Building resilience beyond the passive house era. Project-based change and innovation towards the social-ecological performance of the built environment. Swedish experiences
Doktorsavhandling, 2009

The building sector needs a radical change in order to make its contribution towards sustainable development. The sector is claimed to be conservative and characterized by fragmented one-off activities. At the same time, demonstration projects are present as current strategies of the transformation of the sector. There is also a lack of integrated theories for understanding this fragmented and project-based structure where goals and assessments of sustainability are developed and realized. This thesis aims at investigating an integrated version of sustainable building practices and to develop an approach that enables the exploration of the human built environment as a linked Socio-Ecological System (SES). Linked SESs behave as complex adaptive systems, with the managers and designers as integral components of the system. Building considered as SES is resource management finalised at social welfare, thereby becoming the complex physical interface between nature and humans. The study is based on observations of the process of change going on in the practices of building in Sweden. The approach has been participatory, combining practice and research in a multi-actor arena. The social settings of 6 evolving demonstration projects were gathered together and the evolution of the projects has been observed over 4 years. The practitioners involved have been interviewed and participated in focus groups, seminars and public conferences to share experiences, problems and solutions. The study indicates that change is ongoing. The building sector from within appears to be more dynamic, adaptable and capable of transformation than it is accredited for. There is a lack of consideration of the role played by project-based practices in building in enhancing innovation aimed at inducing change, technical as well as behavioural and managerial, towards sustainable solutions. These issues have so far neither been covered by construction management researchers nor social and environmental researchers. Efforts to implement change and innovation constitute a background of actions and contexts that too often melt into diffuse cultural and physical practices that are taken for granted, and as a consequence, ordinarily go unnoticed. The projects observed are caught in the tension between the short-term and the long-term dimensions they consist of, working with two basic and conflicting conceptions of resilience: the environmental and the engineering. One is projected in the future towards the adaptation to the ecosystem; the other is projected towards the management of existing social and technical systems in present time. A resilience-based approach helps understand what happens in the building sector when it is moving from a model of management of production towards a model of management of resilience.


built environment


change and innovation

project-based practice


socio-ecological systems (SESs)

building sector

A-salen, Sven Hultinsgatan 6, Göteborg
Opponent: Sebastian Moffat, PhD, CONSENSUS Institute for CCONstructed ENvironments and Sustainable Urban Systems, Salt Spring Island, Canada


Barbara Rubino

Chalmers, Arkitektur

Challenging problems for a new generation of demonstration projects

Proceedings of the sixth International Postgraduate Research Conference in the Built and Human Environment. Delft 6th and 7th april 2006,; Vol. 2(2006)

Paper i proceeding

Learning in demonstration projects for sustainable building

Proceedings 4th Nordic Conference on Construction Economics and Organisation "Development Processes in Construction Management" Luleå, June 2007,; (2007)

Paper i proceeding

Towards a Sustainable Building Approach: arenas of enactment, models of diffusion and the meaning of demnstration projects for change

CIB World Building Congress "Construction for development" 2007, Cape Town, South Africa,; (2007)

Paper i proceeding

Becoming sustainable: Learning in demonstration projects

Proceedings of the Central Europe towards Sustainable Building conference, CESB 07, 24-26 september Prague.,; Vol. 1(2007)p. 259-265

Paper i proceeding

Competitive cooperation in Swedish projects for sustainable building

Melbourne, Australia,; (2008)

Paper i proceeding





Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 3009

A-salen, Sven Hultinsgatan 6, Göteborg

Opponent: Sebastian Moffat, PhD, CONSENSUS Institute for CCONstructed ENvironments and Sustainable Urban Systems, Salt Spring Island, Canada

Mer information