Sustainable Architecture and the Influence of Global Assessment Tools

  • Sercan Yalciner

Student thesis: Phd


Over the last two decades, the drive towards sustainability has prompted stakeholders in the building and construction sector to develop a range of sustainable building assessment tools (SBATs). Initially, the aim of these tools was to provide a checklist and act as guidance for building professionals. More recently, these tools have evolved into global benchmarks that quantify aspects of building design related to resource consumption, occupant satisfaction, material selection, and construction and management practices, and to allow for global comparison of building projects. The globalisation of SBATs has occurred in parallel with the globalization of architectural practice. In both cases, there is an underlying assumption that design and construction can be achieved through adherence to universal principles that can be applied in any context. This research project studies the motives behind the production and globalization of SBATs to understand how universal knowledge claims are influencing sustainable building and construction practices. The research focuses on the Building Research Establishment’s widely acclaimed environmental assessment method, BREEAM, as a case study. Through participant observation at BREEAM assessor training and semi-structured interviews with BREEAM developers and users, the study provides empirical evidence on how sustainability principles have been developed, codified, transferred and applied in multiple locations. The findings reveal that a number of branding techniques targeting building developers and tailoring to accommodate local building regulations have been introduced to increase the uptake of BREEAM. The globalization of SBATs includes prescriptive measures that are often not aligned with physical, social, and cultural factors in different contexts. This suggests that SBATs are homogenising architectural practice in the pursuit of a singular, universal interpretation of sustainable building design and construction.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAndrew Karvonen (Supervisor) & Alan Lewis (Supervisor)

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