UCL Energy Institute


The transition to a low carbon economy must be led by academic research

9 July 2012

Energy consumption, carbon intensity  and CO2 emissions from buildings.

Leading UK and international academics believe a progressive research programme is vital to ensure that policies, such as the UK’s newly launched Green Deal, are backed by evidence and data, and that systems are in place to monitor, evaluate and adapt such policies.

‘Next Challenges for Energy and Buildings Research’, a special issue published by scientific journal Building Research and Information (BRI) on Monday 9 July, explores how the international research community is responding to the far-reaching implications of strategic environmental and energy policy objectives and emerging policy responses, including the UK policy objective to ‘make the transition to a low carbon economy while maintaining energy security, and minimising costs to consumers’ (The DECC Carbon Plan, 2011).

Key governmental and international bodies – the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), equivalent bodies in a range of countries including Germany,Japan, the USA, China, as well as the EU; and the International Energy Agency (IEA) - see harnessing the potential of the Built Environment as central to this enterprise.

Professor Bob Lowe, Deputy Director of the University College London’s Energy Institute and guest editor of the special issue said:

‘The key question posed by this special issue is how to ensure that policies like the Green Deal are backed by evidence, founded on reliable technical data, and that we have the systems in place to monitor, evaluate and adapt such policies in the light of changing circumstances and emerging knowledge.

‘The research community is seen as central to all of these, and yet there is a currently a misalignment between the research community and how their work supports public policy. This international journal puts forward a case to promote a progressive research programme.

The risk, in the absence of such a programme, is that strategic goals for the energy and environmental performance of the built environment and the wider economy will not be met.’

The case made in the journal is for a research programme to promote the following:

  • learning from other research communities, for example the medical community to provide independent assessment and assimilation of scientific evidence
  • a renewed emphasis on empirical data including measurement of basic technical properties of buildings and building systems
  • making more intensive use of existing sources of energy-related data
  • changing the culture and practice of research to support greater interdisciplinarity, closer engagement between researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders and ensure more rapid translation of results and insights from research to the rest of the economy
  • addressing ‘structural’ or contextual factors that influence energy demand and research, drawing particularly on social sciences
  • formulating a process of research translation to support policy makers, practitioners and the public.

The BRI special issue ‘Next Challenges for Energy and Buildings Research’,
Vol 40 number 4, will be available online from Monday 9 July 2012: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rbri20/current
The editorial is available free.

The guest editors of this special issue are UCL Energy Institute academics Professor Bob Lowe and Dr Alex Summerfield.

A range of images and the articles are available on request.

Full list of articles in the special issue:

Editorial: Challenges and future directions for energy and buildings research
A.J. Summerfield and Robert Lowe

Alternative scenarios for energy conservation in the building stock
Niklaus Kohler and Uta Hassler

Building energy efficiency for sustainable development in China: challenges and opportunities
Baizhan Li and Runming Yao

Research and evidence needs for decarbonisation in the built environment: a UK case study
Jim Skea

Appraisal of UK funding frameworks for energy research in housing
Rajat Gupta and Matthew Gregg

Building communities: reducing energy use in tenanted commercial property
C.J. Axon, S.J. Bright, T.J. Dixon, K.B. Janda, and M. Kolokotroni

Energy and buildings research: challenges from the new production of knowledge   
Thomas Berker and Srikrishna Bharathi

Beyond the technical: a snapshot of energy and buildings research
Libby Schweber and Roine Leiringer

Municipal planning of a sustainable neighbourhood: action research and stakeholder dialogues
Helen Jøsok Gansmo

Modelling frameworks for delivering low carbon cities: advocating a normalised practice
Carlos Calderon and James Keirstead

Building energy models and assessment systems at the district and city scales: a review
Loeiz Bourdic and Serge Salat

Towards a neighbourhood scale for low or zero carbon building projects
Andreas Koch, Sébastien Girard, Kevin McKoen

Notes for editors:
· For more information or to interview Professor Bob Lowe or Editor of BRI Richard Lorch please contact Ellie Jones in the UCL Energy Institute on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9027,  e-mail: e.jones@ucl.ac.uk
· Professor Bob Lowe has been Deputy Director and Professor of Energy and Building Science at the University College London Energy Institute since June 2009. He is a physicist with a broad interest in the field of buildings, energy and sustainability.
· Dr Alex Summerfield has extensive research experience in the handling and analysis of large datasets from building and energy surveys. He is an Honorary Lecturer at the UCL Energy Institute, and is currently located in Brisbane, Australia.

About Building Research and Information Journal

Building Research and Information (BRI) Journal is an international refereed journalfocused on buildings and their supporting systems. BRI takes a trans-disciplinary approach to building and the complexity of issues involving the built environment with other systems over the course of their life. http://www.rbi.co.uk

About the UCL Energy Institute:

Founded in June 2009, the UCL Energy Institute (UCL-Energy) was established as UCL’s response to the global challenges of mitigating climate change and providing energy security in the 21st century. UCL-Energy, which sits within the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at UCL, brings together different perspectives, understandings and procedures in energy research, transcending the boundaries between academic disciplines. It coordinates multidisciplinary teams from across the University, with the aim of accelerating the transition to a globally sustainable energy system through world-class energy research, education and policy support. www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/energy | Follow us on Twitter @ucl_energy

About the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment

The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment is part of University College London and is named after the original benefactor, Sir Herbert Bartlett.  The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment is the UK's largest and leading multidisciplinary faculty of the built environment covering architecture, planning, construction and projectmanagement, development planning, environmental design as well as many other specialist fields. In the UK's 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) overall it had the greatest proportion of 4* or world-leading research in the field.

About UCL (University College London)

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has 24,000 students from almost 140 countries, and more than 9,500 employees. Our annual income is over £800 million. www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews

Image: Energy consumption, carbon intensity and CO2 emissions from buildings.  Source: Committee on Climate Change (2010). Taken from the article 'Research and evidence needs for decarbonisation in the built environment: a UK case study' by Jim Skea.