Building governance and energy efficiency: mapping the inter-disciplinary challenge

On Friday 23 March the ACE-Retrofitting project was invited to participate and present at the SHAPE energy workshop “Building governance and energy efficiency: mapping the inter-disciplinary challenge” in Oxford. The aim of the workshop was to build a stronger, international, inter-disciplinary network around the problem of energy efficiency & renewable energy renovations in multi-owned properties (MoP); to discuss how various disciplines could contribute to understanding how MoP owners and residents make decisions about energy use, renovation and installation of new energy technologies; to develop specific research questions / research agendas which could form the basis of future collaborative working.

Many interesting researchers in the field of condominium research and energy retrofitting were met and many interesting insights were shared. Prof Sergio Nasarre-Aznar indicated there are 3 main types of organisational structures of condominiums in Europe: condominium associations where all owners are member of an association; real estate cooperatives with shareholders, where their share gives them the right of use of an apartment; and the British common law system with leasehold and freehold which is sometimes organised in an owners management company, but often not. Dr. Julie Goodhew indicated the importance of the mental model approach, where it could be interesting to influence the mental model people have about retrofitting and energy behavior. Furthermore, the issue of a diffusion of responsibilities was brought up by her which she linked to the bystander effect where no-one takes action. In condominium decision-making this is an important issue too. Furthermore, Prof. Miles Hewstone brought up the issue of group decision-making and theories of collective action, and both he and Dr. Tina Fawcett mentioned the importance to differentiate between habitual behavior and conscious behavior. The expectations people have about the lack of effect of their actions was also seen as a possible barrier to action in condominiums. Furthermore, condominium interventions should link to the core business of condominiums in order to be most successful. Also the issue of state/legal intervention was mentioned by many participants. It was felt that bottom-up action would not be enough and that legal or tax interventions would be needed as well to influence people’s decisions about energy efficiency and retrofitting.

All in all, it was a fruitful meeting in which the network of people working on energy retrofitting in condominiums was expanded and new research avenues were explored. Many thanks to the organisers, Prof. Sue Bright, Dr. David Weatherall, and Dr. Frankie McCarthy.

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