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Keywords:

  • sustainable buildings;
  • institutions;
  • knowledge;
  • mobility;
  • green design;
  • globalisation

Buildings are responsible for on average 43 per cent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, a figure that can rise to 70 per cent in cities. Consequently, ‘green’ building design has been focused on in efforts to reduce environmental degradation and change. It has been suggested, however, that collective learning and the mobilisation of knowledge between spatially dispersed communities are urgently needed, in particular to overcome what are often portrayed as knowledge deficits in relation to green design. The remit of this paper is to outline a framework for analysing the geographically heterogeneous impacts of attempts to mobilise green design knowledges. Drawing on economic geographical analyses of knowledge mobility, the paper reveals how regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive institutional contexts render green building design knowledges situated and place-specific. But it is also shown that bricolage – the bringing together of multiple mobile knowledges to produce new embedded green design knowledges – can overcome some of the problems faced. In particular, the analysis developed in the paper reveals: first, the role of multiple topological connections to metrically near and far but institutionally proximate places in providing diverse knowledges that can be folded together into place-specific solutions, and hence the need to conceptualise knowledge mobility as involving plural geographies of flow from multiple cities in the global north and south; second, the way economic geographers can contribute to debates about transitions to sustainability and situated sustainable building design through institutional analyses of the topologies of knowledge mobility, thus widening the relevance of their work to debates about the environment and climate change.