Climate Change And Security Of Energy Supply Construction Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The research question of this thesis is Do domestic dwellings built to sustainability principles and to high standards encourage sustainable behaviour of their occupants? This chapter is a review of existing literature on the subject to explore what sustainability and sustainable behaviour is, why it is important and how it is measured.

Sustainable living can be described as a lifestyle which applies the principles of sustainability or sustainable development. There is no unified definition of sustainability or sustainable development. They are multi-faceted subjective concepts that, confusingly, are often used in the mainstream in a thoughtless and interchangeable manner. Hopwood et al (2005) argue that the term 'sustainable development' risks becoming 'meaningless' and a slogan because of its 'looseness of concept' and theoretical basis. However, the authors go on to state that the balance between society and the environment is fundamental, and in order to maintain the balance 'close links' and 'feedback loops' are needed between the environment and society. The most accepted, and frequently citied definition of sustainable development that is commonly inclusive in other more detailed definitions is provided by the Brundtland Report; "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (WCDE, 1987; IEG, 2010). The so called "Three Pillars" of social development, environmental protection and, economic development provide a definition which was recently reaffirmed in the UN World Summit Outcome (United Nations General Assembly, 2005). The Three Pillars are often depicted conceptually as three interlinking circles and more recently as a nested arrangement (Fig. X). The UK Government (United Nations General Assembly, 2005) provided a similar definition to the Three Pillars, outlining the factors which contribute to a sustainable development as: ending poverty, sustainable production and consumption, protecting natural resources whilst encouraging economic and social development. The Egan report (2004) concurred with the Brundtland definition of sustainable development when defining sustainable communities to meet the needs of the present and future residents, and additionally contributing to a high quality of life whilst effectively using natural resources, enhancing the environment, promoting social cohesion, and strengthening economic prosperity (Egan, 2004). The BioRegional Development Group defines sustainable communities as places where "it is easy for people to lead happy and healthy lives within a fair share of the earth's resources." It also argues that although it is useful, the Brundtland definition is not based on any particular set of metrics or boundaries, therefore it is not possible to define what is and isn't sustainable (Desai, 2010). The narrative that inform the dialectic and complex conceptualisations surrounding Sustainable development are explored in great detail elsewhere (Burget & Christen, 2011), (Springett, 2005). Some authors rather than specifically defining sustainability have devised arguably more flexible frameworks which breakdown the elements of sustainability to allow for comparisons to be made (see Table 1). The frameworks that have been presented in the table deal with sustainability at different scales: individual to city level.

There are a number of common themes running through them e.g. efficient use of resources and community cohesions, but they also have different emphases. For instance, unsurprisingly, the

Government's communities framework is strong on governance, while Williams & Dair's (2006) framework focuses on the built environment. Bioregional argues that the One Planet principles that make up the framework are "like DNA" which embed sustainability into any project (Desai, 2010). When benchmarks and quantative indicators are employed some measure of sustainability can be formulated. BioRegional have turned to ecological footprinting to provide a measure of overall sustainability while others have used government indicators or a checklist approach. For the purposes of this project data collected at One Brighton will be compared to elements /metrics within the frameworks to gauge to what extent the buildings provide a sustainable living solution to occupants. To be sustainable both technical sustainability (materiality, construction technique etc.) and behavioural sustainability is needed, this paper will focus on the latter.

