The life and death of a sustainable housing concept? The trajectory of passive houses in Denmark as part of the zero carbon transition
Paper in proceedings, 2012
This paper makes an exploratory analysis of the diffusion of passive houses in Denmark using transition theory. Strategic niche management and technological innovation system approaches are combined to provide a framework that allows for multiple dynamics i.e. social forces enabling or constraining changes, especially niche developments and the role of legitimacy. The passive house niche analysis shows a slow process, barriers of cost and technology and limited adoption in Denmark; roughly 18 projects over the last six years, and a slow descent over 2011-2012. The concept has early moral legitimacy, but the further development of legitimacy fails as costs and indoor climate makes the cognitive legitimacy contested. The passive house concept competes with other sustainable building niches, they are all small and they appear to have been introduced successively over time. Finally there are a tendency of segmentation of villas, small buildings and office buildings respectively. Sustainable building exhibits a particularly active role for government policymaking, or in transition theory terms “regime internal” dynamics. These combined dynamics between sustainable housing niches, the regime internal dynamic and globalisation as well as EU-regulation are counter to transition theory assumptions dominated by the EU- initiatives. The analysis moreover leads to the view that sustainable housing concepts are only viable in time windows, and that the contribution of the passive house trajectory was a stepping stone towards low carbon housing.