Transition governance approaches for the building sector have been discussed for more than a decade. Very little work has however moved beyond the socio-political contexts of
the Global North to scrutinize the spatial-institutional challenges of sustainability transitions in the Global South, or more illiberal contexts. Consequently, this paper introduces a transition governance framework, a Sustainable Building Arena (SBA), that addresses the contextual particularities of the urban building regime and its de/stabilizing factors in the case of Cambodia to inform transformational change.
The design of the SBA draws on the literature on urban transition management, transition management in the Global South, as well as transdisciplinary transition management arenas, and extends these concepts to Cambodia’s urban built environment. It furthermore builds upon the results of an extensive analysis of the sociotechnical system and an evaluation of residential buildings in Phnom Penh, including indoor environmental conditions. The SBA is conceptualized as an informal institution and as a protected and co-creative space at the science-policy-business-civil society interface. It allows sustainability-minded but often marginalized actors to co-produce and pluralize knowledge – including the co-development of problem framings, visions and transition strategies – and facilitates cooperation, as well as the creation of alternative discourse coalitions and networks of social capital. Overall, the paper argues that such scientifically grounded and participatory processes, that are attentive to and designed for the particular spatial-institutional context, can indeed support the development of actionable knowledge, the empowerment of marginalized actors and support collective action for transformative change in the built environment sectors in contexts outside the Western liberal norm of transition studies