Green building development and degrowth: addressing the Global South gap


  • Karen Waneska De Jesus Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
  • Roberta Cucca Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)


degrowth, extraction, decoloniality, sustainable building, Global South




Climate change has gradually aggravated in the last decades. The recognition that the building industry alone is one of the main contributors to anthropogenic global carbon emissions (Eurostat, 2017) has influenced how cities are planned to be more sustainable, particularly to achieve green buildings.

While a green shift is needed, environmental justice scholars have been calling attention to analysing and confronting the colonial injustice behind the ecological transition that continues to privilege the Global North, under the cost of degradation, exploitation, and violence in the Global South (Escobar, 1998, 2010; Leff, 2001, 2010; Carruthers, 2008; Sultana, 2022). Moreover, it is a call to analyse the implications of green transition beyond the local context by investigating their relations to the Global South (Álvarez and Coolsaet, 2020; Zografos and Robbins, 2020; Hope, 2022; Sultana, 2022).

This paper addresses this issue by concentrating on the literature on green building production in the Global North. The article is the result of a scoping review, based on 72 articles published between 2012 and 2023 related to the critique of the green building transition. It examines how critiques have considered the socio-environmental justice implications of constructing green buildings in the Global North, particularly by utilising material resources from the Global South. The analysis considers investigations developed under different theoretical frameworks (EP, degrowth, urban metabolism, etc.). It commences by examining the existing literature through three dimensions of justice: scalar, social, and environmental. It then outlines that most of the criticism has primarily focused on the socio-environmental justice implications at a small scale, around the project area. At the same time, only a few attempts have been made to analyse on a broader scale. However, none delves deeply into the production chain of these new green buildings in the Global North and their connection with the social and environmental impacts in the Global South caused by the extraction of raw materials. This gap is also evident in the degrowth literature produced on green buildings. Finally, the article concludes by asserting that degrowth as a theoretical framework offers incipient analyses of colonial issues that permeate socio-environmental injustices. However, this vision is not yet reflected adequately in urban studies on green building construction. Degrowth could offer a more compelling analytical and counter-alternative perspective if it considers the Global South and its relationship with the Global North more centrally in its urban approach.


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