(C19)
Mainstreaming zero carbon buildings in Europe?
Location FASS Building Meeting Room 1
Date and Start Time 25 Jul, 2018 at 13:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Michael Ornetzeder (Austrian Academy of Sciences) email
  • Harald Rohracher (Linköping University) email
  • Thomas Berker (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) email

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Short abstract

Creating zero carbon buildings has moved to the centre stages of political ambitions within contemporary sustainability policies. For this panel we aim to gather national case studies analysing recent and on-going efforts to eliminate carbon emissions related to buildings from an STS perspective.

Long abstract

Creating zero carbon buildings has moved to the centre stages of political ambitions within contemporary sustainability policies. For this panel we aim to gather national case studies analysing recent and on-going efforts to eliminate carbon emissions related to buildings from an STS perspective. The contributions may engage with fundamental contemporary developments in the way buildings are regulated and built. The European Energy Performance in Buildings Directive forces national parliaments to introduce and reinforce energy demands in national building codes to reach "nearly zero energy" for all new buildings by 2020. It has been argued that complex domains should be regulated by modern reflexive regulation forms including policy mixes and advanced mechanisms. The adoption of this thinking has led to a broad variety of policy responses adopting soft law and hard law, prescriptive and performative regulation, subsidies, development programs, new standards, certifications etc. Voluntary certifications like the UK BREEAM or the German DGNB system that have been adopted by construction industries outside the UK and Germany. Bottom-up initiatives based on the activities of concerned architects and engineers have contributed to the diffusion of zero carbon technologies. The development of these and similar ways to define and implement sustainability in buildings and their translation into different regional and national settings offers a rich set of observations about the way private actors, associations, citizens, companies anticipate and contribute to the implementation of sustainable regulation in construction.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'One is hypothetical and one is real…'. Accounting for "error" in low-carbon building performance

Authors: Catherine Willan (University College London) email
Russell Hitchings (University College London) email
Michelle Shipworth (University College London) email
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Short abstract

Discourse analysis can reveal how actors account for "error" (Gilbert & Mulkay, 1984) in low-carbon building performance. It uncovers opposing repertoires of "theory" and "reality", and explores how, when and why these do - or do not - meet. The basis is empirical case study data from UK buildings.

Long abstract

The UK government has sought to incentivise lower-carbon public buildings by employing carbon and energy performance contracts, which supplement local and national regulations and certification programmes, such as BREEAM. Despite this set of incentives, not all buildings will meet their performance targets. This paper uses empirical case study data from the UK to explore how actors in the construction industry rationalise these performance failures through discourse. Drawing on STS frameworks of "accounting for error" (Gilbert and Mulkay, 1984), it identifies interpretative repertoires through which differences in a building's designed and operational carbon emissions are represented as a dichotomy between "theory" and "reality". It will explore how, and in what arenas, actors keep "theory" and "reality" apart, and if, and when, they bring them together. It will consider whether divergences between the "theory" and "reality" of low-carbon buildings may be a convenient construct to mitigate risk for the public and private actors involved, and to avoid dealing with difficult issues, such as: pressurised public budgets; the nature of regulatory governance; technological complexities; unpredictable interactions; and shortfalls in industry skills. Moreover, it raises the question as to what extent such a binary conception of (low) carbon performance is helpful for either building projects or policy, when considering the full lifecycle of a building and the daily dynamism of energy use. A failure by actors to formally acknowledge the constructed - and negotiable - nature of both "theory" and "reality" means that alternative discourses, that could promote honesty and collaborative learning, are displaced.

The zero emission kindergarten at Lø: a contested site for a zero emission future

Author: Ruth Woods (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) email
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Short abstract

Planning zero carbon neighbourhoods is on the political agenda in larger Norwegian cities, but sustainable visions can be contested. Using a zero emission neighbourhood in Lø as an example, methods to bridge the gap between sustainable visions and existing practice will be considered.

Long abstract

Planning zero carbon neighbourhoods is high on the political agenda in most larger Norwegian cities, but sustainable visions can be contested (Gansmo 2012). The NRK building in Lø, Steinkjer is a building with character. Built during the 1980's and until recently offices and studios for the Norwegian Broadcasting company, it is full of references to the people and technology that it previously housed. Steinkjer Municipality now owns this building and plans to put it to good use by transforming it into a kindergarten, part of what will become a zero emission neighbourhood. Two existing kindergartens, both in need of larger more up-to-date buildings, are to be merged. The NRK building will be transformed into a plus-building, nine detached single-family houses will be built in the grounds, and the surrounding area, including a school and sports facilities will be part of a new energy sharing community. From the outside, this would appear to be a win-win situation, combining a number of positive aspects. From the inside, particularly from the standpoint of the staff in the two kindergartens, the project is chaotic and complex. An unpopular merger is combined with a building unsuited to the practice of running a modern kindergarten. The zero emission vision makes things worse; it is being forced upon them. Using insight from interviews and meetings with participants from both sides of the sustainable vision, this paper will consider potential methods to bridge the gap between sustainable visions and existing practice.

Regulation and performance: lessons from the first and the second passive house school in Norway

Author: Thomas Berker (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) email
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Short abstract

Seen from the outside passive houses in Norway are a remarkable success. When we look at individual passive houses and their performance another picture emerges.

