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High Rise Hope report explores the social impact of retrofit

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Energy efficiency not the only benefit of eco-retrofit, says report

A report recently produced for Rockwool by the LSE has highlighted the social implications of energy efficiency retrofits for tower blocks.

The report uses the Edward Woods Estate in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham as a case study, looking at the social effects of this £16.13million refurbishment carried out by ECD Architects.

Estimates show there to be 3,500 tower blocks, like those on the Edward Woods Estate, in the UK, and these are all ripe for energy efficiency upgrades. Many were built in the sixties and seventies, at a time when energy prices were cheap, and therefore the concern for efficiency was not as it is nowadays. Being council-owned, these buildings can be retrofit using a whole building approach, providing greater economies of scale, often hard to achieve in owner-occupied properties.

The tower blocks at the Edward Woods Estate received both external and cavity wall insulation, roof insulation, upgraded facades and integrated solar PV panels.

Before the retrofit, the homes on the estate varied extensively in terms of thermal efficiency, and many of the families living there suffered from fuel poverty. A survey carried out before the process began found that many of the residents suffered from excessive cold and damp during winter, and were increasingly worried about rising energy bills.

The report considers how retrofit can be used to promote social values in addition to energy efficiency, using refurbishment to help to regenerate communities and provide a lasting legacy of change. It sets out lessons that can be learnt on future estate retrofit schemes, including:

  • Improving communication with residents before, during and after the construction process
  • Better explanation of the purpose of the works and its benefits to residents
  • Engaging residents in the process through energy efficiency advice and tips     

Estate-wide energy efficiency retrofits like that at the Edward Woods Estate hold many opportunities for engaging residents in behavioural change. The report called for these to ‘not be ignored in terms of the need for resident buy-in and input’. Retrofit projects can be used to improve the image of estates and the moral among those living there. The potential social impact of these projects should not be underestimated.

 

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