UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


UK housing policies - moving towards the achievement of shared objectives using System Dynamics

30 November 2016

 By Yekatherina Bobrova 


Michael Davies

Hector Altamirano


This project used a participatory System Dynamics methodology to evaluate how to move towards the achievement of the shared objectives of reducing environmental impacts from dwellings and fuel poverty reductions in the UK. The work investigated reducing energy demand through improvements in energy efficiency of building envelope and heating systems in existing dwellings as ways  of tackling climate change; and reducing fuel poverty. The dynamics behind change in fuel prices has also been taken into account as one of the main drivers of fuel poverty. 

The research took a holistic systems thinking approach to understanding these issues. Understanding feedback structures in the system made it possible to analyse which elements in the system are responsible for observed behaviour. A housing system has various goals (such as GHG reductions or increase in affordability) and several previous studies had concluded that achieving individual goals without consideration of a wider system could lead to a range of unforeseen consequences. That is also true for goals of energy efficiency improvements and fuel poverty reduction. For instance, several papers observed that even though implementation of energy efficiency policies lead to increase in the efficiency of housing stock, other factors in the system such as unequal distribution of such improvements towards higher income households together with constant increases in fuel prices could actually lead to increase in fuel poverty. 

The project found that objectives of energy efficiency improvements and fuel poverty reductions are highly interconnected, however implementation of policies to achieve them could lead to counter-productive results for each other. Insights from this study could make it possible to propose policies that could achieve both objectives, at the same time maximising possible benefits whilst making negative trade-offs more explicit.