Network members activities
Icon enhr-2022-to-avoid-the-perception-trap

ENHR 2022 | To avoid the perception trap

Posted on 10-09-2022

Housing across Europe is facing rapidly growing challenges, and most of these challenges go beyond construction, financing and management. They also extend to technology adaptation, policy changes, environmental threats and post-disaster and pandemic recovery. During the last week of August, more than 300 projects and contributions from all over Europe were presented to discuss these challenges and to show where we currently stand in terms of housing.   The European Network for Housing Research (ENHR), founded three decades ago with the aim of improving the quality and relevance of European housing research, has concluded its annual conference. This year, Barcelona was the destination for more than 360 participants. The conference, which spanned four days discussing the struggle for the right to housing, the pressures of globalisation and affordability in cities today, was a success in every respect. Plenary sessions, site visits, interactive presentations and more than 25 types of workshops covered a list of housing-related topics that I cannot even begin to list and explain. However, I will try to articulate some of my thoughts that emerged during the conference in relation to my research project.   The colour, nature and responsibility It is fascinating how we make sense of our surroundings and perceive reality - my understanding is that we have labelled everything, even our problems and its possible solutions. We have harmed our planet, so we said 'environmental problems', and to deal with these problems we have created a dozen concepts, including green building, blue building, sustainable building and so on.   At the fifth plenary session of the ENHR it was suggested that there is a 'green challenge' and that to 'solve' it we need innovative design of sustainable housing. I can agree with the last part, but not the first. Sustainability is a wicked problem, and its solution should have no colours. Jeremy Till, Professor of Architecture at the University of the Arts London, explains that the definition of the words we use could become a trap we need to avoid. I think this is a very effective way of dismantling the problem at hand and rethinking the meanings and perception of our terminology. I could argue that we need to look beyond the obvious meanings to discuss the essence of sustainability. I believe that sustainability is a tricky issue that cannot be magically or individually 'solved', but what we can do is contribute to the discussion.   “The problem at hand is neither amusing nor provocative; it is a serious problem that we all face. We must speak up, no matter who we upset in the process.” (Till, 2022)   We must accept our responsibility and understand that the contribution must come from all stakeholders, without excluding them. Government officials, private developers, citizens and researchers all have their share of responsibility. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we no longer have the power of choice and that there is no 'Planet B', even if our words are harsh and loud.   “We all carry a great responsibility to look beyond individuality in what we do; to succeed, we must join our efforts at all levels. We should do and contribute what we can, so that there will be better future for the next generations to come.” (Heindl, 2022)   Gabu Heindl, Professor of Urbanism and head of GABU Heindl Architektur in Vienna, explains that the work we do must be collective and that we must combine our efforts across all borders. I can only agree with that! I could add that the conventional approaches have worked so far, but they are no longer sufficient. There should be neither a top-down nor a bottom-up approach. The field should be level and the responsibility evenly distributed. The researcher should lead the way by creating clear and simple language and breaking through the walls of individuality. We need to rethink transdisciplinarity and the transferability of the knowledge we create. Before we suggest how to solve a wicked problem, we should talk to each other. So more ENHRs are needed, and perhaps we should set broader goals and call for a global network for housing research.   References HEINDL, GABU. 2022. Plenary Session 5 – Solving the Green Challenge: Innovative Design for Sustainable Housing, ENHR, Barcelona. TILL, JEREMY. 2022. Plenary Session 5 – Solving the Green Challenge: Innovative Design for Sustainable Housing, ENHR, Barcelona.

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)

Conferences, Reflections

Icon a-turning-point-conversation-on-portuguese-public-dwellings-design-is-it-some-kind-of-feminism

A Turning Point Conversation on Portuguese Public Dwellings Design, Is it some kind of Feminism?

Posted on 06-09-2022

You know those kinds of conversations that are filled with enthusiasm and passion. It's one of those moments that proves to you: yes! Passion exists and it works!   This time it was passion for design as a tool to indirectly empower people and their sense of belonging. It's about promoting social justice!   Currently in Lisbon, there are several affordable rent programmes "Programa de Renda Acessível" (PRA) run by the City Council in view of the high rent prices in the city. Some programmes are public-private partnerships like this initiative. Other programmes are purely public investments from start to finish, where people can apply for rental housing through this website, for example.   My co-supervisor Dr Vasco Moreira Rato from ISCTE - where I had my secondment - is also chief advisor to Lisbon City Councillor on Housing and Public Works, Filipa Roseta. Dealing at the front line with housing issues, the discussions with him were very informative, practical and honest, both from the research and the authorities' point of view. In the process, he wanted to show me an example of how parametric design can benefit public housing in the context of affordability to determine the suitable design parameters within a certain budget while responding to various requirements.       And here comes one of those memorable and inspiring conversations as a Marie Curie ESR.   I had a fruitful conversation with the architects Susana Rato and Joana Couto from SRU (Sociedade de Reabilitação Urbana). They were responsible for preparing the Public Housing concept design for low-cost housing projects that are fully financed by the public sector.  They explained what, why and how they created this schematic design to achieve ambitious design goals within a certain given construction budget. They had a limited budget of about 1000 euros per square metre for construction. Thus, they exploited the power of geometric parametrisation to determine appropriate modern design parameters while meeting the various requirements such as space ratios, areas, technical requirements and regulations.       It is interesting to note that one of the main objectives of this schematic design process is to ensure that future residents feel comfortable where they live and to support their right to live in affordable, durable and beautiful homes.   How did they do so?   They ensured that the spatial needs of different family structures were accommodated by adhering to Portuguese building codes and regulations. As two Portuguese ladies, they questioned the design as if this house would be their own house, that of their relatives or the future home of their children. They insisted on providing terraces for each living unit as an extension of the house to connect the residents with nature, which benefits their soul and mind. They also know that Portuguese people love being outside. Various services have also been proposed, such as a shared laundry room and a communal room. For buildings in neighbourhoods where there are no kindergartens, a kindergarten on the ground floor was proposed.   They worked with energy specialists to design energy-efficient building envelopes, define the technical requirements for walls, doors and windows, and decide on the appropriate renewable energy and water heating techniques. In addition, the distribution of daylight in the interior spaces was investigated. A construction economist accompanied all steps of their design journey, simultaneously calculating construction costs and investigating economic feasibility to modify the design accordingly without compromising the quality and performance requirements of the residential building. This hard work does not negate the fact that they were unable to work with the community itself during the design process due to the tight timeframe of the project. This reflects the reality of many architects in practise. They also expressed their interest in using the possibilities of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the future, as it would have saved them a lot of time in working with other disciplines to complete this project. It would also be an important tool for management and cost control during construction.       When I returned to Sheffield and while attending Doina Petrescu class on feminism research as part of my PhD training.   I immediately remembered Susana and Joana! Now I see their work and enthusiasm as a kind of feminist action – consistent, practical and balanced - advocating the public housing residents' rights and doing the best in the area under their control. I cannot deny that it was admirable and inspirable.       To sum up!   This conversation triggered the turning point of my PhD research. Currently, I am passionately investigating literature to answer how to design a house that promotes household health and wellbeing?   But, Why?   I dream of Affordable Happy Healthy Housing [Why not?]. Can you label a house as sustainable if it is negatively impacting your physical and mental health?   Hmmm, nope. But in reality, it does not sound that simple …   Sim Senhor [Yes Sir in Portuguese] and that is what we are here to contribute to ? See you in the next blog post! Goodbye!       Relevant Sources

