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Free Content Winning Hearts and Minds: The Role of Emotion and Logic in the Business Case for Sustainable Building Initiatives

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This study examines the role of emotion and logic in the business case for sustainable building initiatives. Existing literature on the business case for design of buildings is disjointed. It tends to focus either on financial performance and associated arguments, or intangibles such as reputation.

While the literature is not as polarized as this simplification, it does fail to provide a coherent framework for designers and project sponsors to understand how sustainable design initiatives end up being in building projects. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge a range of decision-making biases that researchers have found to occur in a wide variety of contexts. These factors may be leading to missed opportunities for stakeholders to make better design proposals.

This article draws on a range of literature including behavioural economics, judgment and decision-making, green buildings and sustainability communication, as well as my own experiences as an engineer and sustainable building practitioner of over ten years, to suggest approaches that designers and project sponsors might take. It then uses a framework of sustainability routes into projects to show how the approaches might be applied in different contexts.

This article is an attempt to crystallize and better inform my own approach to selling sustainability in buildings; as such it is part research agenda and part anecdotal experience. This reflects the nature of my practice in buildings, where each project tends to be its own prototype, and knowledge is built up progressively, project to project. The hope is that the article will seed ideas and encourage a learning-by-doing approach by designers and project sponsors.

Armed with this information, project sponsors and designers might better understand the interrelated role of emotion and logic in sustainable design, and be able to identify opportunities for more sustainable building, benefiting both business and the planet.
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Keywords: buildings; business case; decision-making; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Arup

Publication date: March 1, 2015

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  • The Journal of Design, Business & Society is a double-blind peer reviewed scholarly journal that aims to publish high-quality academic papers that examine the role of design in business and/or society, case studies, design critiques, and book reviews of relevant literature. Our aim is to promote cross-disciplinary research in the field of design. Therefore, in addition to design papers we are also interested in receiving manuscripts on research about design that are coming from non-design areas, such as business, marketing, management, health, psychology, social sciences, environmental sciences, and others.
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