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Thesis for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor

Trondheim, October 2015

Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology
Department of Civil and Transport Engineering

Torill Randi Meistad

Sustainable building
– From role model projects
to industrial transformation

Page 2

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Thesis for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor

Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology
Department of Civil and Transport Engineering

© Torill Randi Meistad

ISBN 978-82-326-1196-6 (printed ver.)
ISBN 978-82-326-1197-3 (electronic ver.)
ISSN 1503-8181

Doctoral theses at NTNU, 2015:270

Printed by NTNU Grafisk senter

Page 155


with its low density housing and private cars as transport (Shove 2012), in addition to habits and
perceptions about working methods and lifestyles in general.

Project managers in the role model projects studied in this thesis have experience of these
challenges, and have developed strategies for how to make suppliers, workers on the construction
site and others provide products and working practices that satisfy the criteria for energy and
environmentally high-performing buildings (see paper 6).

Experiences from the case studies included in this thesis include a number of examples of how
unconventional solutions and working methods have been challenging the industrial system and its
environment. The following part of the chapter discusses some common experiences (see papers in
chapter 4) in the light of existing literature (see chapter 2).


Underfloor ventilation: This had to be custom made.
Materials and products: Requests were made for energy and environmental documentation.

Social and cultural:

Multi-professional working models used during early planning and design were met with
resistance from some of the participants.

Request from tenant organizations to client/developer for extensive involvement during
planning were dealt with by negotiating collaboration, roles and conditions.

Initiative from main constructor to reduce waste and energy consumption during
construction were challenging for subcontractors and workers on the construction site.

The external environment of the construction industry:

Buildings with energy-producing systems: A request for permission to deliver electricity to
the grid in periods of net positive production were rejected by the energy company.

Extra investment costs for energy-efficient building: Green leasing contracts were established
to split costs and benefits between owner and tenant organizations.

The aesthetic aspects of energy-producing buildings (active houses) challenge the traditional
architecture of the neighbourhood and this is dealt with by discussions in public media.

Local building regulations are developed to meet the building practice of the existing regime.
The case project presented in paper 3 experiences the regulations as unsuitable for
developing buildings that are designed to function as their own power plant.

The findings from the case studies are in accordance with the literature emphasizing that the
introduction of new technologies in itself is not sufficient for a transformation of the mainstream
industry’s practice. It needs to be supported by a strategy for co-evolution between new technology
and the actors, cultures and routines within the industry, and also between the industry, their
customers and society in general (Geels 2004, Schot and Geels 2008, Meistad and Strand 2013).

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Highly energy efficient and environmentally sustainable building represents a major shift for the
industry. The history of community and industrial development demonstrates the dynamic between
existing and emerging regimes. Informants involved in the case projects have experienced resistance
towards a change in practice in all branches of the industry, while at the same time they have
experienced how it has been possible to negotiate solutions and create the enthusiasm needed to
achieve the energy ambitions.

Economy is the key to understanding the dynamics of the construction industry. The construction
industry is market dependent and based upon competition. The culture of the construction industry
has been characterized as guided by the principles of gaining profit and limiting loss (Smith 2007).
Every deviation from conventional practice represents a risk of extra costs. As an effect of this,
changes are limited to small steps for the majority of projects, while a shift to sustainable building
concepts presupposes a willingness, motives and resources to handle the risk.

Cost–benefit considerations are active both in the industry and in the market. Experiences in the case
projects are in accordance with the literature, where the industry establishes various forms of
partnerships to reduce and share the risk of innovative projects, and where various forms of energy
contracts are introduced to split the extra investment costs and the long-term return on investment
between the owner and tendering enterprises.

From the producer’s point of view, the question of going mainstream is also a question about the
profitability of sustainable building: theories on market niches imply that “green buildings” might be
a market strategy. Analysis has revealed that developing an exclusive niche of “green buildings” is
attractive to industry actors (Gibbs and O’Neill 2015). This implies that as the mainstream catches up
with energy efficiency, there are industrial actors who are likely to shift from the niche of green
building to some other niche. From a socio-technical perspective, their strategy is to move to new
niches to differentiate themselves from the mainstream (O'Neill and Gibbs 2013). This might also be
the case for actors involved in Norwegian energy-efficient role model projects. The impression
gained from the case studies is that the motivation for participating in role model projects is that
they are innovative and ambitious. There are individual participants and also enterprises that
appreciate challenging tasks and have an extra drive for competition and outstanding results. They
might be considered as innovators according to theory on the diffusion of innovations (Rogers 2003),
and for the time being they find attractive challenges within sustainable building.

From a customer’s point of view, the exclusiveness of innovative and green facilities obviously
matters, as revealed in the case studies included in this thesis. The publicity given to the buildings
and the environmental image related to them attracts attention from customers, job hunters and
business partners (see findings in paper 5). Green leasing contracts draw attention to energy-saving
and other forms of cost-saving in modern sustainable buildings.

However, economic calculations among the user organizations included in this thesis draw attention
to the value of modern and functional facilities. This relates partly to more efficient work, partly to
better services attracting customers and business partners, partly to reduced sickness leave and
partly to better area efficiency (see paper 5) (Blakstad and Andersen 2011, Blakstad and Andersen
2013). In one case project, calculations were carried out to illustrate the effects on efficiency as part
of the strategic planning in a finance enterprise. Calculations for production efficiency are in
accordance with generic theory on investments. However, calculations for the added value for the

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Torill Meistad er PhD stipendiat ved Institutt for bygg, anlegg og transport ved NTNU. Hennes
doktorgradsarbeid, «Økt bærekraftighet i byggeprosjekter. En studie av innovasjon, samarbeid og
læring i norsk byggenæring», tar utgangspunkt i forbildeprosjekter med høye energimål for å studere
utviklingen mot økt miljømessig bærekraft/levedyktighet i norsk byggenæring. Arbeidet avsluttes ved
utgangen av 2013.

Jeg ønsker å ha en god dialog med virksomhetene i forbildeprosjektene og med dere som stiller opp
for intervju. Derfor vil jeg gjerne dele mine analyser med de som er interessert, og tar gjerne imot

Ytterligere informasjon om prosjektet kan fås ved henvendelse til:

PhD-stipendiat Torill Meistad, Institutt for bygg, anlegg og transport, NTNU, [email protected],
tlf 73594795/ 95972035

Veileder Marit Støre Valen, instituttleder ved Institutt for bygg, anlegg og transport, NTNU,
[email protected], tlf 73594644 / 91897967

Veileder Prof. Dr. Thomas Berker, Zero Emission Building (NTNU/ZEB): [email protected], tlf

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