Sue Bright is working on the rules around how flats are owned and managed, and how those rules affect the installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. Sue is working with David Weatherall, an expert in energy efficiency policy (Future Climate/Energy Saving Trust) and  collaborating with TLT Solicitors (Mark Routley, Partner), Westminster City Council and Dr Frankie McCarthy at Glasgow University.

Sue's current research work in this area, focused on the Oxford Tower Blocks (see below), is funded under the John Fell Fund, while her work on the related policy issues with David Weatherall is funded under an ESRC Impact Accelerator Grant.

Context

Twenty-one percent of English homes and 38% of Scottish homes are flats[1] [2].  Flats are typically self-contained units within horizontally divided larger buildings. The dimension of ‘owning part within a whole’ raises interesting theoretical and practical issues about the nature of property ownership and responsibility to others.   Nowhere do these  issues become more relevant than when energy improvements (such as upgrades to insulation or the installation of solar panels) are considered or planned for a block of flats.

Energy improvements in blocks of flats are important to ensure the UK meets our national carbon reduction targets and to protect flat residents from cold homes and high energy bills. But, currently, we are failing to make some energy improvements in flats at the same rate as we are making them in houses. The least energy efficient - and most dangerously cold - homes in the English stock are flats in converted houses and, overall, blocks of flats see lower levels of retrofitted insulation and double glazing than houses.[3]

Sue's research in this area is primarily concerned with the questions:

            * How, and to what extent, do ownership and management ("governance") arrangements in blocks of flats affect the installation of energy upgrades?

            * At a more theoretical level, how can ownership of flats be re-imagined to help mitigate the governance barriers to energy improvements and other building improvements that are socially important?

Scotland, Europe and the Wider World

Scottish property law and management practices for blocks of flats are very different from  the law and management practices in England and Wales. There is also wide variation in property law applying to blocks of flats across Europe and globally.  As well as her own studies and collaborations focused primarily on the situation in England and Wales, Sue is working with Frankie McCarthy on the issues around energy and governance of flats in Scotland, and with an emerging trans-national consortium of energy specialists and property lawyers on the comparative issues across Europe.

Policy Impacts

Based on her academic research and as the focus of her collaboration with David Weatherall - Sue is also working on the practical policy question of how property law in England and Wales could be reformed to remove barriers to energy upgrades in blocks of flats.  

Current Research project: the Oxford Tower Blocks

Sue is working with Dr Roxana Willis on the issues around energy efficiency improvements made as part of the refurbishment of the five tower blocks in the city of Oxford.

[1] English Housing Survey

[2} Scottish House Condition Survey

[3] English Housing Survey

 

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