Leap forward or Snail Speed? Examining Radical Sustainable Innovation
Paper in proceedings, 2017
Sustainable building appear to progress rapidly these years. The new technological possibilities could be interpreted as radical, but the objective of this paper is to critically examine, whether some parts of sustainable building technology can be understood as radical or whether we rather witness a continued slow and emergent development. The framework of understanding includes concepts of radical innovation, inventions and sustainability. Radical sustainable innovation (RSI) should break away from the customary and be characterized by high degrees of newness in the entire life cycle. RSI should offer significant enhancements of known benefits, entirely new benefits, or substantial cost reductions, leading to the transformation of existing markets, the creation of entirely new possibilities for sustainable balanced growth and RSI should contribute to a sustainable globe. Serious limitations are addressed. For example buildings are large complex products realised through complex processes and with a considerable lifecycle. It appears impossible that an entire building should/could be radically new. the certification standards represent a possible low denominator for measuring radicality, as criteria for newness related to inventions are found not to be instrumental. Methodologically a selection of international cases of office buildings with very high scores of BREEAM, LEED and DGNB are examined. “Protected economy” cases are sorted away in line with the developed criteria for radical innovation. The result shows that a portfolio of office buildings have reached substantially higher level of sustainability than contemporary building regulations (such as those in EU). There is indeed a gap between a few, substantially more sustainable buildings and the majority of buildings, indicating some radicality, yet not identified as radical innovation here.