Governance of Low-carbon Innovation in Domestic Energy Retrofits (GLIDER)

Scenarios published by UKERC and others show that the UK’s 2050 CO2 emissions reduction targets are achievable, but there is little or no room for trade-offs between sectors. The size and relative inefficiency of the existing building stock makes low-energy renovation of existing buildings a key priority. Pioneers of low-carbon renovation show that 80-90% reductions are achievable, but only if there are very high standards of design, installation and integration of energy system components. New technology may help the situation, but other issues also need addressing: a lack of technical knowledge; poor communication skills on project teams; and unclear boundaries between roles and responsibilities.

Despite the broad consensus that ambitious emissions reductions in the buildings sector are important for the overall energy system, very little work has been done to understand the construction sector as agents of such a profound change. Buildings show a persistent gap between design intent and real-life energy performance, which will need to be reduced if emissions reduction targets are to be met.  The underlying causes of the design-performance gap are related to the ways in which the industry is structured and construction projects are managed, not because of a fundamental lack of products and technologies.

This project investigates the institutional context and patterns of decision-making among construction firms in the market for Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) of homes. These firms, along with their supply chains and training bodies, are uniquely placed to reach and influence retrofit projects at scale. Energy consumption is not only a function of building physics and technology adoption, but also of user behaviour and patterns of occupancy. These are traditionally viewed as separate issues, but firms providing renovation services can influence both: they physically alter buildings and deal with people.

GLIDER will evaluate the different ways in which the impact of RMI activity can be modelled and map the ways in which RMI performance is influenced, in order to identify policies and interventions which could transform the sector and its value chain, particularly through training.