A material lens on socio-technical transitions: The case of steel in Australian buildings

Dan Eleazar Santos, Ruth Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Steel is a critical material for modern-day societies, and more than half of the world’s steel is used in buildings. As the extraction of iron ore and the production and transport of manufactured steel have significant environmental costs, the fate of steel is important for socio-technical transitions towards more sustainable materials use. Using steel in buildings as a case study socio-technical transition, this paper develops a novel application of the multi-level perspective (MLP) that adopts an explicitly material lens. We focus on the circulation of steel between three key life stages for buildings which are treated as socio-technical regimes as described in the MLP. Drawing on concepts from assemblage theory, we consider the role played by the material and expressive qualities of steel within each of these regimes. Our material focus also requires attention to the spatial dimensions of these three regimes and their implications for socio-technical transitions. We describe the nexus of material affordances and inter-scalar relations that influences the use of steel in buildings and consider the potential for change. The main contribution of this paper is to extend the MLP to incorporate a focus on materiality and, in a related way, spatiality. Based on the analysis presented we consider how steel use in Australian buildings may be rendered more sustainable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-50
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017


  • Steel
  • Buildings
  • Socio-technical transitions
  • Materiality
  • Reuse
  • Recycling

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