Green Metropoles: Conserving Whose World? Sustainability Standards in the U.S. and Germany

Doctoral Researcher: Katharina Wood, M.A.

Advisors: Prof. Dr. Randi Gunzenhäuser and Prof. Dr. Jens Martin Gurr

U.S. Mentor: Prof. Thomas Heise, Pensylvania State University

Green Metropoles Graphic

The PhD project “Green Metropoles” focuses on sustainability and contemporary building practices by focusing on the issue of ecological standardization and optimization. Whereas architects and engineers have provided specific and tangible insights into sustainable designs, energy efficiency, ‘green building’- practices, and certification methods, cultural theorists contribute to the green building debate via uncovering the diverse social, political, and cultural meanings of ‘green designs’ and sustainability discourses. This project draws on both strands of engagements for its exploration of specific kinds of ‘sustainable scripts.’


As such, green buildings are social representations of competing ecological values as well as material embodiments of discourses that make up the green building debate. Within these discourses, each building must be understood as an assembly of ideologies, calculations, dreams, and political compromises. The U.S. and Germany are positioned within national and global discourses on green building. A comparative analysis will highlight transatlantic differences, congruencies, and interactions. The dissertation project poses a varied set of questions: Which side is setting the pace? In which ways do sustainability narratives differ? What do these narratives tell us about cultural, political, and economic attitudes toward sustainability? Who profits most from sustainable building practices and, therefore, whose world are we conserving? Through which terms and models is sustainability conceptualized? The PhD project is connected to internships with the Öko-Zentrum NRW (Hamm, Germany) and The Epsten Group (Atlanta, U.S.A).

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