Behavioural Sustainability

Occupant behaviour greatly influences energy use and overall building performance. Janda (2011) argues that 'Buildings don't use energy: people do' for it is the occupants who require heating, cook and use electricity. A number of studies have explored the complex relationships which influence occupant behaviour in relation to sustainable living. Williams and Dair (2006) termed this as 'behavioural sustainability' which refers to the actions of those living within a development. Williams et al (2010) surveyed 13 suitable residential sites and found that residents were generally more knowledgeable about sustainability issues, however not necessarily more concerned or 'active'. The residents only seemed to behave more sustainably that the rest of the population in home-based resource efficiency behaviours. For most other behaviours, such as travel to work by car, social participation, encouraging wildlife and composting their behaviour was less sustainable than the overall population. Butler (2004) reported that cost was the strongest driving factor for resource use in social housing rather than direct concern for the environment. Gill et al (2010) present data which indicated that energy efficient behaviours account for 51%, 37% and 11% in the variance in heat, electricity and water consumption respectively between 13 similar dwellings at an EcoHomes 'excellent' site. The authors developed a bespoke behavioural survey (discussed in the methods chapter) which was designed to distinguish between and quantify frugal and profligate patterns of consumption. It is noted that the sample was small but homogenous. This survey has been tested on a number of dwellings - including One Brighton. Other studies in Australia found that occupants of the study houses did not follow the 'accepted behaviour paradigm'. Instead they express general satisfaction with indoor conditions that fluctuate with external conditions, and they did not act to maintain 'thermal comfort' within the bounds of 'standard' values. This behaviour led to reduced energy use (Williamson, 2010). While researchers in New Zealand suggest that occupants may take some kind of cultural pride in under heating their houses- and thus use less energy. Though it is also acknowledged that New Zealanders get little benefit from heating that they perceive that they are heating less than they are in reality and also that houses are subject to zone heating, such as heating in the living area in the chilly evenings which would also reduce overall energy use (Isaacs, 2010). Vale& Vale (2010) also take a historical perspective on energy use and behaviour. They argue that despite efficiency savings driven mostly by regulatory factors, overall energy use has not reduced. They particularly attribute this to 'Jevon's Paradox'. He argues that efficient use of fuel tended to result in an increase of the consumption of that fuel. Other behavioural / social factors they cite which have increased overall energy use included increased ownership of electrical appliances, particularly entertainment and increase in dwelling number cause by population growth and smaller households. Few studies have been undertaken which specifically explore the relationship between occupant behaviour and the built environment. The studies that have been published indicate that the variety of behaviours are complex but also suggest that there is room for certain behaviour traits to be targeted in order to reduce energy use and engender sustainable behaviours.

Why is it important for buildings to supply a sustainable building solution?

Climate Change and Security of Energy Supply

The warming of the climate system indisputable; evident from increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations, and widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level (IPPC, 2007), likely to have been caused by, 'significant anthropogenic warming' over the last 50 years. The scientific evidence of global warming is vast, and although climate change is a serious threat that demands urgent global response, if strong action is taken now, there is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change (Stern, 2006). These reports are concerned with the climate change phenomenon and its effects on humanity and the planet, be they economic, social or environmental. Mackay (2010) argues that because GHG emissions from energy uses account for more than three quarters of all GHG emissions the problem of climate change is principally an energy problem. Given that domestic buildings account for approximately 26% of the total UK energy consumption (DECC, 2012), and carbon emissions (SEI, 2011) (DECC, 2010), buildings their systems and interaction with the wider environment need to be low energy and Zero Carbon to reduce the UK overall COâ‚‚ footprint. To this end the Government requires that all new-build homes to be "Zero Carbon" from September 2016 (DECC, 2009). Even for those who do not concur with the arguments that climate change is a reality must acknowledge that wasting finite fossil fuels unnecessarily is to be avoided especially given the serious security or supply issues that the UK faces. In order to be sustainable, buildings need to be low carbon.

The Green Deal

The Telegraph 28th August 2012 'Green Deal to hit families with £7,000 interest charge' James Hall

The Telegraph 13th April 2012 'The Green Deal feels the heat' Geoffrey Lean

Policy offers loans for improving homes' energy efficiency, to be repaid out of the savings made on fuel bills.

'Britain's biggest-ever programme of home improvement'

Using energy more efficiently has the following benefits:

The most cost effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions & tackle global warming

Boosts national energy security when Britain is increasingly importing oil and gas, reduces the possibility of power shortages

Could reduce the building of nuclear power stations/wind farms

Saves money

Creates four times as many jobs per pound invested as building a gas power station - the cheapest on offer

Britain's housing stock is amongst the oldest and 'most inefficient in the world' (Government)

Fewer than half of our 26 million homes are properly insulated

Huge waste of money especially as energy bills are rapidly increasing because fossil fuel prices keep rising

It exacerbates the fuel poverty that blights over 4 million homes

Approx 3 million homes are so leaky as to be a health hazard; treating people made ill by cold housing costs the NHS approx £850 million per annum

