Accelerating innovation in buildings

The research aims at identifying and overcoming problem areas that hinders innovation in the built environment. Also whether current governance structures regarding planning, production and operation of buildings promote change and innovation. By change and innovation we mean incentives to invest in and install technologies promoting resource-efficient operation throughout the building's expected lifetime, and also the ability of existing governance structures to foster collective action towards the creation of better and fairer living conditions. Change or transformation in this aspect involves not only financial and technological aspects, but also the relationships between social, economic, financial, cultural, and political aspects.

Introduction

Buildings account for almost 40% of the total energy usage in the world. The implementation of energy efficiency measures in buildings is addressed as the most cost effective way to reduce energy consumption and increase energy security. Europe, and hence also Sweden, faces a time when a large part of the existing multifamily houses have to be refurbished in order to continue to deliver the high level of service that is associated with modern multifamily buildings. When refurbishing buildings there is also an opportunity to implement novel resource efficient measures at the most cost effective time of an existing buildings lifetime. However, there seems to be an efficiency gap between the technology available today and the extent to which it is used.

Aim

The aim of the research project is to identify and analyze problem areas with respect to innovation in energy saving technology in the built environment. The aim is also to propose solutions eliminating the problem areas, in order to accelerate innovation in the built environment.

Method

The research project is divided a few separate studies: First an interview study to identify problem areas to energy efficiency implementation in Swedish multifamily buildings, followed by the development of a theoretical framework to understand origins of the identified problem areas. To understand origins of problem areas we choose to view the Swedish building sector as a socio-technical system, built from technical artefacts, institutions, and actors, thus often deeply embedded in our societies. The Swedish building sector is well structured, resulting in that innovation and development occurring outside of the existing sociotechnical regime might not be recognized as feasible investments. In order to identify the structures hindering building projects from becoming creative nodes, niches of innovation, this paper develops a categorization framework for investigating misalignment in and between system levels. The framework distinguishes between three decision-levels when building and refurbishing multifamily buildings: Project level, Sector level and Contextual level, each with their own sets of guiding principles, rules, and timeframes that have to be acknowledged when investigating misalignment in systems. We also investigate innovation in the sociotechnical system "the Swedish building sector" and define the system as a distributed system, a system without core technologies. Distributed systems lacks real core-technologies and functions through the interplay of multiple technologies,hence innovation is more likely to appear as stepwise reconfiguration.

These two initial studies are followed by a number of case studies, investigating some of the identified problem areas as well as proposing solutions to overcoming the problems.

For further information about the project or concerning future co-operation please contact Jonas Anund Vogel at:

Javogel@kth.se