9Sustainable Construction: Contested Knowledge and the Decline of Professionalism

Stuart Green

9.1 Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to critique current notions of ‘sustainable construction’. It should be recognised from the outset that universal definitions remain stubbornly elusive (as was alluded to in Chapter 1). There are also difficulties in terms of the levels at which the sustainability debate takes place. Agreements which take place at the inter‐governmental level at United Nations summits do not translate easily to the sectorial level within developed domestic economies such as the UK. But even the ‘best practice’ advice which is offered at the level of the construction sector is often of little use to individual firms engaged in the localised challenges of sustainable construction. It will be argued in this chapter that sustainability is ultimately about making difficult trade‐offs, and the knowledge on which such trade‐offs depend is not so easily ‘commodified’. It should also be recognised that at the lowest level are individual construction professionals seeking to balance a wide range of conflicting interests on a day‐to‐day basis; sustainability in no small way is about the recognition that such conflicting objectives are an inevitable part of the work of a professional.

Much of the current advice offered on sustainable construction is contestable, calling into question the validity of the underpinning knowledge base. The concept is further distorted ...

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