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Common Language of Sustainability for Built Environment Professionals—The Quintuple Helix Model for Higher Education

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Michael Crilly, Chandra Vemury, Dr Tracey Crosbie, Dr Karen Johnson, Dr Alexander WilsonORCiD, Professor Oliver Heidrich



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


One of the repeating themes around the provision of the knowledge and skills needed for delivering sustainable communities is the idea of a “common language” for all built environment professionals. This suggestion has been repeated regularly with each new political and professional review within and between different sectors responsible for the delivery of sustainable communities. There have been multiple efforts to address academic limitations, industry fragmentation and promote more interdisciplinary working and sector collaboration. This research explored the role of skills for sustainable communities, particularly within the higher education (HE) sector, and the responses to support the development of a “common language of sustainability” that can be shared between different sectors, professional disciplines and stakeholders. As an interdisciplinary group of academics and practitioners working with the HE sector in the North East of England, we evaluate the progression of sector collaboration to develop a quintuple helix model forHE. We use this as a suitable framework for systematically “mapping” out the mixed sector (academic, public, business, community and environmental organisations) inputs and influences into a representative sample of HE degree modules that are delivered from foundation and undergraduate to postgraduate levels, including examples of part-time and distance-learning modules. We developed a cascade of models which demonstrate increasing levels of collaboration and their potential positive impact on the effectiveness of education on sustainable communities. The methodological assessments of modules were followed by semi-structured group reflective analysis undertaken through a series of online workshops (recorded during the Covid19 lockdown) to set out a collective understanding of the generic skills needed for the delivery of sustainable communities. These generic skills for sustainable communities are presented as a pedagogical progression model of teaching activities and learning outcomes applied to the levels within HE. We propose sustainability education principles and progressions with the hope that they can have an impact on the design or review of current degree modules and programmes. The paper informs future sustainability research to be grounded in holism and systems thinking; better understanding of values, ethics, influencing and political impact; and procedural authenticity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Crilly M, Vemury C, Humphrey R, Rodriguez S, Crosbie T, Johnson K, Wilson A, Heidrich O

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Energies

Year: 2020

Volume: 13

Issue: 22

Online publication date: 10/11/2020

Acceptance date: 16/10/2020

Date deposited: 13/11/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1996-1073

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/en13225860


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