Proto institutions in Sustainable Buildings
Paper in proceedings, 2014

The building community is currently undergoing a transformation towards low carbon buildings; this process involves a range of dynamics: Social, cultural, political and regulatory. To analyse this process we use mainly institutional theory as approach to sustainable transition in an attempt to account for contemporary developments, encompassing multiple competing concepts and EU reforms. This theory enables us to address emerging institutions and proto-institutions of sustainable building.. In addition, we draw on political process theory To explain the agency dynamics involving coalitions, alliances in and around the proto-institutions. The development of sustainable building in Denmark from 2001-2014 is used as a case of a building community dynamics, based on data gathered from desk study and interviews. More than ten concepts of sustainable building are involved. A previous consensus oriented dominant institution broke down around 2002. The normative concepts such as passive houses that then have emerged constitute alliances encompassing technologies, practices, norms and actors. The normative upcoming proto institutions have experienced barriers such as the reputation of being expensive and non-user friendly. This has counterbalanced the emerging legitimacy that for example passive houses draw on through established design principles, design software, certification and a portfolio of realized houses in other countries. Others, such as “energy class 1” are gaining momentum as anticipatory normative institutions and future EU-regulation. A possible future configuration in sustainable building appears to involve multiple institutions and protoinstitutions.

sustainable building

institutional theory


sustainable transition


Christian Koch

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Martine Buser

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Proceedings International Conference on Sustainable Transition

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Subject Categories

Other Civil Engineering

More information