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Size and the City: The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand and increasing quality of life

Huebner, G; Shipworth, DT; (2015) Size and the City: The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand and increasing quality of life. In: Ulgiati, S and Kordas, O, (eds.) Energy And Urban Systems: Biennial International Workshop Advances in Energy Studies 2015. Green open access

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Abstract

Recent decades have seen a tremendous growth in the population, particularly in cities. London, for example, has increased from about 6.8 million to 8.2 million over 20 years from 1991 to 2011. Additionally, we have seen substantial demographic change, with an increasing life expectancy and other factors resulting in a larger number of households with only one or two people. One consequence of this is that older people can end up living in inappropriate housing being too large for their needs, with high heating bills and stairs restricting mobility. In addition, this also contributes to the decreasing availability of housing for the growing population. Ultimately, this can lead to unnecessary use of energy and carbon emissions. One potential approach would be to promote downsizing amongst those who live in larger-than-needed properties (defined in relationship to a standard). Some people might choose to live in large properties – for those the question might be for whom could downsizing be rendered an attractive option. For those keen on downsizing, the question is more how it can be realized, i.e. what barriers need to be removed and what help given. In any case, for those who downsize, this could result in significant release of equity (for home owners) or reduced rent, in addition to lower bills and potentially more suitable accommodation in terms of access and mobility. Potential benefits for the wider population would be greater availability of housing stock. This paper will address this issue in different ways. Firstly, empirical data will be presented on the effect of housing size on energy consumption. A sample of N = 991 households, approximately representative for the English population, is analysed with regard to the impact of housing size and housing type on energy consumption. Results show that those two predictors are of greatest importance, and together explain about 29% of the variability in the log-transformed annual energy consumption, surpassing all other variables. In addition, the analysis calculates the amount of under- and overpopulation of housing to give an estimate of the distribution of living space. Secondly, the paper will discuss the benefits of downsizing for the population. A detailed literature review is performed. The results address the benefits of downsizing and highlight which factors would promote downsizing. One issue that has been shown previously, was that those who could downsize felt that little adequate alternative housing was available. Also, general potential effects are discussed, such as freed up living space, and issues of intergenerational justice. Thirdly, the paper will look beyond downsizing at other options such as co-housing, creating multiple-generation homes, or taking a lodger. The prevalence of these schemes will be discussed, and their potential highlighted.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: Size and the City: The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand and increasing quality of life
Event: BIWAES 2015: Biennial International Workshop Advances in Energy Studies 2015, 4-7 May 2015, Stockholm, Sweden
Dates: 04 May 2015 - 07 May 2015
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://biwaes.uniparthenope.it/BIWAES2015/BIWAES_2...
Language: English
Additional information: This is the published version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
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/1502251
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