SME contractors on the stage for energy renovations? A dramaturgical perspective on SME contractors’ roles and interactions with house owners
Energy renovations of single-family houses in Sweden are moving slowly, but if energy renovated, these houses hold great potential for decreased energy consumption. This could imply a new area of exploration regarding potential business opportunities for SME contractors. The slow movement of energy renovations creates a challenge however. Previous research has focused on SME contractors and their work or house owners and their behavior, but to understand the lack of energy renovations, it is not enough to examine only either/or. It is also necessary to study the interaction between these two actors in order to understand how the space is being used and how they negotiate what needs to be done. The aim of the thesis was thus to extend our understanding of SME contractors within the construction and energy sector in southwest Sweden and their interactions with single-family house owners as potential customers. The aim was also to explore further whether increased understanding of SME contractors developing their businesses towards energy renovations of single-family houses could bring more light to contractors’ interactions with house owners as potential customers and the lack of energy renovations of single-family houses in Sweden.
An interpretivist understanding, using Goffman’s dramaturgical theory (Goffman, 1959; 1961), was initiated to explore the interactions while Action research is the methodology and framework for this study. The method was used to work with the SME contractors in developing their businesses towards energy renovations. However, since action research focuses on social change, and Goffman’s dramaturgical theory focuses of stabilized actions, it is necessary to discuss how the two perspectives are merged. In order to achieve the aim, a combination of methods was needed. Two main methods were used: 18 observations of interactions between SME contractors and house owners, when they were discussing possible improvement measures in the house owners’ homes; and 16 workshops with three groups of SME contractors (a total of 26) collaborating to develop their businesses to find new ways to work with energy renovations of single-family houses. One of these groups developed a new concept regarding energy renovations of single-family houses, and in addition to the observations, this thesis is based on this group’s collaboration.
This thesis demonstrates that SME contractors express some insecurity regarding their roles, their role performances, and also some of the materials and possible solutions they could use; and it shows how these insecurities shape and structure their interactions with house owners. Tensions were highlighted involving roles and performances, which together with insecurities create challenges for innovation and implementation of new practices. In addition, the study shows that interactions between SME contractors and house owners comprise a key aspect of the lack of energy renovations of single-family houses. The interaction with the established roles and performances locks the two actors into a routinized play that is difficult to change. This creates blocks for new input. Thus, to place SME contractors on the stage as responsible for the lack of energy renovations is to disregard the constraints of their professional role, which is created by the contractor’s interaction with the house owner at the house owner’s home.