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All about size? – The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand

Huebner, GM; Shipworth, D; (2017) All about size? – The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand. Applied Energy , 186 (Part 2) pp. 226-233. 10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.02.066. Green open access

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Residential energy consumption is one of the main contributors to CO2 emissions in the UK. One strategy aimed at reducing emissions is to increase retrofitting rates of buildings. In this paper, an alternative approach is discussed and its potential impact on energy use assessed, that of downsizing (moving to smaller homes). Reviews of previous research show that a wide range of what can be termed psychological barriers exist to downsizing, such as the loss of ownership and independence, concern about what to do with possessions, not having enough space for visitors, and attachment to one’s home. Benefits of downsizing from a personal perspective are economic, with lower bills and/or rent, release of capital, lower maintenance costs, and also potential lifestyle improvements including living in easier-to-maintain and more age-appropriate housing. Wider societal benefits include the potential to significantly reduce energy consumption, and mitigating the housing crisis in cities where not enough properties are available. Empirical analysis on a nationally representative sample in England showed that building size alone accounts for 24% of the variability in energy consumption (compared to 11% of household size). If single-person households with more than two bedrooms downsized by one bedroom, energy-savings of 8% could be achieved, and if single-person households occupied only one bedroom, savings of 27%. Data also showed a significant amount of underoccupation, with almost two-thirds of households having more bedrooms than considered necessary compared to the bedroom-standard. However, analysis also revealed a structural barrier to downsizing, namely the lack of available alternative, smaller houses. The evidence would suggest that downsizing could realize significant energy savings, and address a range of other social benefits. However, against this stand significant personal interests, inadequate alternative housing and other infrastructure issues. Promoting downsizing as a means to achieve energy policy goals is therefore a potentially significant but socially challenging policy option.

Type: Article
Title: All about size? – The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.02.066
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.02.066
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Residential energy consumption; Downsizing; Underoccupation; Energy savings; Policy; Building size
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1493211
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