Case studies of local construction innovations

When local municipalities supports innovative construction or refurbishing projects, they hold the potential to combine objectives of environmental and climate strategies with business and development strategies. It may also contribute to a broader local development, as many of the regions municipalities are struggling for attracting well paid tax payers and creative business developments by unfolding new branding efforts in culture etc. and in spatial planning for interesting settlements.  Here requirements of a more sustainable development of building technology may be an integrated part in such strategies.

Municipalities and niches of construction

The challenges of combining economic growth, attracting tax payers and handling climate issues have recently become important future political issues for the local communities. Experiences can be gained by looking at the way some front-runners among municipalities have responded to these new issues or have initiated niches for experiments and innovation. These experiences are of interest, both in term of how they have emerged and been organised, and in term of how they have succeeded to stage the experiments in a way , which enabled an integration of niche experiences in mainstream development and thereby influencing it in a more sustainable direction.

We have on a national scale identified different characteristics and a variety in types of niche initiation, besides various aims with niche development, see the casestudies.

The niche types found for further investigations may be characterized as

  1. The radical niche experimentation, where individuals or settlement groups try to create their homes from visions of a sustainable & democratic society – eco-villages (Munksøgård, Hallingelille, Fri og fro, Kyoto community).
  2. The single-issue niche experimentation, where one or more companies and/or other actors try to establish a real-life test bed and develop certain technologies . (Hydrogen-supplied houses in Lolland and Herning, solar cells on rooftops and other spectacular technologies in many cities).
  3.  Local regulation embedded niches for experimentation with more strict eco- and energy requirements in rules, plans and technical performance demands to materials, insulation, energy use, water supply etc. in order to put a pressure on the main stream development of business and technology (Middelfart municipality developing ESCO based program for retrofitting of family owned houses, Køge municipality developing construction requirements within the Scandinavian eco-label “the Swan”; Egedal municipality planning housing areas with a number of specific eco and energy requirements).
  4. Market embedded niches for experimentation stemming from large companies or housing co-operations. Companies, cooperative housing societies and public building owners may create niches for socio-technical experiments. (passive-house in Naestved, H2-college in Herning, Ringgården in Århus).

The interesting question is how municipalities respond to the niches and what role they have played in learning, forming, supporting, upgrading and “translating” the niches to common dwelling regimes.

Further studies and analyses will reveal how the different types of experiments will develop and influence the main stream development in the building sector.


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