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Real-world Laboratories in the Building Sector - Strategies for Transformation and Leap Innovations

Jansen, Sina; Pawlicki, Nina; Crabbe, Matthew; Roswag-Klinge, Eike

FG Konstruktives Entwerfen und klimagerechtes Bauen

The German Federal Environment Agency’s (UBA) goal is a climate-neutral and resource-conserving building sector by latest 2050. To reach these targets radical innovation is needed in all areas from material and construction development to the lifecycle-compatible design and adaptability of entire buildings. To accelerate this kind of radical innovation in various areas of the economy, real-world laboratories or regulatory sandboxes are already employed. These are physical or theoretical spaces where legislative frameworks in targeted areas can be lowered or abolished – allowing researchers and businesses to operate in less restrictive regulatory environments. Real-world laboratories have the potential to function as what Schaepke and Steltzer call transformative research – research that drives societal change processes by transforming knowledge. In the building sector, this approach can facilitate the necessary rapid development of new material and construction techniques, while simultaneously valuing the communicative exchange and transfer processes through which these advances can be societally co-produced, validated and legitimized. Planning culture is plagued by outdated and often counterintuitive norms and regulations, making it extremely difficult and economically unviable to apply experimental techniques, materials, and approaches in real-world projects. In this context, the Real-world Laboratories model has great potential to drive innovation in the planning disciplines through new inter- and transdisciplinary approaches that can integrate actors from civil society at an early stage, thus anchoring newly produced knowledge and innovation in society. Universities are well placed to initiate and drive such processes. Especially in architecture training, projects with a strong link to real contexts, actors, and materials allow learners to access new understandings of how planning processes can function. By working on eye level with clients, administrators, lawmakers and those from other disciplines, a new blueprint for real practice can be developed. This paper analyses the characteristics of the Real-world Laboratory method specifically for the building sector. Principles to successfully implement the method in practice are derived from a series of transdisciplinary projects undertaken as part of the research, practice and teaching at Natural Building Lab, TU Berlin.