21 Oct 2012, 8:52 PM
A study undertaken at a West London estate could provide a blueprint for taking millions of UK householders out of fuel poverty, and demonstrates the huge impact the Green Deal could have in helping householders cut energy use.
‘High Rise Hope,’ presents evidence from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on the social impact of greening homes by insulating residential tower blocks.
The study measured energy costs and social conditions before and during a £16 million repair, energy saving and acoustic upgrade of three tower blocks at the Edward Woods Estate in Shepherds Bush, West London. Radical improvements affected community pride, feelings of safety, relationships with other residents, energy bills and fuel poverty. A follow-up study in 2013 will measure the longer-term benefits and costs for residents and the landlord, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
The report reveals that residents in virtually identical flats had utility bills that ranged from £500 a year to £2,000, depending on layout. The research shows the need for energy saving education to help residents cut energy bills following the upgrade, taking the low income estate out of fuel poverty.
The estate is among the most deprived areas in West London with double the national average of tenants below the poverty line. Unemployment is much higher than average but most working age tenants are in jobs of one kind or another.
The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has led the estate upgrade and flagship energy saving project, which dramatically cuts energy use. The insulation measures were supplied by Rockwool, who also commissioned the research. Each block now has south-facing solar panels producing electricity to power lifts and lighting in communal areas. 12 penthouse flats for private sale will help fund the improvements. The estate has on site management, concierges at the base of each tower block, shops, a community centre, and café.
Over two-thirds of tenants interviewed described their home as good or excellent during the work. Two thirds also say that living on the estate is good or excellent. More than four out of five tenants like living in the area, and 85 per cent are satisfied or very satisfied with the area. Long-term residents, mainly pensioners, say the estate has “vastly improved over the years”.*
Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy at LSE, the leader of the study, said: "There are social reasons for doing these works. There is a strong and well-documented link between taking care of places and creating a sense of community and belonging. Energy saving works, especially exterior insulation, to create warmer homes that are cheaper to heat. This cuts fuel poverty, and provides community benefits, upgrades the local environment and creates more involvement. The estate presents a much more attractive image in the neighbourhood and better sound proofing.
On-site management and careful upgrading have a positive impact on the local community. The urgency to reduce carbon emissions, and save energy is creating new approaches to old problems, 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 show that energy efficiency is only one of the benefits of greening British homes.
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”