Prospects for standardising sustainable urban development
This paper goes beyond the well-established debate over how urban sustainability indicator sets should be constructed, and what purposes such indicators might serve, to examine what has actually happened as theory has turned into widespread practice. This involves two levels of analysis. First, there is consideration of how impacts on the ground involve negotiation between shifting networks of heterogeneous actors in particular local settings. Specific examples are given of how the outcomes of adopting sustainable indicator sets are indeterminate until these detailed local circumstances are considered. Second, there is a survey of the available urban sustainability frameworks at the global level, emphasising their sheer variety. Such frameworks are shaped by the proposer’s particular agendas and by expectations of their adopter’s needs. The field of frameworks is therefore constituted by emergent co-production both at the level of concrete results and of the frameworks themselves. At both levels, real-world innovation is enabled and constrained by divergent systems of motivations; it does not flow in a linear fashion from abstract principles of urban sustainability, however these may be defined. This emphasises the need for ongoing critical evaluation of the practices surrounding the adoption and mobilisation of these frameworks.