Sustainability in Practice: Social Science Perspectives on Architectural Design, Research and the Implementation of Building Solutions
Authors: Publication Year: 2014

Fra et refleksivt praktiker-ståsted, undersøker avhandlingen utfordringer med kunnskapsintegrasjon på tvers av bygningssektorene. Et kritisk standpunkt blir testet konseptuelt og eksperimentelt i et tverrfaglig rammeverk som binder sammen litteratur fra arkitektur, byggvitenskap, byplanlegging og teknologi- og vitenskapsstudier (STS). Det empiriske grunnlaget for studien er intervjuer og spørreundersøkelser, som sammen utgjør et case fra Sveits. Avhandlingen evaluerer antagelser og praksiser knyttet til politikk for bærekraft og strategier for karbonreduksjon, i forhold til bygninger og det bygde miljøet. Studien er artikkelbasert, og rommer fire artikler som på forskjellige måter knytter teoretiske diskusjoner i feltet til praksis og politikkutvikling.


Addressing the problem of knowledge integration across the building sectors, a critical stance is taken and tested conceptually, as well as experimentally within an interdisciplinary frame that draws together a number of key literatures from architecture, building science, urban studies, and STS. Empirically, the thesis is supported by a set of interviews and questionnaires that form a grounded case of Switzerland, which evaluates the assumptions and practices around sustainability policies and carbon reduction strategies for buildings and the built environment. As an article based dissertation comprised of four articles that are summarized below, the thesis aims to constructively connect theoretical debates to practice and policy.

Article 1: Engaging complexity:

Social science approaches to green building design

A theoretic exploration of the positioning of three overlapping social science frameworks that examine the design and analysis of the built environment is presented. Using the notion of assemblage, intersections between the research interests of Science and Technology Studies (STS), critical urban theory, and assemblage urbanism are unpacked to highlight respective areas of focus. Insofar as the comparative contrast aids in situating perspectives contextually, assemblage thinking is argued as an effective point of departure to frame design practices within their broader socio-political landscapes.

(Single-authored work published by MIT Press in Design Issues Autumn 2013, Vol. 29, No. 4, pages 82-93 as the issue’s anchor article.)

Article 2: Energy and buildings research:

Challenges from the new production of knowledge

Through the lens of Science and Technology Studies (STS), the state of energy and buildings research as it relates to Mode-2 conceptions of knowledge production is empirically explored. Using survey methodology, experts’ expectations of their current situations, future challenges, and their perceptions of ‘good’ science were assessed, and two sets of challenges linked to knowledge production in building research are outlined.

(Published by Routledge Press in 2012 as a co-authored journal article with Dr. Thomas Berker in Building Research & Information Vol. 40, No. 4, pages 473-480.  Responsibilities for the survey development, analysis, write-up and review correspondence were shared equally between the authors.)

Article 3: Between research and practice:   

Experts on implementing sustainable construction

Grounded in the Science and Technology Studies (STS), observations drawn from 31 semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted with Swiss building industry experts provide insight into the relationships between designers, researchers and public authorities. Expert-reported challenges linked to technical dimensions of sustainable construction are discussed, and a series of examples from the empirical data indicate how regulatory frictions and the challenges of implementing construction strategies into diverse domestic and international working contexts are ameliorated.

(Published in 2013 as a co-authored journal article with Dr. Lee Ann Nicol in Buildings Vol. 3, No. 4, pages 739-765.  As an expert in Swiss building stock policy at ETH Wohnforum - ETH CASE (Centre for Research on Architecture, Society and the Built Environment), Dr. Nicol’s primary role was to verify the accuracy of the institutional relationships outlined. )

Article 4: Framing transitions

Highlighting complementary relationships between architecture, urbanism and social science approaches to sustainable design, strategic areas of reflection that frame critical, transitional challenges are outlined. Synthesized into a critique of the design, construction and research industries, each of the topics raised: ‘sustainability as a design value,’ ‘non-disciplinary perspectives on design,’ and ‘the notion of cities,’ accessibly links relevant trends in academia and the practice of architecture to provide next steps for action.

(Single-authored work published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Forward 2013, Vol. 213, pages 105- 122 as the issue’s anchor article.)

Additional Info

  • WP: Energy efficient use and operation
  • Publication Year: 2014
  • Type: Report

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