ID1005_Lizarraldeetal_extended abstract.pdf (47.12 kB)
Download file

Tensions and complexities in creating a sustainable and resilient built environment: achieving a turquoise agenda in the UK

Download (47.12 kB)
conference contribution
posted on 19.09.2014, 10:54 by Gonzalo Lizarralde, Ksenia ChmutinaKsenia Chmutina, Lee S. Bosher, Andrew R.J. Dainty
The paradigms of sustainability and resilience have significant impacts on both research and practice in the built environment, framing ethical postures towards the fragile relationships between the built, the natural and the social environments. Both paradigms adopt a systems approach to the understanding and the embracing of complexity, highlighting the importance of long-term effects and a holistic view of highly interconnected variables. However, a careful look at policies shows that these paradigms also emphasize diverging priorities and relationships, and that there is often a prioritization of one agenda over another. Such tensions create increased complexity in policy and decision-making, potentially undermining both agendas. In this paper we examine the tensions and compatibilities between these agendas through an analysis of 43 UK policy documents, and 21 interviews with stakeholders involved in the planning, design, construction and operation of the built environment. Our analysis reveals a series of recurrent tensions that occur when theoretical approaches are translated into the ‘green’ (sustainable) and ‘blue’ (resilience) agendas. Incapable of dealing with this increased complexity, decision and policy makers simplify and ‘instrumentalise’ several core principles, creating additional tensions. Rather than determining objective concepts that decision-makers can directly translate into action, both paradigms lead stakeholders to create their own dynamic representations and meanings in an iterative process influenced by theory and practice. The findings have both theoretical and practical implications. Conceptually, they help to draw clearer boundaries between the two paradigms. In practice, they show that narrow and simplistic representations of these paradigms make it difficult to reconcile the two agendas. The paper raises important questions as to the plausibility of a ‘turquoise’ agenda, and suggests the need for a more nuanced representation of the two paradigms.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Published in

International Disaster and Risk Conference


. - . (4)


LIZARRALDE, G. ... et al, 2014. Tensions and complexities in creating a sustainable and resilient built environment: achieving a turquoise agenda in the UK. IN: Stal, M., Sigrist, D. and Ammann, W. (eds). Proceedings of the 5th International Disaster and Risk Conference. Integrative Risk Management - The Role of Science, Technology and Practice, 24th-28th August 2014, Davos, Switzerland, pp. 159 - 162.


© Global Risk Forum GRF Davos


VoR (Version of Record)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

Publication date



This is a conference paper.

Publisher version