Sunday, 10 March 2013

Customer Appealing retrofit

Ecobuild this year was as overwhelming in ideas as in products with its excellent seminar series. In the 'Refurbishing Britain' theme, lessons from CALEBRE focused mainly on technical solutions. But as the CA in CALEBRE stands for 'Customer Appealing', Victoria Haines summary of findings on people's appetite for improving their homes was particularly interesting.

After all, if we could get our teenagers to turn down their heating and turn off their lights we would probably be closer to the 80% reduction needed than replacing our boilers with heat pumps.

This is in the wider context that energy efficiency as such is a low priority for most people: comfort yes, cost of fuel yes but reducing carbon emissions no. The evidence suggests that unless there is a simultaneous change in behaviour and attitude, homes refurbished as part of the Green Deal or otherwise will be more comfortable but not reduce emissions.

Barriers to retrofit include the comfortable relationship people have with their homes, particularly older 'hard to treat' properties.  Her evidence shows that most people make the major changes to their homes when they first move in, with a readiness to live with disruption then that they would not tolerate 20 years later.

With the scale of the refurbishment challenge needed we have focused on physical solutions - still with many questions over their effectiveness. Clearly they are important but are only a part of a more nuanced approach needed. 'Hard to treat' solid wall properties are a huge challenge to meeting our emissions reduction targets. Linking a reduction of Stamp Duty to undertaking major Green Deal work would be a neat way of both incentivising energy-saving refurbishment at a point that most suits people, as well as stimulating the housing market.

In the meantime, the bigger question remains - how do we change our behaviours to live within our means?

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