Leeds Beckett University
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Influencing factors to sustainability transitioning in commercial buildings in the Nigerian built environment: a grounded theory study

posted on 2024-01-22, 10:22 authored by Maria UnuigbeMaria Unuigbe
The adoption of renewable energy technologies (RETs) into buildings will be key to making the necessary transition to a low-carbon and resilient built environment particularly, in countries such as Nigeria, which suffers from abject energy poverty, despite having diverse and significant renewable energy potential. In Nigeria, commercial buildings present a unique case because a significant proportion of the energy demand for offices is provided by privately powered off-grid fossil-fuel generators instead of RETs, such that generators are designed for in buildings. Given that this undermines achieving a low carbon future, there lacks an in-depth, and context-based empirical study addressing it, therefore, the current implications of the practice of designing for generators and the extent of RET adoption in office buildings are not fully known. The study aims to develop a theoretical framework of the contextual influencing factors to sustainability transitioning practices and processes in commercial buildings, with a focus on solar PV. A qualitative research strategy, guided by Constructivist Grounded Theory method using interviews with 34 multidisciplinary BE professional’s was employed. This led to the development of four interrelated theoretical categories, hostage syndrome’, ‘being sheltered - avoiding responsibility’, ‘following the leader’, and ‘future proofing - reflecting the local perspective’ from which a substantive theory ‘Being part of us’ was constructed. Hostage Syndrome and Being Sheltered – Avoiding Responsibility represent negative influencing factors based on what BE professional’s believe they can do or must do and manifest as ‘‘surrendering and compromising’ and ‘evading’ practices respectively. Following the Leader and Future Proofing - Reflecting the Local Perspective are positive influencing factors based on what BE professional’s believe they are expected to do or should do, and manifest as ‘copying, learning and navigating’ and ‘tailoring to suit and devising anew’ practices respectively. The theory reflects duality and co-existence of elements representing the varied manifestations of sustainability and/or being sustainable within the context of psychological, cultural, social, and historical factors, etc. It offers a framework in which the varied manifestations and their associated practices can be explained, situated, and examined, thereby, providing reliable and relatable points of reference to ground actionable interventions that would aid in the development and promotion of sustainable building strategies and policies suited to its context. The study contributes theoretically, empirically, and practically by providing new and grounded insight and understanding of issues associated with adoption. By implementing the recommendations suggested in the study, it would engender the practice of ‘designing for sustainability’ as opposed to ‘designing for generators’ within the Nigerian context. Furthermore, it will benefit further research within the SSA - and wider developing - context as well as provide valuable lessons with adopting Grounded Theory Method in construction management research for methodological pluralism.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Johnston, David ; Zulu, Sam

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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