We are currently witnessing in the Norwegian building sector (and elsewhere) the transition from isolated and heterogeneous sustainable building projects carried out in protected niches (e.g pilot projects) to more sustainable buildings becoming mainstream. According to scholars studying sustainable transitions this is the moment in which a dominant design catches on, replacing and displacing other more or less sustainable alternatives.
Within this process, in the Norwegian case, the principles behind the passive house play a salient role. In fact, only recently a government white paper has called for "passive house levels" to become part of the building code by 2015. This strong focus on passive house principles is not without its critics and alternatives. Since 2010, a controversy about health and other negative impacts of insulating Norwegian houses (that are traditionally light wooden structures) to passive house levels has been going on in the Norwegian public and among experts. And recently, the building industry has entered the field with an adaptation of the BREEAM certification scheme which gains ground rapidly.
In this paper we describe and analyse these three options – passive house, its critique and BREEAM - of defining green andsustainable building in Norway based on media analysis and interviews with their respective proponents. We describe potential compatibilities and incompatibilities and conclude with questions for further research.