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Improving sustainability on university campuses in Saudi Arabia - an assessment of organisational and decision-related opportunities and barriers

Alsharif, M. A. (2017) Improving sustainability on university campuses in Saudi Arabia - an assessment of organisational and decision-related opportunities and barriers. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Sustainability is a very broad term which encompasses a variety of principles, concepts and practices -the majority of which are concerned with reducing negative impacts on the natural environmentand encouraging the more judicious and careful utilization of natural resources. For the purposes of this thesis the main aspects of sustainability being focused on, in the context of university campuses, relate primarily to organisational and infrastructural/ technological change -particularly with regard to energy efficiency and the organisation's overall carbon footpri nt. The decision-making approaches associated with (and ramifications of) those changes are also of central interest. To a lesserextent, but still incorporated as part of the research study, is the important issue of social engagement in the adoption of pro-environmental practices at HEIs in Saudi Arabia. The central aim of this PhD is to explore the extent to which planning and action on sustainability by Facilities and project management (F&PM) decision makers within HEIls in Saudi Arabia is currently being made -and to examine the opportunities and challenges associated with encouraging and enabling further progress to this end. This aim was addressed through the investigation of several key interrelated factors including: • The influence of decision makers' personal knowledge and perceptions within F&PM departments regarding sustainability; • The constraints faced by F&PM decision makers with regard to the promotion of sustainability on campus; and • The influence and impact of organisational factors that relate to the success orfailure of implementing initiatives designedto improve the overall sustainability'status' ofa Saudi university campus. This exploration was supported by the developmentof a theoretical framework that draws on the methods and techniques of rational choice theory (RCT) and organisational change theory (OCT). In order to provide depth of insight and understanding the research adopts a predominantly qualitative and exploratory case study approach with the administration of face-to-face semi-structured interviews forming the primary technique for gathering information on the perspective of representative decision makers from within F&PM departments in selected Saudi universities. The rationale forthe sampling strategy is explained in the methodology chapter (Chapter 4) of this thesis. A total of eight universities were included in the first, exploratory phase of the research programme. From these, three cases were selected to form the main focus for the study -each representing one of the triad of prevailing university 'types' in the Kingdom as revealed inthe exploration phase (i.e.:( 1) well-established institutions; (2) affiliated institutions that later became independent; and (3) emerging institutions). Findings from the interviews are subjected to a rigorous comparative analysis involving, discursive synthesis ofthe chiefinfluential and prevalent principles, practice and culture. The research reveals mixed levels of prevailing knowledge and awareness towards sustainability among F&PM decision makers within the case study university campuses -but nevertheless with a general sense of urgency and importance attached to the issues by the majority of those taking part. Most participants shared similar concerns relating to their perceived importance of sustainability in terms of the university's physical capital and social activities. There was noticeable variation in respect ofawareness and knowledge between the interests and preferences of F&PM decision makers and university senior management decision makers, which the findings clearly demonstrate often lead to less tangible support being afforded to environmental/sustainability issues compared with a range of other competing priorities. Cost visibly came across as a dominant influence on F&PM decision makers' choices and decisions, and it undoubtedly plays an important role in shaping decision¬making process alongside other key organisational factors such as structure, decision-making leadership and the prevailing institutional culture . A number of barriers facing the incorporation of sustainability emerged with clarity. These include(i) lack of sustainability knowledge and awareness among senior management; (ii) lack ofsupportive leadership; and (iii) an absence of sustainability-related legislation policy or strategic direction in the HEIs concerned. Overall the research carried out for this PhD highl ights the organisational and decision-related restrictions that currently serve to impede a more progressive transition of Saudi HElstowards pragmatic action for enabling on-campus sustainability. The noticeable exception to this trend is demonstrated in one of the case study universities, where a combination of proactive leadership and the formation of a dedicated sustainability department has served to improve the ability of F&PM decision makers to pursue a strategic programme of practical sustainability initiatives across the campus. Drawingon the enabling factors demonstrated here - as well as the constraining/inhibiting factors highlighted in the research brings together a 'model' model for designing and delivering successful sustainability strategies on HEI campuses across Saudi Arabia.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Peters, M. and Dixon, T.
Thesis/Report Department:School of the Built Environment
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Construction Management and Engineering
ID Code:78145

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