Energy and buildings research: challenges from the new production of knowledge

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  • This article was downloaded by: [USC University of Southern California]On: 09 November 2014, At: 22:42Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Energy and buildings research: challenges from thenew production of knowledgeThomas Berker a b & Krishna Bharathi a ba Centre for Technology and Society, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture ,Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) , NO-7491 , Trondheim , Norwayb The Norwegian Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings, Faculty of Architecture andFine Art , Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) , NO-7491 , Trondheim ,Norway E-mail:Published online: 09 Jul 2012.

    To cite this article: Thomas Berker & Krishna Bharathi (2012) Energy and buildings research: challenges from the newproduction of knowledge, Building Research & Information, 40:4, 473-480, DOI: 10.1080/09613218.2012.690954

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2012.690954

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  • RESEARCH PAPER

    Energyand buildings research: challengesfrom thenewproduction of knowledge

    Thomas Berker1,2 and Krishna Bharathi1,2

    1Centre forTechnology andSociety,Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture,NorwegianUniversity of Science and Technology (NTNU),NO-7491Trondheim,Norway

    E-mail: thomas.berker@ntnu.no

    2TheNorwegianResearchCentre on Zero Emission Buildings,Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art,NorwegianUniversity of Science and Technology (NTNU),NO-7491Trondheim,Norway

    E-mail: bharathi@ntnu.no

    The current state and future challenges of energy and buildings research are explored from the perspective of the social

    study of science. Major trends in knowledge production are considered for practices within current energy and buildings

    research. New forms of knowledge production hold the potential to provide clearer strategies to overcome barriers

    between researchers and practitioners. These are investigated through an explorative survey of researchers based on

    their own accounts of energy and buildings research, their expectations of future challenges, and their perceptions of

    good science. Two sets of challenges from knowledge production arise for building energy research. First, with an

    increasing focus on environmental and other impacts of the research, the framing and definition of these extra-

    scientific factors will become a significant challenge for researchers. Second, as buildings become simultaneously more

    complex and more connected, the already existing need for the integration of different kinds of expertise will increase

    further.

    Keywords: buildings, energy, interdisciplinary collaboration, knowledge production, research agenda, science,

    sustainability

    Letat actuel et les defis futurs de la recherche en matiere denergie et de batiments sont examines du point de vue de

    letude sociale des sciences. Les principales tendances de la production de savoir sont envisagees sous langle des

    pratiques existant dans les recherches actuelles sur lenergie et les batiments. De nouvelles formes de production de

    savoir offrent la possibilite de fournir des strategies plus claires pour surmonter les barrieres entre chercheurs et

    praticiens. Celles-ci sont etudiees au moyen dune enquete exploratoire conduite aupres des chercheurs, basee sur

    leurs propres recits des recherches menees sur lenergie et les batiments, sur les defis futurs quils prevoient, et sur

    leurs perceptions de la bonne science. Deux series de defis poses par la production de savoir decoulent des

    recherches sur lenergie dans le batiment. Tout dabord, en mettant davantage laccent sur les incidences

    environnementales et autres de la recherche, lencadrement et la definition de ces facteurs extra-scientifiques

    deviendront un defi considerable pour les chercheurs. Deuxiemement, au fur et a mesure que les batiments gagnent

    simultanement en complexite et en connectivite, le besoin deja existant dintegrer differents types de competences

    augmentera encore.

    Mots cles: batiments, energie, collaboration interdisciplinaire, production de savoir, programme de recherche, science,

    durabilite

    IntroductionThe future of energy and buildings research is inextric-ably linked to the extended view of the built

    environment, as well as to research and those whoconduct it. Along with the observation that topics ofinvestigative focus and their analytic criteria have

    BUILDING RESEARCH & INFORMATION (2012) 40(4), 473480

    Building Research & Information ISSN 0961-3218 print ISSN 1466-4321 online # 2012 Taylor & Francishttp: www.tandfonline.com journals

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2012.690954

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  • changed considerably over time, it cannot be assumedthat what researchers think of as interesting challengestoday will yield conclusions that are considered rel-evant tomorrow. Therefore, the current changes inthe relation between research and society need to beexplored in the field of energy and building research.A social study of science is useful to provide thiswider context.

    The motivating rationale behind this paper wasinitially generated from observations made in 2003by one of the authors who interviewed 14 architectsand engineers working in a large Norwegian interdisci-plinary building and energy research project calledSmartBuild.1 Dubbed a user-oriented project aimingat the development of energy-efficient buildings, thisproject explicitly presented itself as an interdisciplinarycrossover between application and basic research.2

    Not surprisingly, a topic raised by every intervieweewas the paramount importance of end-users and inter-disciplinary collaboration for their research. However,the analysis of the interviews revealed that for half ofthe interviewees, interdisciplinary work was actuallya way of not dealing with end-users demands. Thesedemands, they argued, were the problem of theirrespective colleagues from other disciplines whowork with users. This was in stark contrast to theother half of the interviewees who eloquently describedhow they genuinely enjoyed professional discussionsbetween disciplines, in addition to engaging issuesinvolving end-users. These researchers, who promotedholistic views on building performance, also worked todevelop additional working methods based on tightinterdisciplinary collaboration, such as in advancedintegrated facades, coordinated design and buildingprocesses (cf. Reed and Gordon, 2000).

