Chapter 3: Sustainable Technologies and the Innovation–Regulation Paradox: The Case of Natural Thermal Insulation
INTRODUCTION There has been substantial investment by governments and firms across Europe in the development of technologies and products that support sustainable building and sustainable urban regeneration. Despite a general slow rate of progress, there remain marked differences between individual countries, which suggests that there are sets of factors and institutions that inhibit or facilitate the adoption of sustainable technologies. Any attempt to promote environmentally-responsible house building and renovation must consider carefully the distribution of risk and decision-making power reinforced by the system of production, regulation, ownership and finance. This is important because the rate of adoption of new technology in construction determines not only the future competitiveness of the sector but also the strength of the economy’s productive structure and affects the general level of employment and future skill requirement. A more sustainable and energy-efficient domestic sector is vital for addressing the problems of climate change. Compared to other European countries, progress in the UK toward increased social and environmental considerations in the construction industry has been relatively slow. Despite many government initiatives, there remain important institutional barriers (such as the corporate governance structure, profit motivation and extent of shareholder ownership) particular to the UK, which hinder the support of sustainable technologies by private-sector firms. This chapter assesses the case of the UK, which is of particular interest because a change in the attitude of the private sector combined with international, national and local government initiatives during the 1990s has prompted a more sustainable agenda in construction. The years...
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