From vision to reality: the practices deployed in the struggle for a master-planned community 'Sustainability Showcase'

Binder, G 2011, From vision to reality: the practices deployed in the struggle for a master-planned community 'Sustainability Showcase', Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Sciences and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title From vision to reality: the practices deployed in the struggle for a master-planned community 'Sustainability Showcase'
Author(s) Binder, G
Year 2011
Abstract This thesis examines the struggle between historically–defined land use and building practices and innovation for an environmentally sustainable master–planned community (MPC). Since 2002, the Victorian government’s land development agency, now called VicUrban, has, in the name of providing market–place leadership, been planning for and recently building a ‘sustainability showcase’, the Aurora Estate. Situated on the edge of Melbourne’s northern growth corridor, it will provide 8000 homes and is due for completion in 2023.

In particular, the thesis examines the practices of VicUrban and their ‘stakeholders’ to see how these affected the planning and development of the Eco-selector, a tool that was initially used to help the builders select more sustainable building materials, but was dropped from the requirements for building at the estate after being used for two years. Thirty-nine semi-structured interviews and a range of related documents were analysed. A multiparadigm (Lewis, MW & Grimes 1999) approach to theory was used to not only understand the nature of practice, but also agency. The key theories that are used are Bourdieu’s (1977) theory of habitus, Wittgenstein’s (1958) insights into meaning and rules, Vygotsky’s (1965) theory of socio-cultural development, James’ (1890) psychological insights into habit and Gibson’s (1979) theory of affordances. These are brought together to create a new theory of innovation, the model of recursive cultural adaptation (MORCA), which proposes that practices drive both the resistance to, and the pursuit of innovation for environmental sustainability.
The main findings of the research are that innovation for environmental sustainability in a MPC takes place against a background of existing practices, that changes which are built on existing practices are easily implemented, that proposed changes that require the development of new practices are rejected and that in circumstances where changes are not enforced, earlier, unsustainable practices are reverted to. The successes and failings of Aurora are affected by the nature of the practices that are critical in visioning, developing, and implementing, what is at least initially, a comprehensive program of sustainable urban design.

The MORCA successfully accounts for the outcomes at Aurora and it also addresses discrepancies within the innovation literature. It is a new practice-based reconceptualisation of the structure/agency debate within the social sciences arguing that social structures define practice while also being the springboard for agency. Practices are the enactment of adaptations to the socio–physical niches inhabited and modified by humans. Practice, as a unit of analysis, brings into the analytical frame the ecological, cultural and political dimensions of human existence, all of which have to be addressed if an environmentally sustainable future is to be created.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Sciences and Planning
Keyword(s) Master-planned community
sustainable urban design
model of recursive cultural adaptation
building materials
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Created: Fri, 16 Dec 2011, 08:39:43 EST by Guy Aron
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