An analysis of the factors supporting and hindering the market penetration of innovative residential buildings

An empirical analysis of the most important factors in supporting or hindering the market diffusion of selected technologies or different innovative residential concepts.

Content Description




The introduction of innovative concepts and technologies into the building sector (high efficiency insulation, use of solar energy, ventilation systems, securing of indoor air quality...) is currently seen as an efficient tool to mitigate some of the negative effects of energy use. But the market introduction and dissemination of these innovations is strongly affected in both negative and positive ways by many different technical, legal, sociological, psychological, ecological and economic factors.

This study focuses on the energetic and ecological aspects of sustainability. The empirical analysis was carried out on both a qualitative and quantitative level and is based on national and international research experience. In order to gain a comprehensive point of view, the research project was carried out amongst a target group of residential building users, planners, investors, technology producers and political authorities. In one part the results of a quantitative enquiry carried out among 212 residents of average buildings are contrasted with the views of about 50 firms engaged in either producing or selling certain innovative technologies. In the second part six case studies of existing innovative buildings are drawn, based on about 50 qualitative interviews with figures form the relevant target groups.

A significant impediment to the market introduction of innovative residential buildings is that most planners, builders, building contractors and residents have only a remarkably low level of specific knowledge concerning energy- and resource-efficient buildings. This lack of information on the part of the potential users of a building causes low demand for such dwellings. (The main motives for choosing a certain dwelling are location, distance to place of work or to friends and relatives, available floor space, arrangement of rooms and affordability).

Many elements in the building sector are arranged as private enterprises whose main concern is to maximise profit. They usually have no interest in minimised technical systems, and because of lack of information would be confronted by additional transaction costs if they decided to opt for innovative concepts. Higher design costs which cannot be calculated for reasons of competitiveness, as well as less material input (and thus lower returns) because of optimised construction and minimised technical systems are all obstacles to the increased engagement of the relevant actors.

An important factor which facilitates the market introduction of innovative residential buildings is the engagement of technically and / or ecologically motivated individuals who push projects forward with a high degree of personal commitment.

House buyers would choose a highly innovative building because of the expectance of an extremely comfortable and healthy living environment, but also out of the wish to present something special to the outer world, thereby gaining status. Acceptance of innovative residential buildings is strongly furthered by a high level of identification with the building, which mainly depends on the degree of resident participation during planning and building, and on the status of ownership.

To achieve more rapid diffusion and the further development of innovative residential buildings, measures have to be taken by the federal and provincial governments. Regulations prescribing significantly higher insulation standards are expected to be very effective and to play a key role in triggering other technologies whose acceptance and economic integration depends on first attaining an energy optimised building shell. The development of certified standardised single components and complete solutions for which producers can provide warranty will also speed up the development of innovative buildings. Individual options for the supply of the remaining heat demand need to be offered which both fulfil the criteria of sustainability and support a high degree of user identification. Energy savings must have an effect on the energy bill of the resident which must not be weakened by collective billing arrangements in centralised systems. A high degree of personal identification with the building amongst residents should be one of the major goals when dwellings are allocated within the context of 'social' or council housing. This can be achieved if the potential future resident is given the choice between an apartment in the innovative building and another apartment in a more 'conventional' building. The way in which residential buildings are subsidised also has to be rethought. Subsidies should be based on a 'least cost' strategy with minimisation of energy consumption and a sustainable heat supply the major objectives. They should be harmonised on a national level. Subsidies should only be given if information centres (which still have to be created), whose task it is to actively supply and spread information, are already integrated into the planning stage of a building.

Last but not least, the ecological relevance of tax systems has to be improved. The inclusion of external costs in the price of fossil energy sources would enable an objective comparison to be made between fossil and renewable sources of energy.

Project Partners

Project manager: DI. Dr. Peter Biermayr
Energy Economics Group, Vienna University of Technology

DI. Dr. Karin Stieldorf
Department for building construction and design, Vienna University of Technology

DI. Ernst Schriefl
Bernhard Baumann
Harald Skopetz
Hans Zelenka
all Energy Economics Group, Vienna University of Technology

Consultant: Dr. Michael Ornetzeder
Zentrum für soziale Innovation


DI. Dr. Peter Biermayr
Energy Economics Group
Vienna University of Technology
Gusshausstraße 27-29/373-2
A 1040 Wien
Tel.: +43 1 58801-37358
Fax: +43 1 58801-37397