toivonen, Saija; Viitanen, Kauko. Looking at retail location guidance through a sustainability lens: Evidence from public discourse in Finland. Land Use Policy, 2018, vol. 79, pp. 190-198.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.08.013 View at publisher
  • [Publication 2]: Rashidfarokhi, Anahita; Toivonen, Saija; Viitanen, Kauko. Sustainability reporting in the Nordic real estate companies: Empirical evidence from Finland. International Journal of Strategic Property Management, 2018, vol. 22, issue 1, pp. 51-63.
    DOI: 10.3846/ijspm.2018.321 View at publisher
  • [Publication 3]: Rashidfarokhi, Anahita; Yrjänä, Laura; Wallenius, Marjo; Toivonen, Saija; Ekroos, Ari; Viitanen, Kauko. Social sustainability tool for assessing land use planning processes. European Planning Studies, 2018, 26, issue 6, pp. 1269-1296.
    DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2018.1461811 View at publisher