18 October 2012


The first stage of a pioneering study has been completed on a West London estate that could provide a blueprint for taking millions of UK householders out of fuel poverty, and demonstrates the huge impact the Green Deal could have if it is accompanied by consumer education to help householders cut energy use.

  • New research by the LSE reveals potential impact energy efficiency improvements can have on community relations and people’s perceptions of quality of life in social housing
  • Study shows energy bills in identical flats can range from £500 to £2,000 per annum 
  • Study to provide blueprint for social experiment aiming to find new ways to cut fuel poverty

The research study, called ‘High Rise Hope,’ conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) and ROCKWOOL, the stone wool insulation provider, analyses the social impact of greening homes and improving the insulation in residential tower blocks.

The study measured energy costs and social indicators before and during a £16.3m energy efficiency, structural and acoustic upgrade of three tower blocks at the Edward Woods Estate in Shepherds Bush, West London. These included how the improvements have affected: community pride; feelings of safety; noise disturbance; quality of relationships with other residents; fuel poverty levels and energy usage. A follow-up study measuring the impact on residents after the refurbishment is scheduled for late 2013.

The study also measured householder’s use of energy and revealed that residents in virtually identical flats could see utility bills vary from £500 a year to nearly £2,000. The findings will be used to inform a community energy use education initiative to help residents cut utility bills and hopefully provide a blueprint to reduce fuel poverty.

 Led by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the estate upgrade and flagship energy efficiency project aims to achieve reductions in energy consumption and costs. To supplement energy costs and the building upgrades, each block has received solar panels to power lifts and lighting in communal areas and 12 penthouses have been constructed for private sale.

Energy costs are felt acutely by the residents at the estate. It falls within the 12 per cent of the most deprived areas in the country and the number of residents who claim income benefits is double the national average. There are also higher than average levels of unemployment.

Researchers from LSE Housing and Communities found that many residents had paid a significant proportion of their income on heating, with some paying more than £40 a week for gas and electricity. Residents’ bills are expected to be significantly reduced by the energy efficiency improvements and the results will be reported in detail in 2013.

Since the upgrades started, 68 per cent described their home as good or excellent. Two thirds described their quality of life on the estate as good or excellent, and 85 per cent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the area. Long-term residents talked about how the estate had vastly improved over the years.*

Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy at LSE, the leader of the study, said: "There are also social reasons for doing these works. There is a strong and well-documented link between damp, cold housing and deprivation, which is much more likely to affect people on low incomes. It has been shown that these conditions impact on physical and mental health, as well as children's educational attainment, emotional wellbeing and resilience."

The report adds: "Energy efficiency works, especially exterior insulation, create warmer homes that are cheaper to heat. This is very important from the perspective of fuel poverty. Energy efficiency measures may provide community benefits, through upgrading social amenities in parallel, presenting a much more attractive image of the neighbourhood and better sound proofing.

"Constant management and well managed regeneration have positive effects on the local community. With the recent policy drive to reduce carbon emissions, energy efficiency interventions may become the new vehicle for regeneration at a time when neighbourhood renewal programmes are in decline."

Thomas Heldgaard, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL UK added: “Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that well-thought out whole building energy efficiency refurbishment can have positive effects on local communities well beyond saving money on energy bills. With schemes such as the Green Deal and ECO set to get fully underway next year, we hope this research will demonstrate that energy efficiency is only one of the benefits of greening British homes.

He added “High Rise Hope shows we are on the right track, but the real test will come in 2013 when we go back to the residents to ask them how they have found living with the new measures”

The High Rise Hope report is available for download here or view the video below.


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