Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


Urban sustainability goals are closely tied to the current political context, in which the imperative to attract highly mobile global capital frequently steers the objectives of local government. In this paper, I argue for the incorporation of the neighborhood scale into contemporary understandings of “local” or “urban” sustainability policy, emphasizing the potential for multi-scalar certification frameworks to subvert the predominant global-local relationship. By shifting the conceptualization and implementation of sustainability from globally dependent urban regimes to a diverse array of discrete urban communities, neighborhood-scale initiatives are able to draw greater attention to issues of social equity, environmental justice, and spatially uneven development. At the same time, the ability for those initiatives to operate within (inter)national certification frameworks provides them with guidance, greater legitimacy, and opportunities for knowledge-sharing. I explore this idea through an examination of two neighborhood-scale sustainability certification frameworks: the well-established “LEED for Neighborhood Development” certification that uses a points-based framework to evaluate the sustainability of neighborhood redevelopment designs; and the “EcoDistricts” framework, which uses a general set of “imperatives” to evaluate neighborhood sustainability. Through quantitative analysis, I find that neighborhoods participating in both of these frameworks are at potential risk of gentrification. However, through case studies and empirical analysis, I find that certification frameworks and neighborhood-scale projects form a mutually constitutive relationship in which interpretations of sustainability and social equity are generated by neighborhood stakeholders, codified through certification, and evolve through local adaptation.



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