Abstract The conundrum of what the community and individual roles are in the sustainability of our physical and social environments is a global issue taking precedence at a local scale. Tensions between neo-liberal forces and sustainability goals often alienate community members from participating in decision making and policy outcomes. Through the exploration of a grassroots, community-initiated, collaborative planning process for a construction project, the community-level reaction to global pressures, dominant rhetoric, and the social needs of the community becomes evident through gazing at the dynamics between the technical experts and community participants within the planning process. The dominant rhetoric of place, identity, and power from technical experts often transfer into the design and construction of built environments. While construction projects require the technical input of engineers, architects, and planners, input from community members—who will live, work, and utilize the built environments—is also critical to achieving sustainability goals.
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