Developing new strategies towards environmental sustainability: small constructions companies experimenting with business models

  • Martine Buser Construction Management Chalmers University of Technology Sweden
  • Veronica Carlsson Construction Management Chalmers University of Technology Sweden
Keywords: Business models, construction SMEs, sustainability, renovation



Low energy refurbishment of single family houses, though representing an important part of the renovation potential of buildings in Sweden is so far a rather discreet phenomenon. To account for this situation, the lack of competences regarding new technology and innovation has often been put forward. However, retrofit can be successfully achieved by using existing technology, suggesting that the lack of retrofit is not only a technical challenge related to innovation but also a problem related to the market. To explore retrofit from a market perspective we chose to look at how craftsmen engaged in single family house renovations through the support of business models. This approach enables to map the actual practices of a company and facilitates changes that require crosscutting activities, inter and intra-organisational integration and focus on customers. The paper builds on an action research project with small Swedish contractor companies from the Gothenburg region testing the business model canvas to develop energy efficient solutions. This ongoing project (2013-2016) gathered 20 small companies active in different trades. The project method includes single player interviews and workshops with the companies divided in three groups, as well as shadowing of single companies visiting their customers.

The empirical results show difficulties to use the canvas and a lack of motivation to define new sustainable businesses However, if reluctant to comply with the canvas structure, the companies have developed three new business propositions.