Conceptualising the built environment to inform sustainable urban transitions

Joshua Svend Nielsen, Megan Farrelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the prominence of cities within sustainability transitions, the scholarship has been criticised for its lack of engagement with spatiality. This article engages with physical change in urban environments through a critical scholarly review of interdisciplinary scholarship. This paper deconstructs conceptualisations of the built environment and identifies the similarities, contestations and unaddressed components in conceptualising the built environment across urban morphology, spatial-political economy, urban planning, and urban design. Following this, the paper reconstructs the built environment, reflecting on sustainability transitions scholarship. The analysis highlights this physicality as a necessary component for consideration when preparing any form of systemic urban change, especially when attempting to understand multi-sectoral transitions. Overall, the review reveals the need for a future research agenda that explicitly explores the role of the built environment and its creators in influencing multi-sectoral sustainability transitions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-248
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • sustainability transitions
  • built environment
  • urban studies
  • urban planning
  • agency
  • sustainable urban transformations

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