How sociotechnical norms shape transition pathways: The co-evolution of three European heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) regimes

Abstract: Countries across Europe have ambitious targets to become carbon neutral. This requires a transformation in the way buildings are heated, ventilated, and cooled (HVAC), with a move away from fossil fuels. Highly divergent pathways currently exist between different European HVAC regimes. However, few studies have examined these differences in detail, or the role of social norms in sustaining or changing HVAC regimes. This mixed methods study examines the decarbonisation of HVAC systems in three European countries of Finland, Greece and the United Kingdom. Based on a quantitative survey of n = 3478 households and 40 qualitative interviews with building users, managers, and designers, we find highly divergent HVAC regimes across the three countries with considerable variability in technologies, user practices, business strategies, institutions and their relationship to ecosystems. We also discover a shifting patchwork of normative perspectives to heating and cooling. These “socio-technical” norms are highly susceptible to peer influence, broader socio-economic and political drivers, and environmental factors such as climate change. Finally, we argue that an appreciation of how these socio-technical norms are formed and influenced, is an essential yet under-explored avenue in research and public policy on sustainability transitions.

Brown, D., Martiskainen, M
Energy Research & Social Science
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