    Thus, despite their opposing claims, the first groupremained firmly rooted in a traditional scientificmindset, based on a clear vision of research that doesnot engage with its users at all. However, the secondgroup represented something new, which accordingto leading observers of science and technology is inthe process of becoming the pervasive mode of knowl-edge production. In the aftermath of Gibbons et al.sThe New Production of Knowledge (1994), the ideahas been accepted that traditional research institutionsfind themselves in an ever-more-complex hetero-geneous landscape of knowledge producers. Scholarsof the relationship between science and society argueunanimously that knowledge producers increasinglyneed to engage in context and problem-driven researchconducted in interdisciplinary teams. This is necessaryto adequately address the complexity involved in issuesrelated to the built environment.

    Recognizing that the future of energy and buildingsresearch strongly relates to the overall developmentof research in society forms the basis for the work

    presented here. In addition to a discussion of recenttheorizing about new roles of science in society, theself-reported views of active energy and buildingsresearchers on the current state and future challengesof their work was gathered to investigate the diver-gence between traditional research approaches andnew forms of knowledge production within energyand buildings research.

    The new production of knowledgeTraditionally, society is seen as an important contextof science but not as part of its content. In the historyof science such an understanding of scientific auton-omy is usually connected with the normative structureof science described by the sociologist of scienceRobert K. Merton (1942/1973). His four principles,known as CUDOS norms (Communalism of researchfindings, Universal validity of findings, Disinterested-ness, and Organised Scepticism), draw a stronglyguarded line between universal science and partialinterests of parties that populate society. Supportedby post-Second World War science and technologypolicy, these norms created a fundamental divisionbetween basic science which is located outside ofsociety and applied science which operates withinsociety. So called science push models of technologi-cal innovation, often traced back to Vannevar BushsScience: The Endless Frontier (1945), suggest that uni-versal principles discovered by science are sub-sequently applied to create the new technologies thatsociety may or may not need.

    Since the 1960s these ideals and the correspondingpractices of science, as well as engineering and archi-tecture, have increasingly come under attack fromvarious sides. Often this led to a romantic defence ofpre-industrial forms of indigenous cultures, whilemodern technologies, and frequently, their protago-nists and principles were blamed for the unintendedconsequences of modernization (Beck et al., 1994).These criticisms were aimed primarily at those seenas responsible for the kind of technocratic large scaleplanning that characterized the societies involved inthe Second World War and that was continued in the1950s and 1960s. A corresponding critique of technol-ogy policy for a linear understanding of development(e.g. the science push model) called for a democratiza-tion of science, technology and planning. With socialscientists and anthropologists entering the secludedlaboratories of modern science (Latour and Woolgar,1986)3 and producing outsider accounts of scientificresearch as it was happening, a less normative andmore descriptive appraisal of scientific practice wasestablished. These studies described in great detailhow science was more closely bound to its societal con-texts than Mertons norms would allow. The ensuingconflicts were triggered by the counterattack of the

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  • promoters of Mertonian science. These so-calledscience wars gained intensity from a conflation ofthe older strand of modernization critique with thenewer efforts of describing scientific practices, a con-fusion which occurred on both sides of the confronta-tion. These conflicts have long since subsided andtoday hardly anyone within social studies of scienceasks whether Mertonian norms should be valid ornot. Instead, researchers explore how these norms arereinforced and which competing norms exist. Thefact that science is increasingly subject to extra-scienti-fic demands is not any longer controversial. Addition-ally, as Jacob (2005) notes, there is equally littledoubt today that science is a distinct activity, whichcannot be reduced to societal factors.

    A common contemporary way of analysing the linksbetween science and society distinguishes differentkinds of science with varied degrees of societal involve-ment. In an early form, the theory of finalization(Weingart, 1997) claims that mature branches ofscience are less autonomous and more directed bynon-scientific contexts of application. More influentialin current discussions, Funtowicz and Ravetz (1993)acknowledge the advent of a special kind of science,which they called post-normal science. They claimedthat under certain conditions, characterized by highdecision stakes (i.e. high risk and urgency) and highuncertainty, a new kind of science that goes beyondprofessional consultancy and applied science hasevolved. Specifically, this is a science that manages tomake ignorance usable. What they called post-normal science relies on an extended peer community,which includes those affected or with special knowl-edge about the problem. Using the example ofclimate change induced sea-level rise, they claimedthat this also changes the role of scientific values:

    Public agreement and participation, derivingessentially from value commitments, will be deci-sive for the assessment of risks and the setting ofpolicy. Thus the traditional scientific inputs havebecome soft in the context of the hard valuecommitments that will determine the success ofpolicies for mitigating the effects of a possiblesea-level rise. (p. 195)

    This description of new forms of evaluating scientificoutcomes is similar to what Gibbons et al. (1994)called social robustness as a dominant quality cri-terion within the new production of knowledge.According to their diagnosis the whole of knowledgeproduction has entered into a new mode and notonly in specific research areas. Judged by the numberof related publications, their mode 2 description isthe most influential and broadest effort to describecurrent transformations of knowledge production todate (Hessels and van Lente, 2008, p. 748). In additionto society and its values having a say in deciding w...