Multiple institutional dynamics of sustainable housing concepts in Denmark – on the role of passive houses
Journal article, 2012

One of the central challenges of sustainable transition is the changing of our buildings. This involves social, cultural, political and regulatory dynamics. Critically using transition theory conceptualization of a world of dynamics, the paper reviews institutional theory and actor network approaches in an attempt to better account for contemporary developments in Europe, encompassing EU reforms as well as multiple competing concepts. The emergence of ‘passive houses’ in Denmark is used as a case of transition dynamics. The concept was developed in Germany and imported into Denmark. It is a technological niche, encompassing technologies, players, improvisation and early customers. Passive houses have entered into fierce competition with other future institutions such as LEED, DGNB/green building council and active houses. Passive Houses was at the outset a well-developed upcoming institution with design principles, - software, certification and numerous reference buildings, strong enough to be a challenger institution. They are promoted by a characteristic alliance of architects, consulting engineers, a few clients, and an architect school, whereas the other concepts exhibit their specific actor alliances. Yet passive houses experience barriers such as the reputation of being expensive and non-user friendly and are currently surpassed by the other concepts.


transition theory

passive houses

sustainable building


Martine Buser

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Christian Koch

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Sociology Study

2159-5526 (ISSN)

Vol. 2 10 17-

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)


Subject Categories

Civil Engineering

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Other Civil Engineering

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