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)


Icon sustainable-developments-in-social-housing-a-secondment-at-south-yorkshire-housing-association

Sustainable developments in social housing, a secondment at South Yorkshire Housing Association.

Posted on 18-08-2022

It's been a few months now since I completed my secondment with South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) and writing this post is more difficult than I expected. However, before I continue, I need to clarify some of the key terms mentioned so far. Firstly, a secondment is a defined period of time during which an employee is sent to another organisation to gain experience, increase the workforce or share knowledge (Cambridge, n.d.). A housing association is broadly defined as a society, trust or company that provides, builds, improves or manages housing, or facilitates or promotes the construction of housing, and operates on a not-for-profit basis (HMSO, 1985). Its role has recently expanded to include other social services that focus on vulnerable at-risk groups. Against this background, my work at SYHA has been to research and identify the process of developing sustainable social housing and to participate in real projects to measure housing sustainability and to work with housing associations. Background. The story of South Yorkshire Housing Association begins when founder John Belcher set up Sheffield Family Housing Association to help young homeless families after watching the BBC drama 'Cathy Come Home' in 1972. Almost 50 years later, South Yorkshire Housing Association still builds and manages a range of services, including social housing, affordable rented housing, shared ownership housing and other social support services (SYHA, 2021a). In recent years, SYHA has changed its business model to the concept of "The business is more than housing", focusing on and prioritising other important challenges such as the wellbeing and social needs of its tenants and environmental challenges, in particular climate change, energy efficiency and carbon emissions (SYHA, 2021b). Unlike the conventional 'departmental organisational structure' that follows a strict service typology or structures tailored to role descriptions. SYHA has a unique and dynamic organisational structure guided by the principles of goal setting and services defined as continuous strengthening of resources and improvement of staff performance (SYHA, 2021b, Jacobides, 2007). According to SYHA's latest annual report, total assets owned, managed or under construction amount to more than 6,000 housing units. These include flats, terraced houses, detached houses, semi-detached houses and residential communities (SYHA, 2021c). From strategic plan to theory. Housing is a big part of the climate change problem, accounting for 27 per cent of UK carbon emissions and consuming up to 30 per cent of inland generated energy (DBEIS, 2020). In response, SYHA has developed a strategic plan to achieve the UK's 2050 zero carbon target and help mitigate the impact of climate change on people's health, wellbeing and access to housing (SYHA, 2020). The strategic plan is to (1) identify and calculate the current carbon footprint (2) improve the management of asset data, (3) identify the necessary behavioural changes and engage with end users to reduce their impact on the natural and built environment (read Andreas Panagidis post on participation in planning), (4) improve the energy efficiency of existing homes and tackle fuel poverty (read Tijn Croon post on energy poverty), (5) build new homes to high environmental standards and develop future-proof changes to our current design standard, as well as test new approaches, (6) reduce fossil fuel use across all business areas, (7) update the business plan to respond to various challenges. From theory to practice. In analysing several projects, I have found that SYHA has successfully translated strategic plans into practical guidelines for 'best practice', creating several award-winning projects such as the North Wingfield social housing complex. The guidelines include: (1) Spatial requirements by creating a meeting point between building regulations and actual needs and recognising the different lifestyle preferences of end users, (2) The design of residential neighbourhoods taking into account cultural and natural elements, (3) The connectivity and accessibility of projects and maximising the use of existing infrastructure without depleting resources, (4) Sustainable landscaping and drainage to reduce the impact of artificial landscapes and integrate native components into projects, (5) Modern construction methods that enable safe and fast construction with minimal waste generation.. From practice to research. The main aim of the secondment is to engage the researcher in real projects to measure environmental sustainability and develop a framework for affordable, low-carbon homes. To achieve this goal, I was expected to (1) conduct quantitative and qualitative research and engage with local and international partners and stakeholders, and (2) accurately record and analyse data to provide useful insights for other academics, funders, policy makers and practitioners. I used a variety of research methods such as systematic content analysis, informal interviews and observation. The data collected was analysed from an intervention research perspective. From research to practice. The outcome of the secondment was the development of an online platform that overcomes the challenges and risks identified in the analysis; the platform includes, among other functions, the following. (1) Sustainability practices, by clarifying the principles, tools and structure of environmental sustainability that enhance the existing SYHA project flow chart and overall development processes. (2) Reduce misunderstandings about sustainability and social housing by creating a top-down glossary of terminologies that unifies the language within housing association practices. From SYHA to RE-DWELL. At the end of the secondment, I was able to list and explain the processes used by SYHA and other housing associations in the UK to develop sustainable social housing. The process is complicated and requires extensive analysis of building regulations, policy development and project flow charts. More importantly, I have tested and validated my research gaps to ultimately create valid research questions that respond to real-life challenges. The analysis of SYAH practices provided valuable input for my PhD thesis and helped in the selection of exploratory case studies. All in all, the secondment was an important tool that RE-DWELL used to guide and support my research project. Acknowledgement. The three months I spent at SYHA provided me with great theoretical data, but what was really interesting was meeting the people of SYHA. I received tremendous support from all the team members, and so I have to thank everyone at SYHA and especially Jon Walker, Natalie Newman, Eira Capelan and Robert Milne.     References CAMBRIDGE n.d. Secondment definition In: UNIVERSITY, C. (ed.) Cambridge dictionary. United Kingdom.   DBEIS 2020. Energy Consumption in the UK (ECUK) 1970 to 2019 In: (ONS), O. O. N. S. (ed.) National Statistics. London: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.   HMSO 1985. The Housing Associations Act 1985: Chapter 69. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.   JACOBIDES, M. G. 2007. The inherent limits of organizational structure and the unfulfilled role of hierarchy: Lessons from a near-war. Organization Science, 18, 455-477.   SYHA. 2020. Our Strategic Plan 2020-2023 [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed 2021].   SYHA. 2021a. Our history [Online]. UK. Available: [Accessed].   SYHA. 2021b. Our purpose [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed].   SYHA. 2021c. Who we are [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed].

