The social construction of performance-based design
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Construction and operation of commercial and residential buildings in the United States have been identified as the single largest sector of energy consumption and contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Subsequently, buildings must be a primary target for reductions. From short-term incentives, to long-term milestones, building energy efficiency, specifically net zero energy buildings, have emerged as a significant and unprecedented objective for a variety of public and private organizations in the United States. Altering the practices of the building culture requires not only technological innovation, but also an understanding of how practitioners within the building culture see their role in transforming it. Consequently my research seeks to understand how building industry professionals comprehend their capacity to influence the cultural boundaries of their profession in order to account for and mitigate the impacts of energy and emissions in the built environment. Ultimately, this study is an investigation into the social construction of technological change. The AIA+2030 Professional Series offered by the Denver Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has served as the single case study for this investigation. By limiting local conditions to the Denver-based Series and defining advocates as the self-selected group of participants, I’ve narrowed this analysis to reflect a workable microcosm of practitioners who are committed to the investigation and integration of net zero energy design, construction, and building operation practices. In order to substantiate this empirical analysis, I employed a triangulated series of data collection and interpretation consisting of: participant observation, interviews, and a survey. Data analysis involved an iterative process of coding and categorizing the primary key words and themes that emerged throughout my investigation. Each of the perspectives offered during this investigation indicate that architects who are advocates of net zero energy building design perceive that consequential opportunities for fundamental change exist within the social and cultural facets of the building culture. Ultimately, by preferencing social and cultural activism over technological manipulation, these advocates have corroborated the notion that technological change is fundamentally rooted in social change.