A blog about governance for urban sustainability and resilience
Over the last weeks I have analysed my data in further depth. That was pretty exciting to do because it was the first time that I could contrast all the theoretical expectations that underlie my research with the data collected over the last three years. It was further exciting to carry out these analyses because I was finally able to use my renewed QCA skills (qualitative comparative analysis).
Based on the analyses I have written a number of manuscripts for articles that are now under review. I will post the articles once they have been accepted, but I can already give away the major findings.
In one of the manuscripts I am particularly interested to learn whether voluntary environmental programmes are a meaningful approach to stimulate retrofits for existing buildings. I already pointed out in another blog that retrofitting existing buildings is key in improving urban sustainability and resilience, but that regulatory barriers stand in the way for doing so. Because existing buildings are exempted from new regulation (i.e., grandfathering) roughly 98% of our cities remain outside the scope of many good intentions for increased urban sustainability and resilience by governments.
Voluntary action may be needed, and is trialled a lot. In the manuscript I discuss no less than 20 voluntary programmes that seek to improve the environmental and resource sustainability of buildings in Australia, the Netherlands and the United States. I have interviewed over a 100 people to learn more about these 20 programs and studied as much existing documentation on these as I could.
I was particularly interested to better understand if any of the following conditions, or configurations of them are related to positive outcomes of these programmes. That is, have they achieved their expected goals in terms of buildings retrofitted? The conditions that I expected to be related to these outcomes (based on the existing literature) are:
The outcome of this particular part of the study? None of the above individual conditions is necessary to achieve positive outcomes in terms of buildings retrofitted.
Yet, combined they cause their effect. Two combinations of these conditions appear sufficient to achieve retrofitted buildings:
Of course, I was also interested in finding out what binds together the programmes that do not show positive results in terms of buildings retrofitted. Again none of the individual conditions is necessary to achieve negative outcomes in terms of buildings retrofitted.
I found, however, five combinations of conditions that are related to negative outcomes of the programmes studied. These all give low rewards to their participants, but ask them to meet high participation criteria. In other words, participants in these programmes have to do much to get little.
Based on these seven configurations (two related to positive outcomes, seven to negative outcomes) I therefore conclude that in order to have a voluntary program that results in positive outcomes it should have at least the following design conditions:
Yet, one may wonder, if this particular combination of design conditions is related to the success of voluntary programmes (of the type that I have studied) then what is their point? To overcome grandfathering substantial action should be taken, and it is unlikely that building retrofits will result in significant and short term gains.
All in all, my this part of my research points out that
to overcome the problem of grandfathering and to achieve a significant and timely improvement of urban sustainability and resilience other, more coercive governance approaches are likely needed.
Please sent me an email if you wish to learn more about this part of my research.