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)


Icon the-wave-of-participation-bottom-up-and-top-down

The wave of participation: bottom-up and top-down

Posted on 28-07-2022

Last month I had the chance to participate at the conference 'Nature for inclusive Urban Regeneration' organised by URBINAT in Milan. I was very pleased to present my working paper ‘Commoning (in) the Neighbourhood, Righting the City’ and discuss a definition of the Right to the City (R2C) through commoning and the role of the state in this discourse, looking at the case of Lisbon.   The first formulation of R2C dates back to 1960’s Henry Lefebvre (1996), but since then it has been a highly discussed topic and one of the main ideas reclaimed by emancipatory practices and practitioners, including the urban commoners. So, while the definition of the R2C through bottom-up commoning activities in the neighbourhoods clearly entails representations of collective struggles of communities to reclaim the urban value (Borch & Kornberger, 2015), there is a debate among theorists on the role of the state in these negotiations. In other words, the question that emerges is: Can the R2C and commoning be seen in terms of existing state and market principals? Possibly oversimplifying Huron’s (2018) analysis of two antithetical positions by anticapitalists on the one hand and institutionalists on the other, the response would be ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively.   Yet, exploring what lies between binary responses, I would argue, can also reveal radical alternatives. This consideration arose in my research explorations already since our RE-DWELL very first training activity back in September 2021, namely the Lisbon Workshop. There, during a highly engaging open discussion on participatory processes among Early-Stage Researchers, supervisors and representatives from our non-academic partners, Miguel Brito from the Municipality of Lisbon illustrated the notions of bottom-up and top-down initiated participatory processes as a wave. I spent days reflecting on the strength of this expressive image. What does it offer to conceptualise top-down and bottom-up initiated participation, or in extrapolation other emancipatory practices, such as commoning and the R2C, as a wave and what does this meeting serve?   The urgency for this encounter relates to the transformation of knowledge from static, siloed and self-referential that contributes to the preservation of the existing power structures, to dynamic flow between grassroots informal urbanisation and top-down formal urbanisation that can produce new strategies in research and practice. In this way, as Melanie Dodd (2019) explains, in one direction we must consider the ways in which urban activism can transform institutional structures and produce new kinds of institutions; on the other direction, ways that institutional resources can reach disadvantaged sites and transform unhealthy norms ingraining creative intelligence in informal dynamics.   Arguably, these knowledge flows need to be curated until the two notions reach a balance, in which communities remain committed to practicing their R2C and formal urban planning allows for real synergies and transformations to emerge. Until then, a great challenge remains. How to facilitate such dialogues without abandoning one’s radical values or serving unintentionally co-optation agendas?     References   Borch, C., & Kornberger, M. (2015). Urban commons: Rethinking the city. Routledge.    Dodd, M. (2019). Spatial practices: Modes of action and engagement with the city. Taylor & Francis.   Huron, A. (2018). Carving Out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. 1 edn. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press.   Lefebvre, H. (1996). The Right to the City. In E. Lebas, Elizabeth, Kofman (Ed.), Writings on Cities (Vol. 53, Issue 2, p. 260). Mass, USA Blackwell Publishers.

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Conferences, Reflections, Workshops

