Accepted Paper:

The connectivity of innovation in sustainable building construction - what roles for wood?  

Authors:

Kjell Tryggestad (Hedmark University College)
Kristin Stevik (Hedmark University College)
Erik Bjurström (Hedmark University of Applied Science)
Per Soeberg (Hedmark University College)

Paper short abstract:

The paper uses actor-network theory to study the connections that condition innovation in a case of sustainable building construction. The study shows what roles wood play in negotiating the sustainability ambition for the project as well as for sustainability standards for buildings.

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to inquire into the unfolding connections that condition innovation in sustainable building design and construction. The study uses actor-network theory to study an ongoing case about a new public campus building at Hedmark University College in Norway, a project that the media has also labelled 'the world's most sustainable building'. The paper first review the extant literature on innovation in sustainable buildings and shows the lack of empirical research on wood constructions. Next, an empirical account and analysis shows what roles wood play in negotiating the sustainability ambition for the project as well as sustainability standards for buildings. Notably, how actors explored and valued sustainability options for the building and how they mobilized wood along with a range of criteria, some linked to global and international standards and some invented locally. The generic international rating systems could not facilitate the sustainable project and wood building by themselves. Instead, what facilitated and conditioned the sustainability ambition was the project's establishment of a series of links between wood and local, regional and national actors and initiatives.

The study concludes on the theoretical implications that innovation in sustainable building construction relies on the establishment of a series specific and fragile links between wood and actors with various knowledge claims about what the wood materials can do - and that those links do important work that the global sustainability standards cannot accomplish but can rather hamper.

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