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“You don’t want to do it like that”: household energy efficiency as an innovation challenge for the construction industry

Wednesday 9 November 2016, 16.00-17.15
School of Earth & Environment Seminar Rooms (8.119)
Dr Gavin Killip (Senior Researcher, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Sustainability Seminar hosted by SRI


UK policy for household energy efficiency has historically been designed around individual measures (eg loft insulation, cavity wall insulation), which are minimally disruptive to install and which have relatively short payback periods. The potential for these ‘easy wins’ is not yet fully realised, but that potential not large enough to meet the scale of required technology changes implicit in ambitious climate change targets. A different approach is needed to move beyond the logic of ‘easy wins’ and individual measures.

The sub-sector of construction which delivers repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) services to households has the potential to drive significant shifts in energy consumption in our homes, based on its annual output and market presence, and confirmed by several case studies of innovative firms and projects. However, the market for energy retrofit work within RMI is relatively very small, and the RMI sector is highly fragmented, notoriously conservative, and bound up in complex supply chains.

Can energy policy and industrial strategy be re-imagined to engage with this under-studied and apparently unpromising sector? How might innovation (of products, processes and practices) be fostered and diffused to create a service sector capable of delivering and maintaining a genuinely low-carbon housing stock?


Gavin is an inter-disciplinary researcher interested in finding solutions for a more sustainable built environment. He takes a broad ‘socio-technical systems’ approach to investigating how technology and behaviour evolve and affect each other, with the ultimate goal of proposing positive change by understanding better the workings of complex systems.

Gavin’s main research focus has been on existing housing in the context of climate change mitigation – investigating how 2050 climate change targets might be met through the markets for property (sales and rentals) and repair, maintenance and improvement. He is also active in the field of research on multiple benefits of energy efficiency, and on more general issues of governance for a low-carbon transition.

Gavin joined the Environmental Change Institute (University of Oxford) in 2004, where he completed his PhD and has worked on numerous research projects in the UK and abroad. He has reduced energy consumption and CO2 emissions in his own 1908 home by 60% through major refurbishment.

Directions to the Venue

School of Earth and Environment Seminar Rooms (8.119). At the Earth and Environment Reception take the door on the right-hand side. The Seminar Rooms are immediately on the left.

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