Icon it-s-pride-month-let-s-talk-about-queering-housing-economics

It's Pride Month! Let's talk about queering housing economics

Posted on 05-06-2022

It’s pride month and we queers get to celebrate our identity. That is, unless we are in one of the 71 countries that still criminalise homosexuality. In fact, in 11 of them not being straight can get you executed. But hey, you don’t need to go to Uganda to get killed for being gay, just going out with your friends can end up with you getting beaten to death as it happened to a 23-year-old last year in my home region. [1]   At least our cheesy teenager romcoms are better, just like Hearstopper on Netflix has proven to the whole world once again. That being said, I’m not here to (just) shame all the straight readers and celebrate queer culture alone. I have something to say about housing economics. Because economics is queer. This is not only because Keynes, the father of macroeconomics whose birthday is today, was a queer himself (and a Gemini) but because economic inequalities affect sexual minorities harder.  But enough about Keynes's hook-up list which proves that gay sex was already ubiquitous even before Grindr. [2]   I want to draw your attention to some facts. The charity AKT reports that as many as 24% of young (aged 16 to 25) homeless people in the UK are LGBT+. This is a more than worrisome figure given queers are less than 10% of the population. Abuse, poverty and exclusion are still the daily realities of many a queer youth. Please have a look at their latest report here. [3] [4] [5]   However, the discrimination of queer people is not only tangible in homelessness but permeates housing provision tout court. According to research by Freddie Mac, the government agency tasked with expanding the secondary market for mortgages in the US, LGBT ownership lags behind the general population. 49% of LGBT community members are likely to own a home, considerably lower than the current national rate (64.3).  Gays and lesbians are the most likely to own (52%) “while LGBT African-Americans (30 per cent) and LGBT Millennials (23 per cent) were the least likely to be homeowners.” [6]   Homeownership has come to occupy a central role in wealth building and welfare provision, particularly for the middle classes and those well-off. This is a direct result of a set of housing policies, including mortgage interest deduction and lack of capital gain tax, often enacted by governments across the political spectrum. Problematising the distributional impact of these policies on queer households is paramount to the reformulation of housing provision.   You can now go click on Keyne’s hook-up list, which together with his latest biography by Zachary D. Carter is not to be missed.    [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Author: A.Fernandez (ESR12)


Icon novel-approaches-to-participation-in-planning

Novel approaches to participation in planning

Posted on 11-05-2022

During my recent secondment at the University of Reading, School of Architecture I was lucky enough to participate in the Urban Room, part of the Community Consultation for Quality of Life (CCQoL) research project in the UK.[i] The ongoing research project is taking place during the development of four pilot projects in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and brings together community groups, academic researchers, industry partners and local authorities, with the aim of improving the process of community consultation (CC) in planning. In Reading, it was a great opportunity to see how the issues mentioned above were being tackled “on the ground” so to speak, where local community groups were given a real space to meet and discuss important local issues.   During my experience of the Urban Room, I found the process of mapping social value combined with face-to-face engagement particularly important tools placed in the hands of citizens as much as experts in understanding and enhancing social value when undertaking processes of community consultation. The co-design of maps emphasises how people can have their say in creating a resource of local knowledge aimed at revealing the hidden attributes that benefit communities. As the map began to be populated with responses, I noticed how people’s feelings, now spatially strewn across different parts of the city, became a process of learning about and connecting with each other. Concurrently, the opportunity for people to casually meet in physical space has proven that face-to-face encounter still is incredibly necessary.   Both processes have indicated how important it can be to have control and power to take decisions collectively, rather than individually, as other researchers have noted.[ii] In focus group discussions, it has been made clear by community representatives that in real community consultation processes the community needs to there from the beginning as much as possible, pointing to the need for transparency, and for taking the “peoples’ pace”, highlighting the need for patience. These observations come in a time of rapid technological innovation and adoption of digital mediums both in data collection, consultation, design and visualisation, related to planning decisions that influence the development of quality of life in housing and neighbourhoods.   Recently, public-private partnerships in the development of housing and neighbourhoods seem to be growing but the methods of participation in planning that focus on the needs and aspirations of communities are just beginning to be updated. The processes of collaborative decision-making by involving communities directly and from the early stages have become increasingly important in the built environment disciplines. Yet, physical, technocratic design concerns seem to be dominant and perhaps easier to evaluate than the accumulated complexity of interactions that make social value at the neighbourhood scale. The integration of a set of social participation- with design-oriented guidelines is necessary.   A growing interest is observed in Urban Living labs (ULLs) as a physical setting and a methodology, with more emphasis placed on real-life settings of experimentation and collaboration between different stakeholders. Collaborative knowledge production and citizen-driven innovation in urban sustainability transitions is often prioritised. ULLs focused on innovation in urban planning processes, are being defined by the term City Labs.[iii] The influential research currently underway on community engagement in Urban Rooms is an exciting and promising trajectory for innovation in participatory planning that shares aspects of the ULLs/City Labs by involving communities, built environment professionals and local councils in collaborative and interactive arrangements. Perhaps the ULLs/City Labs approach, as an extension of the Urban Room concept, presents the opportunity of placing more emphasis on experimentation, involving new tools and methods that enhance participation and lead to co-creation of social value at the neighbourhood level.           [i] [ii] [iii] Scholl, C., & Kemp, R. (2016). City labs as vehicles for innovation in urban planning processes. Urban Planning, 1(4), 89-102.

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)


Icon rebuild-2022-madrid-the-foundations-are-set-for-a-promising-construction-industry

Rebuild 2022 Madrid | The foundations are set for a promising construction industry