Long abstract

This article consists of two parts:

First we describe the critical factors leading to this success. Subsidies, a national passive house standard adapted to Norwegian calculation methods and climatic conditions, extensive training programmes for professionals and a clear path to stricter regulation of energy requirements in new buildings has created a perfect storm raising the number of passive houses built in Norway from almost zero in 2010 to 10 percent of all new buildings in summer 2013.

In the second part of this article, we move from the nominal success of "passive houses as built" to their "passive house performance" in daily use. The latter is based on an evaluation of the first and the second passive house school in Norway where we encountered significant differences in how the building managers made sure that their buildings actually worked as intended.

The article concludes by contrasting the two sets of success factors, the ones leading to passive houses becoming an important part of the building stock and the ones actually producing passive house performance, identifying commonalities and differences.

Towards the emergence of a zero carbon building sector in France: reflecting on the appropriation of regulation in online discussion forums

Author: Alexandre Mallard (Mines ParisTech, Université PSL) email
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Short abstract

This paper examines discussions in online forums on the appropriation of the French thermal regulation issued in 2012. Using data from different platforms, it studies the processes of problematization, learning and politicization involved in the regulatory transition to zero carbon building

Long abstract

This paper examines the way in which online discussion forums have contributed to the appropriation of the thermal regulation issued in France in 2012 (RT 2012). In the early 2010s, this regulation was considered a major contribution to the development of sustainable construction, and seen as a milestone in the transition towards the emergence of zero carbon buildings. However, its implementation was quite controversial and triggered debates among professionals and consumers, in the media and on the Internet. In this paper, we will focus on the case of online forums and consider three complementary dimensions featuring the appropriation processes associated with such controversial debates: problematization (how is the regulation related with concrete economic activities, technical devices and construction practices ?), learning (how does new knowledge emerge concerning the regulatory device ?) and politicization (what specific conceptions of public policies or modalities of market organization for sustainable construction do the debates involve). The paper is based on an analysis of online discussions on different kinds of platforms: online forums provided by consumer organizations, by home building DIY groups and by companies commercializing services in the construction sector. It offers a reflection at the crossroads of STS, economic sociology and the sociology of online participation on the role of different actors (public actors, small businesses, consumers, consultants, etc) in the concrete and effective implementation of regulations. As a whole, it aims to contribute to a better understanding of the regulation-based logics supporting the mainstreaming of zero carbon building in France.

Mainstreaming passive houses in Sweden: institutional perspectives from two regions

Authors: Johan Niskanen (Linkopings University) email
Harald Rohracher (Linköping University) email
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Short abstract

A shift towards nearly-zero energy buildings is required by EU. This leads to multi-scalar challenges, and concerns the embedding of buildings in regional institutional contexts. This paper studies how institutionalization processes interact and shape the mainstreaming of passive houses in Sweden.

Long abstract

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires Member States to shift the construction of new houses towards 'nearly-zero energy buildings'. However, the implementation of the directive on a national level faces many challenges and eventually concerns embedding in existing institutional contexts beyond formal building regulations. The attempt of a top-down implementation of new building standard comes under pressure from different sides: on the one hand, different national stakeholders and advocacy coalitions aim to shape building regulations in a way that meets their special interests or policy aims. On the other hand, different institutional milieus have developed around the question of highly-energy efficient buildings at national or regional scale, not only consisting of particular regulations, but also expectations and norms and organisational forms of building companies, etc. The aim of the paper is to study how different formal and informal institutionalization processes interact and shape the mainstreaming of passive houses in Sweden. Interviews with regional actors as well as policy documents and newspaper articles is the main empirical material in the study of two contrasting Swedish regions, and their interrelation with the implementation of new national building standards. With this analysis the paper wants to contribute to a more differentiated understanding of the implementation of public policies aiming at a sustainability transition of the building sector. More emphasis needs to be put on the interaction of new regulatory regimes with existing institutional fields at different scales and on the institutional work from various actors shaping the transformation process in particular ways.

Mainstreaming energy efficient buildings in Austria

Authors: Michael Ornetzeder (Austrian Academy of Sciences) email
Harald Rohracher (Linköping University) email
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Short abstract

Austria is one of the leading countries regarding the development of energy efficient buildings. This paper draws on interviews with key actors in research, policy and the building sector, to analyse the development and arguable mainstreaming of energy efficient buildings in Austria.

Long abstract

Austria is one of the leading countries regarding the development of energy efficient buildings. Since the first passive house in 1996 the market for energy efficient buildings has rapidly increased and more than 10,000 buildings met the passive house standard at the end of 2010, which is per capita more than in any other country. The achievements in the building sector are also reflected in a decrease of the average heat energy demand of new buildings from 45 kWh/m2a to 25 kWh/m2a in the last 10 years. This paper draws on qualitative social science research, in particular interviews with key actors in research, policy and the building sector, to analyse the development and arguable mainstreaming of energy efficient buildings in Austria. The successful dissemination of energy efficient buildings has been driven by a unique combination of research policies, regional system building activities and the creation of communities of competent professionals (architects, builders), qualified demand from housing developers and new organisational structures in the building sector. A key role to unify different discourses and activities has been played by the research and demonstration programme "Building of Tomorrow" which became a major innovation driver. This programme substantially supported the alignment of architectural concepts and allowed the development of a broad range of novel building technologies. In addition to technology-oriented research, the programme also provided for social and organizational solutions and contributed significantly to the establishment of a professional community of Austrian key players, experts and companies in the sector.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.