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Housing and Sustainability/Environment

Housing and Sustainability/Environment

In this scoping paper we highlight where online methods may be going and how they might better contribute to studies of sustainable practices. We do so by conducting a literary review focusing especially on previous research conducted within the humanities and social sciences.

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In this blog, the first of a series to come from our digital methods workshop, we attempt to highlight how developments in digital methods offer new opportunities for social science, and research on household sustainability in particular. We believe that many social scientists are unfamiliar with developments in digital methods and hope to encourage greater appreciation of them. Indeed, we conclude our piece with some reasons why social scientists should engage with debates around digital methods and consider using them. Before doing so, we provide some background about what digital methods are and how they have evolved.

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Domestic energy demand is a topical policy issue, with implications for climate change, energy vulnerability and security. Domestic energy demand varies considerably by country, climate, building type, and even when these factors are the same, occupancy patterns and inhabitant's lifestyles also create variation. However, clarifying understanding of the basic locus of analysis: the home, house, dwelling, or household has received little attention to date, despite its relevance to debates on energy demand. This paper explores the theoretical and methodological assumptions of investigating the ‘house’ compared to the ‘home’ and the implications for domestic energy researchers. We suggest that the ontological priority given to the ‘home’ results in scholarship which considers both social and physical aspects that shape demand. Conversely, research prioritising the ‘house’ is dominated by techno-economic thinking, and overlooks critical social considerations. Recognising this important distinction, we conclude with a plea for scholars to be cognisant of ontology and language, and provide some suggestions for a future research agenda.

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The UK government has recently implemented the Green Deal, a new pay-as-you-save policy which seeks to fundamentally reform the existing housing stock to make it more energy efficient. Regarded by its proponents as a ‘revolutionary programme to bring our buildings up to date’ (HM Government 2010: 2), generate cash savings for householders, and simultaneously yield environmental benefits by reducing energy consumption, it promises much. However, there have been many critiques of the Green Deal from industry, environmental pressure groups and housing professionals. Moreover there has been very limited take up of Green Deal loans by householders, and those measures which have been installed offer perhaps only minimal improvements in overall energy efficiency. This paper therefore considers the potential generative and productive outcomes of the Green Deal by looking across three related issues: households with low incomes and in fuel poverty; the potential impacts on elements of the housing system; and, the extent of environmental benefits. The paper concludes by suggesting that the instead of being a revolutionary way to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s domestic building stock, the Green Deal may potentially perpetuate existing social injustice and environmental degradation. The effort should, instead, focus on understanding how energy demand is created in the first place (e.g. desire for larger homes, energy-hungry appliances, heating in every room) through householders’ expectations and changing domestic practices.

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The objectives of this commissioned report were to identify and examine housing need and housing pressures in St Andrews and to outline recommendations as how these may be addressed. Following interviews with local organisations and housing providers, a survey of students and resident households and an interrogation of census and local authority demographic (especially age structure) and housing data (house prices, rent charges etc.), two dominant problems were identified: the shortage of affordable housing and the (over) concentration of student accommodation (HMOs – Housing in multiple occupation) in the centre of the town. The report’s recommendations – partially based on experience elsewhere, especially in other university towns - included: the drawing-up of a detailed housing strategy for the town by Fife Council in collaboration with community representatives to cover, inter alia: the development of an appropriate yardstick for student housing density, and the continuation of and a geographical extension of the present HMO moratorium; the construction of additional student accommodation by both private providers and by the University; and the development of a programme for affordable housing provision starting with the designation and development of a ‘social/mixed housing village’ at the Kilrymont site of Madras College when this becomes available.

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This paper explicitly engages with recent debates in Ecological Economics on what mode of humanity and person the sustainability project requires (e.g. Becker, 2006; Siebenhüner, 2000) and responds to calls to widen our understanding of the human being beyond homo economicus (e.g. Bina and Guedes Vaz, 2011). Using the example of the increasing attention to well-being, both within policy and academic circles, we seek to contribute to current critical considerations of ‘the sustainable person’ (Becker, 2010, 2012). We do this by incorporating often neglected perspectives from disciplines rooted in the Arts and Humanities – specifically anthropology and philosophy – introducing to debates on sustainability the notion of ‘homo faber’. Our aim is threefold: (1) to invite creative thinking about the role that materiality and practice play in the constitution of alternative notions of ‘being’; (2) to soften the anthropocentrism of western worldviews by considering the possibility of a different mode of humanity based upon “connection rather than separation, interdependence rather than autonomy” (Gibson-Graham, 2011:2), and (3) to encourage deeper reflection about the need for, and the challenge of interdisciplinary sustainability research.

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in R Coles & Z Millman (eds), Landscape, Well-Being and Environment. Routledge: London. ISBN: 978-0-415-83151-2
http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415831512/:



Well-being is now firmly established as an overarching theme of key concern to all professionals that work, manage or design the environment. However, well-being is a complex multi-dimensional issue rooted in the ways that we encounter, perceive and interpret the environment. No single discipline can claim to have sufficient knowledge to fully explain the types of interactions that occur, therefore there is a need to draw together a wide range of professions who are exploring the consequences of their actions upon the well-being of individuals and communities.

This edited work addresses the above, consisting of a collection of studies which embrace different aspects of environment, landscape and well-being to consider current approaches to well-being research and practice that fall outside the traditional concepts of well-being as part of medical research, making links with architecture, landscape design, environmental perception, social interaction and environmental sustainability.

The contributors originally presented at the international conference, ‘Well-Being 2011’ jointly hosted by Birmingham City University and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); the chapters have been developed to present a coherent series of themes reviewing a wide range of literature, presenting case studies appropriate to diverse audiences.

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Community-led housing organisations innovate in the resolution of local housing issues by adopting a specialised local focus and emphasising community leadership and engagement. In order to meet their objectives they require access to finance, skills and legitimacy; resources that are often secured through frameworks of intermediary support and external partnerships. This article uses two sector-based case studies of community land trusts (CLTs) and self-help housing to explore the importance and effect of intermediary support in securing access to these resources. These sectors have grown in size and importance in recent years through different forms of intermediation that replicate community-led housing in different locations. The article compares the 'scaling-up' of CLTs and the viral spread of self-help housing, highlighting differences in the emphasis that each approach places on community leadership and links with technical experts. We then discuss the implications of this for future housing initiatives and wider relevance for facilitating community-led innovation. Volume 4, Issue 3 of Voluntary Sector Review (November 2013)

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Research by St Andrews University and a group of international practitioners says radical thinking is needed to shape a new, entrepreneurial and thriving rental housing sector. The new research - led by Professor Duncan Maclennan and Sharon Chisholm for the Centre for Housing Research (CHR) at the University of St Andrews – calls for a more enterprising and innovative approach in housing alongside a continuing focus on supporting communities and help to improve people’s lives.
The study, New Times, New Business: Housing Provision in Times of Austerity, was being launched today (Friday 1 February 2013) at Glasgow Housing Association’s Training Academy in Glasgow city centre. GHA, which is part of the Wheatley Housing Group, was one of six partners in the research project.

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The New Times, New Business partners today released their final report at the GHA Academy. The full book is available for free download on the CHR website. Paperback copies can be purchased for £3.70 per copy, with a minimum order of 10. Please contact Sharon Chisholm to arrange. A 2 page summary of the main findings is also available. Press release follows.

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