Posted on 03-05-2022

In a rapidly changing world where the world’s urban population is increasing by 200,000 people per day and the global carbon emissions of the construction sector are 30%, there is a pressing need to provide an affordable and sustainable housebuilding industry. The integration of modern innovative techniques in the construction sector can allow the rise of productivity and a higher democratisation of the built environment, having a direct impact on global economic, environmental, and societal issues. The Rebuild 2022 Conference that took in Madrid was an exciting event centred in how to boost the construction industry through innovation, circularity, and private-public investment. I found interesting to see the varied perspectives from different stakeholders of the construction business from construction companies, suppliers and fabricators to public entities, developers, architects, and software designers. All of them showed their particular response to the challenges the sector is undergoing from their own experience. Nevertheless, their different approaches converged in the necessity to increase the optimisation of processes, the required collaboration between all stakeholders and the need to embrace a full digitisation of the construction industry. The main topics discussed during the three-day conference were industrialisation, digitisation, and sustainability.   Industrialisation In order to meet the demand that the construction industry requires, we cannot continue building in a traditional way. An industrialisation of the business is needed to achieve the scalability of solutions and the adoption of lean construction methods. It is necessary to unify the architecture design with the constructive process from the initial stages. The selection of the MMC (Modern Method of Construction) and the logistics will have an influence on the design. Therefore, it is essential to invite the contractor, engineers and fabricators to collaborate with the developer and design team from the beginning to allow for an integrated project delivery and to optimise the manufacturing process. Most of the companies working in the housebuilding industry agreed that a system based on 2D components prefabricated off-site was the most effective currently, as it allowed for greater flexibility while at the same time reduced the construction time and minimised errors, keeping the transportation costs lower than with 3D elements. A few companies advocated that the use of 3D elements was beneficial when the room was a very compact one (e.g. bathrooms) and there were a high number of identical instances (e.g. hospitality industry).   Digitisation The fourth industrial revolution has accelerated dramatically the productivity in other industrial sectors, as the automotive, naval or aerospace, while in the construction sector the levels of automation are generally still low. In these industries, the use of the digital twin is the main driver of development and continuous learning. Several industry professionals pointed out that the lack of digital implementation in the construction industry has been one of the reasons why industrialised construction has not been broadly implemented in multi-family housing yet in Spain. Construction has always been a collaborative practice but without an adequate digitisation, it will remain fragmented. New innovations in technology should be implemented into the housebuilding industry as an added value to the sector and to the user. Some examples that could help in the digitisation of the industry would be the use of digital twins, allowing for traceability and monitoring throughout the design and construction process, increasing precision and minimising waste; the use of BIM as a design tool, data collector and collaborative environment, being able to give precise quantities and pricing from initial design stages, avoiding important price variations; or the introduction of automation and robotics to substitute manual labour in repetitive and dangerous activities.   Sustainability Decarbonization, net-zero buildings, and the use of wood as a circular material were some of the hot topics on the sustainability agenda. Likewise, the evaluation of LCCA (Life Cycle Cost Analysis)  and LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) have become vital to be able to make the right choices from the beggining. Sustainability, innovation, and technology are essential to overcome obsolescence, but to do so it is necessary to monitor the consumption throughout the entire building’s lifespan. In the race against climate change, wood is gaining greater support in the Spanish construction industry. A sector that has been for decades strongly defined by its concrete production, is starting to become aware of the advantages of building with circular materials. The industry has not only recognized that wood is a renewable material that retains heat, absorbs CO2, lasts longer, and can be recycled, but as well that it has a positive effect on the user’s physical and mental health, improving their wellbeing. Important housing developers are planning to reduce the CO2 emissions by 80% in their ongoing projects by using hybrid construction in wood, by increasing their level of industrialisation, and by improving their digitisation. Construtech companies are offering end-to-end services using platforms that integrate through technology all the stakeholders in a sustainable supply chain.   The construction sector has opened their eyes to realize what architects have been pursuing for a century. A user-centric approach where the wellbeing, passive design criteria and the planet are key in the decision-making. With the difference that today we have the technology and innovation to accept these challenges in an efficient way, monitoring and measuring our progress to take firm steps towards a more environmental, societal, and economic sustainability.   The Rebuild 2022 Conference showcased that the construction sector is in an exciting moment of transformation. The industry has laid the foundations to progress into a more industrialised, collaborative, efficient, and technological sector, to be able to offer sustainable and democratic quality housing at an affordable price.

Author: C.Martín (ESR14)


