Green roofs for Austin : toward a more progressive model of technology transfer



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What are the mechanisms through which green roof technology might be disseminated in and around Austin, Texas? Green roofs relatively common in parts of Europe, can address such urban environmental concerns as storm water quantity and quality, peak summer energy efficiency, air pollution, and the urban heat island effect, among other concerns increasingly critical to the Austin area. This study suggests new ways the practice of green roofs might reach policymakers, the building industry, and end users, with the stated goal of propelling green roofs into mainstream use. Initiatives to advance sustainable building techniques tend to focus on identifying and easing barriers to their adoption. Expanding on recent work that is critical of such methods, this study investigates multi-pronged, inductive routes to the technology transfer of green roofs, examining creative ways to rethink entrenched methods and take advantage of local opportunities. The resulting recommendations are specific to green roofs in Austin, but the review of technology transfer has implications for other sustainable building techniques and technologies. In Part I of the study I introduce green roofs and examine the overlap between their environmental benefits and Austin's needs. I introduce local narratives in Austin that will come to bear on green roofs' dissemination, and then summarize two pioneering green roof tests now progressing in the area, interpreting the implications of their research. An overview of theories of technology transfer follows to begin Part II, focusing on important recent scholarship critical of conventional market-based methods' suitability for sustainable technologies. The section continues with a survey of green roof initiatives in three U.S. cities, evaluating them according to the principles just outlined. Part III begins with a review of the issues behind Austin's current model for sustainable technology transfer, bolstered by interviews with stakeholders. I go on to introduce locally situated working proposals for reimagining green roof policies for the Austin area. The conclusion considers the working proposals in more detail, including critical reflection on the challenges of introducing new paradigms for policy-building, and considers the applicability of this knowledge to sustainable building technologies in general.