Complexity, scale and pragmatism in sustainable urban redevelopment

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In complex cases of sustainable urban development, particularly in high-density, mixed-use areas, it is argued that (inter)nationally issued environmental standards may be too restrictive and that, instead, local stakeholders must negotiate joint objectives to meet all of their interests, including an adequate environmental quality. In this contribution, we present two case studies examining the practical outcome of trade-offs between environmental standards and other objectives in highly complex innercity redevelopments. These networked decision-making processes, involving multiple stakeholders in multiple arenas, can be classified as aggregate complexity. Complexity science has contributed modelling methods to try and understand how stakeholders interact in such intricate networks. In practice, we found a great deal of pragmatism with stakeholders taking sides in an argument which transcends the simple conflict between environmental quality and other interests. Rather, economic interests of stakeholders at higher spatial and temporal scales, local resident s health and the are environmental quality on the one hand conflict with the municipality s (and the and social interests on the other. Highly pragmatic attitudes of stakeholders in decision-making arenas at different spatial scales appear to defy theoretical modelling and justify the conclusion that trade-offs involving environmental quality standards cannot be left with municipal authorities. Higher tiers of government play a necessary role in safeguarding both environmental and economic interests that transcend the local scale.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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