Icon bridging-research-and-practice-during-secondment-at-clarion

Bridging research and practice during secondment at Clarion

Posted on 08-04-2022

One of the main objectives of transdisciplinary research is the collaboration between academics and practitioners in trying to solve societal issues. This approach is particularly welcome in the field of fuel poverty[1], as the key role of housing associations generally remains overlooked while a significant share of their tenants cannot afford domestic energy services. In addition, the body of scholarship on fuel poverty measurement has grown rapidly, but its use in practice has hardly been addressed (Bouzarovski, Thomson, & Cornelis, 2021). During my secondment at the research department of Clarion, the UK’s biggest housing association, I have tried to explore and combat these mismatches.   Ever since Brenda Boardman (1991) wrote her famous work on fuel poverty, the UK has been at the forefront of the policy agenda (Middlemiss, 2017). It also has the longest tradition of relevant research with almost a third of scientific publications up to date authored by UK scholars (Xiao, Wu, Wang, & Mei, 2021). In my view, this knowledge advantage is also reflected by the fact that professionals in all walks of the organisation were fully acquainted with the term and Clarion’s predecessor Affinity Sutton had already developed its first ‘fuel poverty vulnerability indicator’ back in 2013. Together with my peers, I examined whether and, if so, how the vulnerability indicator could be aligned and adapted to the latest scientific findings, recent regulatory changes, and daily operations.   Encouraged by my supervisor Dr Elanor Warwick, I started my secondment reaching out to as many new colleagues as possible. This resulted in dozens of very engaging informal conversations that helped me a lot, not only in my investigation for Clarion, but certainly also in my wider academic exploration. I believe these practical insights will steer my research trajectory to a more impactful course. Field visits to Wisbech and Tonbridge, where Clarion’s whole house retrofits are co-financed by the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator, introduced me to day-to-day operations on the ground. The measures consisted of applying triple glazing, external wall and loft insulation, as well as environmentally friendly technologies such as air source heat pumps, solar panels and centralised mechanical ventilation. Besides reduction of carbon emissions, the upgrade will save tenants between £300 and £500 on fuel bills each year (savings will be much higher with the current price peaks).   After six weeks of informal interviews with professionals about the targeting of retrofits, practical barriers in home improvement and energy advice for tenants, I felt that I reached a satisfactory degree of saturation. Gradually it had become clearer that although the vulnerability indicator was very holistic, methodologically innovative, and had provided valuable insights into the fuel poverty experienced by tenants in 2013, its use in practice was limited. In my view, there are various possible explanations for this, amongst which the following: 1.) the used formula was not exactly intuitive and understandable for the end-user, which could have impeded take-up; 2.) heavy weighting of some variables was difficult to justify due to data quality concerns; 3.) low-scale results (preferably building block level) were not easily accessible.   To improve interpretability across the organisation, I suggested to differentiate the vulnerability indicator into two different ones: one easy-to-understand binary indicator based on income and energy efficiency and thus aligned with the LILEE indicator of the Department of BEIS (2022), and one more holistic scale indicator that would also take into account socio-demographic and health characteristics. The results of the binary indicator would be suitable for monitoring and external reporting but could also inform retrofit decision-making, especially when bidding for public funding schemes. On the other hand, the scale indicator promised be an appropriate tool to flag specific households for interventions from the energy guidance team and neighbourhood response officers or for extended support during retrofit works.   To enhance reliability, I recommended the research team to include an indicative proxy question on fuel poverty in the next annual survey. During my secondment I conducted statistical analyses on data from the last conducted survey, and found that the question “How easy do you find it to keep your home at a comfortable temperature?” came closest. However, a more unequivocal alternative would be the question asked to respondents all across Europe by Eurostat (2021): “Can you afford to heat your home?” This way, the response relates directly to affordability, and cannot be interpreted differently (like the user-friendliness of the thermostat). While surveyed responses in the context of fuel poverty remain culturally biased (Thomson, Bouzarovski, & Snell, 2017), comparing the results from both indicators with the perception among those tenants would increase their validity. Together with other qualitative techniques this would also advance the understanding of lived experiences of tenants in fuel poverty.   To conclude, I think the secondment component is one of the greatest things about MSCA-ITNs, because they smoothly blend research and practice together. My future research direction has altered for the better because of my experiences at Clarion, and at the same time I have been able to share academic insights early on in my doctoral programme. Therefore, I am delighted to keep working with Clarion on these topics in the coming months and years, as I will be assisting the team in drafting an updated fuel poverty strategy and will return to London later this year for a comparative focus group study.   [1] Since the term ‘fuel poverty’ is common in the UK, I prefer to use it in this context. Across mainland Europe the term ‘energy poverty’ is increasingly used.     References   BEIS. (2022). Methodology handbook LILEE with projection. Retrieved from   Boardman, B. (1991). Fuel Poverty: From Cold Homes to Affordable Warmth. London: Pinter Pub Limited.   Bouzarovski, S., Thomson, H., & Cornelis, M. (2021). Confronting Energy Poverty in Europe: A Research and Policy Agenda. Energies, 14(4). doi:10.3390/en14040858   Eurostat. (2021). Can you afford to heat your home? [Press release]. Retrieved from   Middlemiss, L. (2017). A critical analysis of the new politics of fuel poverty in England. Critical Social Policy, 37(3), 425-443.   Thomson, H., Bouzarovski, S., & Snell, C. (2017). Rethinking the measurement of energy poverty in Europe: A critical analysis of indicators and data. Indoor Built Environ, 26(7), 879-901. doi:10.1177/1420326X17699260   Xiao, Y., Wu, H., Wang, G., & Mei, H. (2021). Mapping the Worldwide Trends on Energy Poverty Research: A Bibliometric Analysis (1999-2019). Int J Environ Res Public Health, 18(4). doi:10.3390/ijerph18041764

Author: T.Croon (ESR11)


Icon community-participation-in-the-provision-of-affordable-and-sustainable-housing-discussing-inclusion-exclusion

Community participation in the provision of affordable and sustainable housing | discussing inclusion/exclusion

Posted on 05-04-2022

The third RE-DWELL network-wide activity took place in Budapest, at the Centre for Social Sciences. Each one of the network activities falls under a specific thematic, indicating where the focus of each of our common activities would be. The first two - the Lisbon workshop and the Nicosia summer school-, were revolving around the area of ‘design, planning, and building’ while the next two - Budapest's workshop and the upcoming Valencia summer school- will focus on ‘community participation’.   Community participation in housing provision is pursued by communities eager to build housing that fits their needs, values, and desires. This can manifest itself in material terms, understanding housing as a physical space that should meet economic demands, long-term affordability, or spatial configurations that address the needs of their dwellers. Parallelly, through the active participation of the communities, broader concepts are also being addressed, such as environmental and social sustainability. The entanglement of those two concepts has to be defined by each community, encompassing their habits, practices, and modes of living and having as a final aim their individual and collective wellbeing.   We participated in a roundtable about “Community participation in the provision of affordable and sustainable housing” with experts from the field, Jenny Pickerill, professor of environmental geography and head of the department of geography at the University of Sheffield, and Richard Lang, professor of social enterprise and innovative regions at Bertha von Suttner University in Austria. The discussion revolved around cooperative housing in  UK and Austria. Both countries are considered to be at the forefront in the provision of cooperative housing in Europe. However, they are different contexts of study, in terms of socio-cultural, political, and legal frameworks. Austria appears to have a more supportive institutional environment compared to the UK, coming from a long tradition of accommodating different groups, such as immigrants, into the cooperative housing schemes.   A central issue within this field is the question of the inclusion of cooperative housing schemes and their institutionalisation. Are these models accessible for people with fewer resources (economic, social, cultural) or are they reproducing the existing power configurations (economic and social status), silencing inequalities, and excluding certain social groups? To arrive at conclusions, it is important to understand how cooperative housing emerges in different contexts, which are the objectives and motivations behind it? Who ends up living in these places? and most importantly, do they finally provide an affordable alternative to housing for the local population of a specific area?   We encounter two broad categories for the creation of cooperative housing; the first refers to self-initiated groups that make decisions based on consensus, adopting often self-built approaches. The initial group could either have a ‘closed’ composition, maintaining its homogeneity, or reach out to the local population for joining the cooperative. However, a recurring question is: does anyone have the same right to access these groups of housing co-creation? Another question is if different groups receive the same recognition, institutional support, and security regarding their housing conditions, or if when entering the institutional framework certain groups are being favoured at the expense of others.   The second category refers to the promotion of cooperative housing that is being intermediated by organisations, such as housing or non-profit associations. These foster and facilitate communities to actively participate in forming and self-managing their housing. The intermediate organisations facilitate the processes by supporting the groups in diverse ways, such as finding potential members, providing legal and managerial support, etc. Thus, understanding whose voices are been heard each time in both trajectories of cooperative housing provision is a way to assess how inclusive they are.   Typically, members of the cooperative groups often appear to have a certain social, cultural, and economic status; groups of white, well-educated people with social capital and skills. Many groups struggle with that as they are socially conscious and want to reconfigure the power dynamics and inequalities in accessing housing. However, as the challenges of social justice are more complex to address, many cooperative projects end up focusing on environmental goals that are easier to meet than the social and economic inequalities. Therefore, it is important to realize: Who is excluded from cooperative housing processes? Who has been excluded intentionally or unintentionally?   The term reflexivity was often mentioned in the discussion, referring to collective practices of self-reflection about the participants' positionalities, authorities, verbalisation skills, experience, and values. As people often come with different resources in the process of co-creating cooperative housing, a way to take this into account is to create various levels of participation, making it less demanding for people that do not have the same time or economic capacity. In this way, the collaboration factor would be present, being aware of the importance of redistributing knowledge and resources.

