Scholars widely agree that cities and their built environments play a decisive role for a global transformation towards sustainability. This necessitates a shift away from unsustainable practices and constellations in cities towards more sustainable ones – particularly in contexts of the Global South, as they see the strongest current and projected urban growth and related construction activities. Research on urban sustainability transitions has however largely been biased conceptually towards innovation and new technologies, and geographically towards the Global North. While more research recently emerged that addresses the destabilization of dominant orders, it still predominantly considers Northern cases, and those with discernible transition processes.
This paper seeks to address these biases and studies factors that contribute to the (in)stability of socio-technical regimes. We argue that (de)stabilizing factors and the particular (in)stability configurations they form, must be scrutinised regardless of transition phase as they are ingrained in regime structures before transition processes become apparent. Identifying and characterizing (in)stability configurations and the seeds of destabilization can then support the development of contextualised transition governance strategies. Employing the building sector of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as an empirical case, this study differentiates sources of (in)stability from economic, socio-cultural and political-institutional dimensions. Our analysis suggests an ambiguous (in)stability configuration with tensions primarily within the socio-cultural and economic dimensions, and a dominance of stabilizing effects from the political-institutional dimension. The paper closes with implications for transition governance strategies and general arguments on the heterogeneity of transition contexts and regime constellations, particularly in countries of the Global South.