Accepted Paper:

Long-winded UK zero carbon building transition: From acceleration to halt?  


Paula Kivimaa (University of Sussex)
Mari Martiskainen (Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand)

Paper short abstract:

We describe the UK zero carbon building transition since the 1970s until the present day based on qualitative data analysis informed by the multi-level perspective and strategic niche management. We particularly explore the last decade from the perspectives of changed policies and intermediary space.

Paper long abstract:

Alike in many other countries, the transition towards zero carbon buildings in the UK has been challenging and partly directed by EU policy. This paper explores this transition - the development of which has been characterised by a strong zero carbon policy drive followed by a complete overhaul of policies, with implications on the actions and agency of a range of actors. Drawing on theoretical concepts from sustainability transitions literature, especially the multi-level perspective, strategic niche management, and the more recent concepts of empowerment and anchoring, we analyse the emergence and development of the zero carbon building niche. The development of this niche traces back to the alternative lifestyles and green building movements of the 1970s, while the active policy drive phase occurred circa 2006-2010. The paper draws on rich interview data (from 2014-2016) and combines that with document and literature analysis. Bringing further insights to the concept of agency, we also explore the role of intermediary actors in the different phases of transition (and non-transition), noting particularly how the actions of intermediaries can be mobilised or curtailed by policy changes. We will also explore whether the existing concepts of the transitions literature are sufficient to describe phenomena, where transition not only halts but moves backwards.

Panel T050
Conceptualizing transformational change in energy systems and the built environment