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)

Workshops, Reflections

Icon energy-efficiency-renovation-of-buildings-in-croatia

Energy efficiency renovation of buildings in Croatia

Posted on 24-03-2022

Around 90% of Croatians are homeowners. Homeownership was catalysed by the “give-away” privatisation in the beginning of 1990s, and it slowly became a part of mainstream investment choices for many Croats. Due to a lack of financialisation and investment incentives, a house or an apartment is seen as a potential investment whose intrinsic value will only increase, and is suitable for passing on to next generations. The potential lack of liquidity of the housing market never hampered the enthusiasm of investment in housing.  However, with ownership comes responsibilities in terms of asset maintenance. Within the HESC project (Quality of living in the Housing Estates of the socialist and post-socialist era: a comparative analysis between Slovenia and Croatia), a survey was conducted among apartment representatives of 353 buildings in four large Croatian cities. Many apartment owners who live in socialist built buildings (built between 1945 and 1990) are overall satisfied with the quality of that building. However, these buildings need substantial upkeep and renovation in terms of energy efficiency improvement, which proves to be costly, whilst many of the residents are not united and willing to bear the cost of renovation.  This was the topic of today's public discussion organised by the HESC project, bringing together the main stakeholders involved in this issue, including the relevant ministry, local administration, funds, academics and agencies from the top and owners representatives from the bottom.  Issues that prevent a large-scale renovation is the lack of funds that is secured by the ministry and a lack of willingness of households to invest their own funds. Funds secured by the government could cater to only 1 in 12 buildings that apply for the grant by the ministry (60% of the total investment), and households who do not get the funding from the ministry often are not willing or do not have sufficient funds to fund the renovation themselves. Moreover, it seems that the general condition of the buildings is sought to be improved by the ministry’s funding programme, not only targeting energy efficiency in terms of energy consumption and emissions.  Some of the proposed solutions by the participants were reducing the bureaucracy of the application process for the funds issued by the ministry, introduction of subsidies for supply side, i.e. construction materials etc., establishment of a national buildings registry, other funding opportunities provided by publicly owned banks, and subsidies for funding the documentation needed to apply for the funds, that needs to be repeated every funding cycle.   

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)

Conferences, Workshops

Icon esrs-visit-to-the-casais-group-in-portugal

ESRs visit to the Casais Group in Portugal

Posted on 09-03-2022

Blog post written collectively with Aya Elghandour and Carolina Martín   Last month three Early-Stage Researchers (Aya, Carolina and Annette) visited project partners the Casais Group in Braga, Portugal. Casais is an international construction company founded in Portugal with experience in several sectors, including housing. Casais have been integrating Industrialised Construction in the delivery of their projects, which includes the creation of their off-site BluFab factory in Braga.   Casais established BluFab in 2019 and since then they have been optimising their design and manufacturing processes to build more sustainable, precise and cost-efficient projects. Aware of the current affordable housing shortages, they are developing optimisation tools using digital technologies to gradually increase their level of industrialisation to enhance productivity, minimise delays, and improve scalability. The company is invested in improving the sustainability of their projects through training staff in Green Building assessments to monitor projects in-house, as well as using Industrialised Construction methods such as pods and panelisation. Casais aims to automate processes and use the latest tools and technology in a seamless way together with the other stakeholders involved in the delivery of housing.    One of their current challenges lies in finding the best way to utilise ICT tools such as BIM to achieve an effective knowledge transfer between the different design and manufacturing stages. This matter is also tightly linked with the possibility to mass customise housing to attain a personalised and adaptable building stock. We believe the collaboration between the ESRs and Casais will be key in finding the right balance between the level of variety offered and the need to adopt an economy of scale, using Industrialised Construction methods and BIM to provide affordable and sustainable housing solutions.     In the context of Housing Life Cycle Costs, discussions with the Casais team were very fruitful to reveal practical aspects of current construction issues in Europe and their approach to tackle them. For instance, one of the most challenging aspects facing construction in Portugal is the lack of skilled labour, which is expected to worsen in the following years. Another issue is the costs that must be paid to the municipality per day for occupying the street and disturbance around the construction site. Therefore, Casais are working on finding innovative ways to overcome these challenges by industrialising the process. These industrialised solutions, which includes off-site construction of building elements in their factory and transporting them to the construction site, save a lot of time and money and mitigates risks!    With the huge housing demand in Portugal and the need to design and construct sustainably, it is vital for the industry to respond to these challenges in line with the latest research. Therefore, the collaboration between Casais and RE-DWELL’s Early-Stage Researchers aims to contribute to further developing industrialised construction solutions, understanding the market needs, and communicating these with design teams. We look forward to continuing to develop our projects with Casais.

