New doctoral researcher: Jan Gerhards
26 April 2016
He is carrying out his doctoral project as part of an ongoing collaboration between the International Eco-Cities Initiative and Bioregional, the social enterprise behind ‘One Planet Living’, one of a growing number of sustainability frameworks seeking to translate the principles of sustainable urban development into practice. The project is being supervised by Professor Simon Joss (University of Westminster), Dr Tony Manzi (University of Westminster) and Dr Matthew Wood (Bioregional).
Jan’s research aims to investigate the issue of standardisation vs. flexibility in urban sustainability frameworks. Such frameworks consist of generalised, replicable knowledge, and are used as a ‘standard’ for certification, yet must be applied across complex, varied and dynamic local urban contexts.
A number of trade-offs can therefore arise. When planning, flexibility may enable the capture of local knowledge and interests, but standardisation may better ensure sustainability goals are incorporated. In the certification process, standardised criteria may be more transparent, but flexibility may facilitate a relationship of guidance and support. In producing and measuring outcomes, flexibility may enable context sensitivity and effective embedding within organisations and communities, but standardisation provides comparability.
To evaluate the issue, the research draws on governance literature and uses a theoretical framework based on knowledge and legitimacy. By combining this with practice-based insights, the project aims to provide recommendations for the ongoing development of the framework.
Jan obtained his first degree in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge, where he participated in research and community projects on low-carbon buildings, and carried out his dissertation on well-being and climate change. After university, he worked in the renewable energy industry before moving into the education sector, developing a secondary science teaching programme aimed at engaging students with sustainability issues.
For more information on eco-city frameworks, see the Eco-Cities Initiative’s Tomorrow’s City Today report.
About the University of Westminster:
The University of Westminster boasts a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas.
We offer highly attractive practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 180-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly politics, media, art and design, architecture and biomedical sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law.
Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.
Internationalisation, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster’s vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.