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Improving the UK’s housing stock needs more than energy efficiency champions, says new report

The Government should not rely on Individuals championing energy efficiency projects when it comes to delivering on ambitions to improve the UK’s housing stock, argues new University of Sussex report.

A study of six  new build and major renovation projects aiming to improve the energy efficiency of buildings showed that motivated individuals were needed to drive the process. If low-energy buildings are to become more widespread, new policy drivers will be crucial say researchers based at the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED).

In addition, the research also identified organisations and individuals carrying out so-called “intermediary” activities, that are necessary for the effective delivery of projects. These activities should be taken into consideration by government when thinking about building a market for energy efficiency.

Delivering more comprehensive energy efficiency improvements, sometimes referred to as ‘deep’ retrofits, and new low energy buildings will require these activities to be recognised and supported by policy, argue the researchers.

The report identifies the following activities that are essential for the delivery of these projects:

  • Providing impartial advice tailored to the local context
  • Connecting different actors through events and networking
  • Promoting and facilitating the uptake of government programmes
  • Developing robust project plans
  • Providing a single point of contact for customers and coordinating between different elements of the supply chain
  • Ensuring the smooth delivery of projects
  • Raising the profile of the sector

These activities can be carried out by a range of different people and organisations. Examples include architects, building managers, social enterprises, builders, local authority officers, state agencies and community groups. But to be effective such activities need coordinated support from the government and local councils.

Dr Paula Kivimaa, lead author of the report said:

“There is a policy vacuum in the area of delivering building energy efficiency at the moment and certain activities that are essential for energy efficiency projects to move forward are not recognised and supported by government. This needs to change if the Government wants to achieve its ambition to improve the UK’s housing stock”.

The report, written by Dr Paula Kivimaa, Dr Mari Martiskainen and Mr Donal Brown, also recommends better information provision about deep retrofits as well as emphasising the role of local actors and advice tailored to the local context.

Notes to editors:

1. The report is available here: /publication/intermediaries-energy-efficiency/

2. The report is based on based on a three-year research project, ‘Low Energy Housing Innovations and the role of Intermediaries’ (LEHII), which examined the development of homes with improved energy efficiency in the UK. The project included six in-depth case studies of building projects in Brighton, UK, a systematic review of European case studies of low energy building projects, over 30 expert interviews, an analysis of national policy development, and a stakeholder workshop organised together with the Energy Saving Trust. You can find out more about the project, including the six case studies, here: /project/low-energy-housing-innovations-and-the-role-of-intermediaries-lehii/

3. CIED, the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand at the Universities of Sussex, Oxford and Manchester is one of six End Use Energy Demand Centres funded by the Research Councils UK Energy Programme. It sits at the forefront of research on the transition to a low carbon economy. It investigates new technologies and new ways of doing things that have the potential to transform the way energy is used and achieve substantial reductions in energy demand.