Infrastructure transitions towards sustainability: a complex adaptive systems perspective

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Brown, K, Furneaux, C & Gudmundsson, A 2012, 'Infrastructure transitions towards sustainability: a complex adaptive systems perspective', International Journal of Sustainable Development, vol. 15, no. 1/2, pp. 54-71.

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To ensure infrastructure assets are procured and maintained by government on behalf of citizens, appropriate policy and institutional architecture are needed, particularly if a fundamental shift to more sustainable infrastructure is the goal. The shift in recent years from competitive and resource-intensive procurement to more collaborative and sustainable approaches to infrastructure governance is considered a major transition in infrastructure procurement systems. In order to better understand this transition in infrastructure procurement arrangements, the concept of emergence from complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory is offered as a key construct. Emergence holds that micro interactions can result in emergent macro order. Applying the concept of emergence to infrastructure procurement, this research examines how interaction of agents in individual projects can result in different industry structural characteristics. The paper concludes that CAS theory, and particularly the concept of 'emergence', provides a useful construct to understand infrastructure procurement dynamics and progress towards sustainability.

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