Author: A.Davis (ESR1)


Icon bridging-the-retrofit-gap-climate-culture-and-infrastructure-future-build-2022-international-women-s-day

Bridging the Retrofit Gap: Climate, Culture, and Infrastructure | Future Build 2022 | International Women’s Day

Posted on 08-03-2022

Future Build 2022 in London was an inspiring event. While the majority of discussion concerned homeownership tenures, the wealth of expertise available reminded me why housing retrofit is a vital and worthy goal. I was reminded of why my research project to retrofit social housing is an urgent modern problem.   Interestingly, there was a noticeable divide between speakers promoting social value in retrofit (mostly women) and purely technical solutions to decarbonising homes (predominantly men). One of the few mixed-gender panels I attended was the Big Debate: Should we use RdSAP (Reduced Data Standard Assessment Procedure) in retrofit? Andrew Parkin of Stroma said yes, RdSAP is historical and therefore has a plethora of past data for comparison.  It is also future proof; an API (application programming interface) with the BRE Group’s ‘Appendix Q database’ is being developed to migrate external information and data sets into RdSAP. Marion Lloyd-Jones for Manchester Co-op ‘People Powered Retrofit’ said no, strongly arguing that: retrofit should be for the people with a focus on heat loss reduction, and that local knowledge should be amplified because EPC ratings are simply incomparable between varying regional climates.   I am writing this post on International Women’s Day. A day that should serve as a reminder that: women are still not paid equally; domestic and sexual violence, which disproportionately affects women, has increased during the covid-19 pandemic; and women remain responsible for the majority of domestic labour. The world of retrofit and decarbonisation must remember that social value is as important to sustainability as energy efficiency. Social retrofit should be encouraged in tandem with environmental retrofit in order to sustain the health and wellbeing of both the people and the planet.   Here are my major takeaways:   Climate   The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report cemented the UKs carbon target to limit global warming to below 1.5°C, fuelling the Net Zero Strategy – a net zero target by 2050. The National Retrofit Strategy by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) modelled the work required to retrofit the nation’s homes by 2040, a decade earlier than government targets. We can and SHOULD speed up the green transition – particularly in the midst of the current fuel crisis exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine. “Decarbonising Homes” was a widely used slogan at Future Build, used to promote technical solutions to retrofit. Air source heat pumps were frequently discussed, a questionable cure-all solution, gaining popularity.   Culture   Skill shortages are a huge obstacle to low-carbon retrofitting – no one seems to know what to train people in yet, and in-house retrofit employees are relatively new because employers worry that post-training, they will leave. A possible solution to this is to borrow apprentices from within the construction sector to upskill. The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 declares the minimum weighting on all government projects that should be applied to social value is 10%. The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund has pledged £3.8 billion by 2030. How to access the funds and get residents on board: Have a clear message for social value and EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion), and get it right! Prepare the project into a ‘package’ to send with your funding bids. Resident engagement in social housing retrofit should occur at multiple stages: pre-bid, mobilisation, and post occupancy (POE). Engage non-profit organisations to interact with residents, independent from local authorities and housing associations (aka tenants’ landlords). Wellbeing outcomes from retrofit and a reduction in fuel poverty include increased physical health, increased mental health, improved educational outcomes, and decreased levels of crime. Quantifying the cost savings of these outcomes on public services such as the NHS could find retrofit leads to a return on investment.   Infrastructure   Digital Twins are a necessity to improve social housing. Tenants can flag an issue online (accessibility should be maintained by Housing Associations and Local Authorities for those without access to digital twins) and modelling social housing typologies can determine the impact of energy efficiency improvements. Complete dwelling assessments as soon as possible – defects must be fixed before retrofit can begin. While new build development continues to benefit from 20% price reductions, according to Sam Balch – Policy Advisor for the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – VAT exemptions for retrofit remain under consideration. Homes England have updated the Building Regulations (BR) as follows: Part L – 31% reduction in emissions compared to current standards, Part F – increased ventilation in new dwellings, Part O – overheating in new residential buildings, and Part S – electric vehicle charging points. This is in preparation for the introduction of the Future Homes Standard (due 2025). It will demand homes produce at least 75% less carbon emissions than currently allowed under the BR. SAP 10.2 will be released later this year, and RdSAP will consequently improve. The output of SAP is EPC ratings, which are highly controversial, at times unreliable, and often not comparable. But changes are coming to RdSAP including improved air tightness measurements and ventilation risk assessments. I believe RdSAP should produce new sets of comparable outputs alongside EPC ratings.   I encountered many illuminating approaches from Future Build – clearly there are overlaps between climate, culture and infrastructure – but these strands should be brought into closer dialogue with one another. My project aims to bridge this gap.   References   (BEIS) Department for Business, E. & I. S. (2021). Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund: Competition Guidance Notes.   Cabinet Office. (2021, March 29). Guidance: Social Value Act: information and resources. GOV.UK.   Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. (2021, December 15). Collection: Approved Documents. GOV.UK.   IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Author: S.Furman (ESR2)





Conferences (7)

Secondments (14)

Summer schools (2)

Workshops (19)


Articles (0)

Papers (0)

Posters (0)

Other Categories

Case Study (0)

Reflections (17)


Mahmoud Alsaeed (6)

Tijn Croon (4)

Annette Davis (5)

Aya Elghandour (3)

Alex Fernandez (7)

Saskia Furman (2)

Marko Horvat (4)

Anna Martin (1)

Carolina Martín (2)

Andreas Panagidis (2)

Androniki Pappa (3)

Leonardo Ricaurte (4)

Effrosyni Roussou (1)

Zoe Tzika (3)

Christophe Verrier (1)