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Title: Implications of an 80% CO₂ emissions reduction target for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK housing refurbishment industry
Author: Killip, Gavin M.
ISNI:       0000 0003 6974 3913
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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The UK’s policy commitment to an 80% reduction in CO₂ levels over 1990 levels by 2050 has framed much recent research and debates between policy-makers and industry about whether and how a transition to a low-carbon future can be achieved. The technical potential for improved energy efficiency and installation of low- and zero-carbon generation technologies in the built environment is, in theory, large enough to achieve the emissions reduction targets in this economic sector but it requires a step-change in technology deployment, with less well studied implications for the industry actors who predominate in the existing markets for housing refurbishment. A socio-technical approach is taken to investigating this problem, drawing on the academic traditions of Actor-Network Theory and Transitions to frame the problem: how can a policy-driven change be brought about in a highly diffuse system of actors, where large outcomes emerge as the result of millions of small-scale decisions? Parallels are drawn with the history of Market Transformation policies that have achieved improved energy efficiency of stocks of electrical appliances over time. In order to explore how a Market Transformation approach might work in the rather different context of housing refurbishment, three key aspects of this particular socio-technical system need to be explored: the technical potential and workings of technology deployment; the operation of several implicated markets; the nature of innovation in the relevant industry sectors. A review of the practical, technical issues encountered in pioneering low-carbon refurbishment projects reveals certain risks of under-performance and unintended consequences of poor implementation. Managing these risks requires a level of underpinning knowledge as well as good-quality workmanship, raising the question of how such knowledge can best be introduced into the fragmented roles and contractual relationships that characterise the industry. The market opportunities for the work are complicated by the number and interdependence of the markets involved, including markets for property transactions and markets for refurbishment work and technology installation. Information systems already exist at the point of property transactions in the form of the Energy Performance Certificate, but the greatest potential for change exists in the mainstream repair, maintenance and improvement market. Interviews with mainstream SME construction managers explain the reasons why the industry’s custom and practice is essentially conservative, but also provide insights into the situations in which innovation can thrive, rather than being resisted or subverted. A proposal for systemic change has at its core the coordination of monitoring information and learning experiences from a range of innovative demonstration projects, with implications for change at an institutional level as well as within the practices of the industry itself. The findings of the research are discussed in terms of the strategic implications they hold for industry and policy-making.
Supervisor: Boardman, Brenda ; Eyre, Nick ; Jardine, Christian N. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Environmental change ; low carbon ; refurbishment industry ; housing ; climate change ; SMEs ; Transitions Management