Social Transformation for a Sustainable Built Environment: Problems and Prospects

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Nicholas Patricios and Stavros Alifragkis (eds), Essays on Construction

Inclusive pages



Athens Institute for Education and Research

Place of Publication

Athens, Greece



Peer Reviewed



Enlightened designers, manufacturers and contractors have embraced concepts of sustainability as a means of responsibly resolving complex problems in order to protect, nurture, and improve our environment. However, success is often hampered due to the fact that ‘sustainability’ is a concept opposed to the prevailing worldview. This is a world view of personal acquisition and inevitable growth of the built environment. It has resulted in a social, economic and legal support network for current construction practices that must be changed if sustainability of resource use is ever to be achieved. The basic insight of sociology is that humans are fundamentally social creatures, and that there is a dialectical relationship between the individual and society. That is, our unique human individuality is constructed within a social context, even as we shape and reshape that context. At the same time, recursive social practices are sedimented into institutions, whose patterns channel behavior and shape ideological constructs. In this context, social change must be understood as a dialectic between the processes of institutionalization and socialization. Lasting change for a sustainable world can only be accomplished as a result of action on both levels. The current global economic and energy crises demonstrate the unsustainability of the current model of the built environment. The issue we pose is this: What key changes must occur at both the institutional and personal levels for a society-wide transformation to sustainability?


construction industry, sustainability, sustainable design, social change


Construction Engineering | Sociology | Urban, Community and Regional Planning | Urban Studies and Planning

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