An appraisal of Australia's approach to promoting urban sustainability

Igor Martek, David J. Edwards, Stewart Seaton, David Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Much rhetoric exists on the urgency of transitioning from current practices to a more sustainable society. However, because this imperative is guided by strong ideological overtones, weaknesses and failures in the transition effort attract inadequate scrutiny. This paper reviews Australia's progress with sustainability in an urban domain and identifies key issues hindering the sustainability transition effort. Design/methodology/approach: Research on urban sustainability is ubiquitous but this weight of publications tends to emphasize technical, operational or prescriptive themes. This research uses an interpretivist philosophical lens and inductive reasoning to manually analyse pertinent literature sourced from the Scopus and Web of Science data-bases. Specifically, this study assembles outcome and evaluative assessments pertaining to Australia's urban sustainability efforts to identify both the progress achieved and residual structural impediments. Findings: Emergent findings illustrate that Australia's urban sustainability goals, as expressed by the Paris Accord, have not been met. Obstruction can be attributed to over-ambitious objectives combined with weak federal leadership, under-resourced local government, over-reliance on superficial rating systems and an ineffective regulatory regime. Elite “green branding” by image conscious corporations are insufficient to offset the general disinterest of the unincentivized majority of building owners and developers. Originality/value: This paper cogently summarizes Australia's urban sustainability status, along with complexity of the challenges it faces to meet targets set.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-276
Number of pages15
JournalBuilt Environment Project and Asset Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2022


  • Australia
  • Green buildings
  • Green rating tools
  • Paris agreement: accord de Paris
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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