Sustainable energy possibilities rarely find their way to consumers

Green houseTest projects in which governments and companies demonstrate sustainable energy and material inventions are not adopted by the market and other companies.

Research by the VU University of Amsterdam shows many such inventions are done, but the amount that ends up being used is practically negligible.

The research mainly focuses on the construction industry, where a large scale introduction of energy saving measures has been held off. Techniques like solar heating, solar boilers and sun directed allotment have proven highly effective in test cases but have only been sparsely applied in regular construction.

Awareness is not the problem

According to researcher Bart Bossink, the trouble is not awareness of the fact that companies and consumers cause environmental pollution and depletion of resources. A growing number of people find it more logical to run sustainable businesses and lives than consumption-oriented ones.

Two-fold reasons

Bossink discovered the reasons for sustainable building not finding a foothold are two-fold. On one side there are the homebuyers, who are mainly looking for a nice house not taking into account whether the building is high on the sustainability ladder or not.

But more importantly it appears that participants in test projects in sustainable material use and energy possibilities form a very small network of companies which innovates on a high level, but does not share their knowledge. In the Netherlands where Bossink studied the housing sector for twenty years this hoarding of knowledge and possibilities resulted in a percentage of only 0.2 per cent sustainably constructed buildings.

Too expensive, too complicated, too risky

But even when construction companies were presented with a package of sustainable options replacing traditional options, most of them refused using them. The reasons they gave for their refusal were that the options were too complicated, too expensive or too risky, even though the options had proven successful in test cases.

According to Bossink a change in thinking and behaviour is needed. Companies only deliver what consumers buy and vice versa. So if consumers are to buy sustainable housing, companies that are able to develop and produce sustainably are vital. And with seven billion people on the planet and on our way to eight billion sustainable construction might make a big difference.

© Jorn van Dooren |

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