Four times as many people die each year from lack of heat as do in road accidents

Solutions are often not expensive

Installing cavity wall insulation in a 3bed semi = £160 with a payback of 3 years (Energy Savings Trust)

Roof insulation = £100-£350 with a payback of two to four years

However householders are often deterred by upfront costs , worries that the work will not be carried out well & the hassle

The Green Deal offers loans for work to be done by accredited contractors and paid back over 25 years by charges on energy bills

Its 'Golden Rule' states that these payments should be the same as, or less than, the savings on the bills resulting from the measures carried out, so no-one should be out of pocket and many better off

£1.3bn pa subsidy from big energy companies for houses that are hard to insulate and for people in fuel poverty

It is speculated that the policy will: kickstart investments of £14 billion over next 10 years

And support 65,000 jobs by 2015

However it is debated that the Green Deal may actually be detrimental, reducing the amount of improvement that is currently occurring by programmes that it will replace.

An existing scheme (for example) funded by energy companies has insulated 2million cavity walls and more than 2.5million lofts over the past 4 years. But the scheme is terminating this year.

Conversely the Green Deal plans to insulate 1.7million cavity walls and 700,000 lofts over the next 10 years. (thus green deal is worse than the existing scheme!!!)

As a result, insulating cavity walls and lofts will drop by 66% and 90% respectively putting the insulation industry into crisis.

Companies will face difficulties transferring from old insulation schemes to new ones

Government has set an exceptionally high and possibly unrealistic target of insulating: 6.2 million cavity walls, and 8.5million lofts

Part L : conservation of fuel and power of Building regulations controversial as ministers are encouraging householders who convert lofts/garages, install new boilers, replace a set percentage of windows to spend an extra 10% of the cost on energy efficiency measures as it could lead to a million more homes installing insulation by 2015

Measures would be proportionate - by draughtproofing, lagging cylinders and insulating lofts & walls and would be eligible for the Green Deal and thus cost householders nothing

If repayments of loans exceed expected savings householders would not have to comply

Costs less to make alterations and improvements when builders are already doing work at the house

Conservatories smaller than 30m² are exempt (generous)

Some claimed that the Green deal would have negative impacts on householders leaving them with

Crippling tax on any domestic project, reduce income, require special planning permissions to be enforced, require for all homes to be fully insulated, and leave householders in tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket

Case study in Sutton, Surrey found that 72% of households saved money using the deal

Treasury has allocated £20m to the scheme for the first 18months which ministers are considering allocating to pay for: cash back schemes, reductions in council tax or stamp duty and cutting VA on energy saving measures to 5%

Many European counterparts are using money from carbon taxes to pay for green initiatives

The Treasury is due to receive £4bn for setting carbon pricing / budgets

TransformUK argues that this sum could be used to take 90% of homes affected from fuel poverty out of it and support 200,000 jobs.

Resource Depletion

Sustainable living is not just about low energy. Use of natural resource also requires consideration. According to ecological footprint methods employed by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (Chart 1) 20% of the Brighton & Hove ecological footprint is accounted for by domestic consumption (SEI, 2011). Given that 24% and 26% of the footprint are accounted for by transport and food, it is clear that housing needs to be sited and organised so as to minimise the ecological burden of its occupants. Good urban design at the plot, neighbourhood and city levels is required to ensure both a low carbon and minimal ecological footprint.

Final Word

To evaluate whether One Brighton encourages sustainable behaviour to its occupants is challenging, especially considering the undefined nature and concept of 'sustainability'. Nevertheless it is important to try and answer the question, given the serious uncertainties of climate change and security of fuel supply present to the environment, society and economy coupled with the significant contribution domestic buildings make to the UK's energy and carbon budget. The Sustainable lifestyle questionnaire provides data that can be compared to various frameworks and criteria focused around the concept of sustainability. Such systematic feedback enables designers, builders and planners to assess overall building performance and can hopefully provide some measure of sustainable behaviour.

The following chapter explains the 'tools' used in this study in more detail.

