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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Changing to Low Carbon Buildings: A critical analysis of the viability and effectiveness of European Directives in the building sector to cut greenhouse gas emissions

J Wicker

Changing to Low Carbon Buildings: A critical analysis of the viability and effectiveness of European Directives in the building sector to cut greenhouse gas emissions

What are the main barriers to the low carbon transformation of the existing housing stock in the UK? How can this transformation be optimized at each level of implementation? And what could decision makers do to facilitate the uptake of low carbon measures in houses? To begin, an assessment of the viability of the EPBD in driving the change to low carbon buildings in each member state was carried as well as a review of current measures in the UK related to the reduction of domestic energy consumption. It was found that the EPBD couldn’t drive significant change in the energy performance of existing houses in member states as it’s only impact was to introduce EPCs. Also, the review proved that although the UK government had put in place appropriate measures, there was still a lot to be done and there was a great need for an optimization of the strategy for change. Then, by combining the findings of an extensive list of past surveys and consultations with data gathered from interviews, an analysis of the existing barriers (whether motivational or practical) to the change of the housing stock for each main category of stakeholders involved (households, government and local authorities, building services) was made. The results showed that the main barriers to a change to low carbon buildings for households were a lack of information and advice, a lack of financial incentives, inconvenience caused by disruptive measures and a lack of trust in building services. In the case of the government and local authorities, the main barriers that were found were related to a lack of coherency between schemes or poor understanding of awareness raising methods while for building services, the main barriers were related to little confidence in the supply chain and in the long term policy direction of the government. Then, by studying the characteristics of socio-technical regimes and by using the useful tool of complementarities theory combined with the findings of the previous analysis on existing barriers, it was possible to identify different points of action to optimize the change such as better information and advice and financial incentives to households, education and training as well as stability in the low carbon refurbishment market for building services and fix higher long term carbon reduction targets with interim targets as a national strategy. Finally, key recommendations for decision makers were drawn from summarizing the potential solutions to the existing barriers. These fell in four categories, finance, information and advice, practicality and policy and are presented in the previous section. Changing to low carbon buildings will require national strategies of EU member states to take a holistic approach and consider the social aspects of change rather than solely focusing on technology.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.