Low carbon housing refurbishment challenges and incentives: Architects’ perspectives

Philip Davies, Mohamed Osmani
Building and Environment, Volume 46, Issue 8, August 2011


The UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce CO2 levels by 80% by 2050 relative to the 1990 emissions baseline. The existing housing stock, which accounts for approximately 30% of total UK energy demand, has the potential to provide significant opportunities for this reduction; however, currently there are no legislative measures driving widespread low carbon housing refurbishment (LCHR) design and construction. Architects have a decisive role to move forward the LCHR agenda owing to their leadership and significant involvement in the initial briefing, conceptual and design development phases of a project, regardless of project procurement types and project sizes. Hence, the aim of this research is to investigate the key challenges and incentives for achieving LCHR in England from architects’ perspectives.

The research adopted a triangulated methodological approach, consisting of a desk study, postal questionnaires, and follow up semi-structured interviews. The questionnaires and interviews were executed amongst a wide geographical sampling frame of architects in England with previous housing refurbishment experience. The research concluded that high capital costs for micro-generation technologies and energy efficient materials; disparity in VAT between new build and refurbishment; and the complexity of the UK existing housing stock are the most considerable LCHR challenges. In contrast, the research indicated that a tax rebate; removal of the VAT difference between new build and refurbishment; increased research to produce affordable micro-generation technologies; and increased government supplied low carbon programmes were identified by the participants as the key incentives to drive the LCHR agenda.

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