The Social Construction of Green Building: Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives
Doctoral thesis, 2006
Although environmental issues have been on the agendas of governments, businesses and scientists for at least three decades, there still remain conceptual difficulties concerning what environment or green actually encompass. The concepts are in constant flux, shifting as actors who represent different social relevant groups struggle to find support for their specific interests.
The overall aim of this research is to contribute new insight concerning the processes through which environmental issues are represented and given meaning in the Swedish building sector. To fulfill this purpose, three research questions have been formulated, all of them focusing on different organizational levels: how are environmental issues (1) framed? (2) made sense of?, and (3) acted upon? Furthermore, to understand the social construction of green building, the topic has been addressed from a diachronic and a synchronic perspective. The thesis draws on theories of social construction of technology, institutional change, travel of ideas, sensemaking and identity construction to explicate the qualitative empirical data, which is mainly collected through interviews, written documents, and field observations.
Green building is a contested discursive terrain, where relevant groups struggle for the preferential right of interpretation of green. The plurality of meanings enacted in several distinct logics can result in widely differing problem formulations and contradictory solutions. On organizational level, contesting views may mobilize counter-action or non-action, which is destructive for strategic environmental work. The trade magazines bias towards technical measures and their proclivity toward traditional definitions regarding environmental impacts may lock practitioners into a technocratic logic. Environmental areas that are not formulated areas of key concern risk being taken for granted, i.e., being black-boxed. Accordingly, development within these areas may stagnate, especially since those who make strategic environmental decisions in the companies are not the same people who possess environmental expertise. For environmental issues to be enacted at all levels of a company, the environmental experts would need to be empowered with a decision-making mandate. To succeed, the environmental work has to be given adequate resources and also be legitimized by the business management.
To conclude, there is no one true notion of green building. Instead, it is a social construct with multiple interpretations, which is not only a constraint, but may also function as a driver for change and development.
Travel of ideas
Community of practice and action
10.00 sal VK, Sven Hultins gata 6, Chalmers
Opponent: Professor Susse Georg, Department of Organization and Industrial Sociology, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark