The Challenge of Energy Retrofitting the Residential Housing Stock: Grassroots Innovations and Socio-Technical System Change in Worcester, MA
This paper addresses an intractable problem: how to energy-upgrade the existing residential housing stock on a large scale, potentially saving up to 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions? The paper focuses on the USA, with a case study in Worcester, Massachusetts. To address this problem we conceptualise the residential housing stock as a socio-technical system, with as main elements technology, professional knowledge and know-how, formal institutions, markets and the key actors within each. The analysis demonstrates the interconnectedness of the elements and sub-elements of the system, the need to affect change in all of them, identifies homeowners (consumers) and local authorities as the most difficult to change, and suggests that both technological and social innovation - including grassroots activism and multistakeholder collaboration - is needed. We conceptualise housing retrofitting projects as small-scale niche experiments and as grassroots innovations. In this paper we describe an experiment in Worcester, Massachusetts, in which the vision of the project - as community development - was produced by a coalition (WoHEC) of many local actors. This project illustrates both the potentials of our proposed framework in terms of grassroots innovations and socio-technical experiments and its limitations: learning among stakeholders is often slow and ineffective. More research is needed to refine the conceptual framework and to make it applicable to both grassroots innovations and municipal projects. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Technology Analysis and Strategic Management
case study, construction industry, environment, green energy, green innovation, socio-technical systems
Vergragt, Philip J. and Brown, Halina Szejnwald, "The Challenge of Energy Retrofitting the Residential Housing Stock: Grassroots Innovations and Socio-Technical System Change in Worcester, MA" (2012). International Development, Community, and Environment. 407.