Image credit: Chris Potter (CC BY 2.0)
Visiting Knowledge Exchange Fellow David Weatherall (Future Climate) will be working with Professor Susan Bright (Law, Oxford) to overcome barriers to the installation of energy-saving initiatives in social housing flats.
Flats account for 44% of social housing dwellings in England, and many social housing blocks were built in the 1960s and require substantial improvement. Prof. Susan Bright (a property lawyer with research expertise on improving environmental performance in tenanted buildings) and David Weatherall (a specialist in energy efficiency) have an established research partnership to explore the challenges and opportunities to making improvements to energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in social housing. In the process, they are aiming to address simultaneously both carbon emissions and fuel poverty.
In a previous Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, the team engaged with the UK government, the Scottish government, EE practitioners, European policy researchers, solicitors, local authorities, and MPs on promoting new policy ideas and legislative reform proposals. As a result, they won SHIFT 2016 social housing sustainability award for their work on policy change in this area. The same project also identified that social housing providers often face particular governance barriers in proposed energy efficiency projects – most notably due to the complex issues that arise from mixtures of socially-owned properties and privately-owned flats in the same building. These barriers are complex and require specialist knowledge of property law, as well as knowledge of the finance, regulation, consumer acceptance, and technical expertise concerning building measures.
This new Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) will provide an opportunity for the team to work closely together on these issues of governance around energy-related improvements to social housing blocks of flats. The primary aim is to provide detailed insight into these issues (and, as far as possible, solutions) for social housing providers and social housing regulators and policy makers: this will allow them to take energy efficiency into account in a more effective manner.
There are benefits for the project team too - the Fellowship will support ongoing research through the application of information to other research projects led by the project team – notably the HEIF/ESRC IAA Futureproofing Flats project and a future comparative European study. It will also allow project partners to develop a better understanding of leasehold law: together, the aim is to increase the rate of low-carbon and low energy refurbishment as a result of understanding how to address the barriers faced by social house providers.