Clients’ strategies for driving innovation in low energy building
Paper i proceeding, 2011

In Sweden, in the last decade, construction of energy efficient new buildings using passive standards or other low energy solutions has increased remarkably. Low energy buildings that not long ago were considered as difficult to realise now seem realistic and feasible. This paper is based on case studies of three different client organisations which all have the ambition to make low energy construction part of their normal production: one larger government sector client, one municipal client and one private housing developer. The purpose is to describe and discuss directives, strategies and drivers of these clients to engage in low energy construction, their methods and processes to reach their objectives and their achievements and continued challenges. The government sector client is driven by political directives to engage in sustainable and low energy construction and management. They perceive a responsibility to be a competent client in order to fulfil their directives and to be attractive as an employer, but have no long history of innovation. Their objectives for sustainable and low energy building have been restricted by their specific and heterogeneous property stock and a highly politicised decision process for new investments. The municipal client is driven by political directives, but also by strong personal and organisational commitments to keep and extend their commission from the city to be leading in the field of innovative sustainable building. They have successfully engaged in several low energy demonstration projects. At present they widen their interest to include other aspects of sustainable construction as well as the urban level. They also aim to engage other local clients in innovation for sustainable development by setting the sustainability requirements for some parts of land to be developed in the city. Finally, the private developer has strictly commercial drivers to low energy construction, but exploits opportunities created as municipalities seek to promote low-energy and low cost rental housing. The municipal client seeks continuously to raise and extend their ambitions for sustainable construction, while the private developer’s ambitions are conditioned by external demands and project profitability. The clients in this study experience that they stimulate development among consultants and contractors through their procurement of low energy buildings. In the case of the municipal client, they also influence other property developers. The results might challenge the view that the slow pace of innovation in construction can always be attributed to conservative and risk aversive clients. Further, contrary to findings in many previous studies of demonstration projects and innovation in project-based industries, these clients have strategies that extend beyond the individual project and allow for step-by-step testing and development. The case studies also show that a combination of political initiatives supporting sustainable building and ambitions developed within the client organizations can be highly effective in driving change. Also, different clients may fulfil partly complementary roles in this process.

demonstration projects

construction clients


low energy buildings


Paula Femenias

Chalmers, Arkitektur

Anna Kadefors

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Service Management and Logistics

Proceedings from the International Sustainable Building Conference SB11 in Helsinki 18-21 September 2011


Building Futures (2010-2018)



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