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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Sherif Goubran, Individualized Program

Our buildings have credentials… now what? Green buildings and sustainable development

Date & time
Monday, March 1, 2021 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


Today's definition of sustainable buildings is primarily linked to their environmental performance and hedged on context-free and efficiency-driven standards, certifications, and recognitions. On the other hand, sustainable development requires simultaneous consideration of human and natural systems' needs. Beyond environmental credentials, the study aims to correct this epistemological contradiction by proposing to reintegrate sustainable building practices within the broader scope of sustainable development. The study adopts the UN 2030 Agenda as a comprehensive and unifying framework for sustainable development, presenting an opportunity for systemic change towards a sustainable future. The thesis examines the current sustainable real estate and building design approaches and academic debates, analyzing how the prevailing design analysis and assessment frameworks address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It exposes that the existing body of work is fragmented across different paradigms, showing that the prevailing approaches fail to account for the topic's pluralistic nature and exposing the misalignment between the current building practices and tools and the SDGs' transformative vision on the practical and theoretical levels. Furthermore, the sustainable real estate industry's current trends point to the broadening of concerns - making our current understanding and practice of sustainability in buildings practically ineffective. Alternatively, and to move beyond the current impasse, the research proposes adopting more complex analytical and mapping instruments, which could maintain dualities and accept opposites' co-existence. The research produces a theoretical framework for distinguishing between the critical and status-quo sustainable design approaches in buildings. The thesis also generates and tests tools and frameworks for critically integrating the SDGs in building projects and analyzing their design approaches. Finally, the thesis examines the coverage, integration and design vision of Canada's most awarded green buildings to the SDG topics. While some examples of sustainability innovations emerge, the analysis reveals several gaps and limitations. This thesis contributes to the theory and practice of environmental design II within the meta-field of architecture. It expands sustainable building approaches and redefines them as a critical practice for development. The findings and tools can enable the building industry and governmental bodies to accelerate the uptake and implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the built environment.

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