DEFRA 2010- behavioural change

In order to encourage sustainable behaviour within a domestic environment, it is useful to understand behavioural change and how it may be influenced. In research recently undertaken by Defra economists and social researchers, (Collier et. al., 2010),

The research draws on experience from a number of case studies undertaken by DEFRA and

In order to successfully change behaviour, understanding economics and behavioural economics, how social research and analysis is helping to understand behaviour.

Which, in turn shapes thinking about policy development and informs the choice of interventions adopted.

Like the misuse of the term 'sustainable development', 'behaviour change' is a new 'buzz' phrase that is a 'convenient and widely used term' for a highly complex issue.

Behaviour change is about consolidating and reinforcing good sustainable behaviours as well as addressing the bad behaviours.

Change in behaviour is possible when behavioural barriers are addressed, and suitable, stimulating incentives are provided.

Barriers include: habitual actions, financial constraints, societal expectations or norms, commitments or lack of access to facilities

Positive action is encouraged by incentives which can include financial savings, social norm or just a 'feel-good' factor in taking positive action.

Due to the heterogeneity of individuals and groups within society a variety of short and long term policies are likely to be required to achieve 'behavioural change' across society.

Policies may change behaviours without changing the underlying attitudes and motivations, such policies are unsustainable

It is important that when implementing policy that underlying attitudes and motivations are also addressed. If not, then although policy may be effective in changing behaviour, it is likely to be unsustainable.

Time factor for change is critical, and thus in order to achieve a broad policy goal a multitude of policies, both short and long term, will need to be employed in order to be successful in changing behaviour.

The traditional approach to policy making focuses on changing behaviour through the use of external drivers: financial incentives such as taxes and subsidies, and regulation like prohibiting certain actions and setting standards.

A modern approach, embedded with a more sophisticated understanding of individual and societal behaviour, recognises the importance of 'intra and inter-personal drivers and the points of influence'.

Financial and regulatory approaches will always be principal policy tools for driving change but the effectiveness of policy interventions is also dependent on reflecting, re-enforcing and shaping attitudes, motivations and norms within a community. An understanding of all these is critical for informing the parameters for modelling, policy appraisal, selecting the interventions and the evaluation of effects.

Nudge, behavioural economics, choice architecture?

Behavioural economics

Defra aims to shape behaviours in the present and also embed behaviours and practices in the long term.

Demand for a practical approach to behavioural change resulted in a new model.

Proposed by Defra's sustainable development strategy (2005), the '4Es' model is a balanced approach for sustainable and successful policy implementation: encourage, enable, engage and exemplify.

These factors encompass both internal and external factors

Encouragement of positive behaviour through the use of incentives, or disincentives and regulation specific to the segment of population

Enabling positive behaviour to be easy through infrastructure, services, skills guidance, information and support.

Engaging target audience

Exemplification. Key actions and measures to take leadership and demonstrate shared responsibility

F:\Thesis\Tables, Figures Misc\DEFRA - 2005 - The 4E's.jpg

Fig. X. DEFRA 2005. New strategy focusing on need to enable, encourage and engage people and communities in the move toward sustaianblility; recognising that Government needs to lead by example.

Conclusions DEFRA 2010

Behaviour is complex and thus considering it appropriately in policy is difficult and time consuming.

Inter-disciplinary approaches are needed to inform and change behaviours. Understanding behaviour is essential in order to successfully address the internal and external factors influencing decisions. The complexity of behaviour requires a number of interventions to enable, encourage, engage and exemplify towards positive action.

Multiple interventions which tackle internal, external and social factors are more successful as they work in different ways to target different segments of the population.


Monitor and evaluate what works, as previous approaches have been based on theory, however the influence of measurable data of behaviour change will be of great value.

Transfer of research between government departments, to academia through The Economic Social Research Council (ESRC), and also to local authorities and delivery partners.

DEFRA 2006

Paper focuses on manner in which pro-environmental behaviour changes over time.

Concerned with models of diffusion of positive environmental behaviours through society.

Three modern theories considered: Malcom Gladwell's Tipping Points, Phillip Ball's Critical Mass, and Mark Buchanan's Ubiquity.

Malcom Gladwells



Fig. 2. A framework of Environmental Behaviours,(Johnson, Ekins, 2003)