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LSE report analyses impact of thermal insulation upon social conditions

The first stage of a study conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) and sponsored by thermal insulation manufacturer Rockwool has been completed on an estate in West London.

It is hoped that High Rise Hope: The Social Implications of Energy Efficiency Retrofit in Large Multi-storey Tower Blocks will provide the blueprint for removing millions of UK homeowners from fuel poverty and demonstrate the impact energy-saving schemes could have in helping families reduce their gas and electricity usage.

The research measured energy costs and social conditions before and during a £16 million renovation project on three apartment towers at the Edward Woods Estate in Shepherds Bush.

It found that individuals in virtually identical flats had utility bills ranging from £500 a year to £2,000 - depending on the layout of the property - and pointed towards the need for education on how to cut energy bills.

Anne Power, professor of social policy at LSE, said: "Energy saving works, especially exterior insulation, to create warmer homes that are cheaper to heat."

She added: "This cuts fuel poverty and provides community benefits, upgrades the local environment and creates more involvement."

Improvements to the estate managed by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham included the installation of south-facing solar panels on each block of flats, which produce enough electricity to power the lifts and lighting in communal areas.

Two-thirds of tenants interviewed on the developments commented that living on the estate during the work was either good or excellent and long-term residents stated the construction has "vastly improved over the years".

According to Ms Power, there is a strong connection between taking care of places and creating a sense of community and belonging.

Indeed, the study found that the renovations boosted community pride, feelings of safety and relationships with other residents.

A follow-up survey in 2013 is due to assess the long-term benefits and costs of the energy-efficient measures.

Posted by Paul Taylor