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8 March 2010 | PR 10/40

New research suggests energy efficiency in the home may not save energy

New research suggests that Government plans to achieve an 80% reduction in the CO2 emissions from existing UK homes by 2050 may be unrealistic.

Writing in a special issue of the Building Research and Information journal, researchers from the Carbon Reduction in Buildings (CaRB) Consortium, which includes Loughborough University, present detailed new evidence on how people use energy in buildings.

The researchers overturn beliefs surrounding technical improvements in the home by suggesting that householders use energy efficiency initiatives to make their homes more comfortable rather than to save energy.  The Consortium have found that energy efficiency measures seem to encourage householders to turn up the heat, leave the heating on for longer and heat more rooms.

“The Government may have overestimated the impact its Great British Refurbishment programme will have on CO2 emissions,” said CaRB Consortium member Kevin Lomas, Professor of Building Simulation at Loughborough University.  “Our research shows that some householders who install double glazing, insulation and energy-efficient boilers end up using fuel at close to the old levels because they are more concerned about comfort than saving energy.  Even when energy prices rise, the reduction in demand for energy may be only temporary.”

The researchers believe that technical interventions alone will be insufficient to meet the Government’s targets.  They propose a more integrated approach embracing economic, technical, social and behavioural factors.  This would include targeting national refurbishment strategies at larger homes and other types of property where the greatest gains in energy reduction can occur, changes to the design and marketing of building products and services to improve energy performance, and a social marketing programme to establish ‘social norms’ for reducing temperatures in ‘overheated’ homes.

Professor Lomas’ article published in Volume 38 Issue 1 of Building Research and Information is available to download for free from: http://tinyurl.com/BRI381Editorial.

The complete issue of Building Research and Information, containing an in-depth investigation into the relevant questions, is available from: http://tinyurl.com/BRI381.


For all media enquiries contact:

Judy Wing
Senior Public Relations Officer
Loughborough University
T : 01509 228697
E: J.L.Wing@lboro.ac.uk 

Alexandra Dann
Marketing Executive
Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group
T: 020 7017 7381
E: Alexandra.Dann@tandf.co.uk

Notes for editors:

1.   The Building Research and Information journal provides a holistic, transdisciplinary approach to buildings and the built environment in the context of their engagement with other (social, natural, economic) systems, particularly the interactions between theory, policy and practice as well as the performance, impacts, assessment, contributions, improvement and value of buildings.  The journal is published by Routledge.

2.   CaRB is a major research project funded by the EPSRC and Carbon Trust as part of Carbon Vision Buildings (CVB) – a research programme aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the UK building stock.  CVB has been formed out of the Carbon Vision Partnership of the EPSRC and the Carbon Trust, and with the support of the ESRC.

The vision of CaRB is to create an innovative, public domain, socio-technical model of energy use in buildings applicable at national, regional, city and community level.  It will predict current carbon emissions and the changes resulting from energy efficiency measures, the deployment of renewable energy technologies and the use of non-technical interventions.  For further information visit: www.carb.org.uk

3. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2009 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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