Interpreting the Sustainable Home - Bridging Discourses on Home and Sustainability in the Housing Sector

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: How we design, build and maintain our homes are increasingly seen as instrumental to the environmental, social and financial impact of the built environment. By examining perspectives on and interpretations of sustainability in housing development, with a focus on discourses within the Swedish housing sector, the aim of this Licentiate thesis is to explore and provide an account of contemporary conceptualizations of the sustainable home. Along with theoretical developments, empirical insights from interviews and focus groups conducted with actors in the housing market (developers and architects), as well as within academia (researchers and students) are presented. A series of pilot studies explore the two areas of study, relating to discourses regarding two particular cases that are portrayed as the ‘frontline’ of sustainability in housing. The empirical material indicates that outspoken aims of radically challenging the normative and resource intense ideals of the modern home generally appear to be lacking in new market-led housing development, with a rather unilateral interpretation of sustainability in eco-efficient or generally vague terms. It is suggested that a holistic perspective is required in the alignment between how different actors perceive housing development, and what is sustainable, where the academic case presented gives points for further discussion. In conclusion, a need to visualize ideals and various conflicting images of home in the housing sector is emphasized. This provides a point of departure for positioning sustainability in housing, introducing less resource intense ways of residing that also consider issues related to equality and diversity in the built environment.