Energy Efficiency

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 157–174 | Cite as

Exploring the complexities of energy retrofit in mixed tenure social housing: a case study from England, UK

  • Susan Bright
  • David WeatherallEmail author
  • Roxana Willis
Original Article


Article 19 of the Energy Efficiency Directive requires EU member states to address split incentives for energy efficiency between the multiple owners of buildings. But, building governance has been relatively neglected by researchers and policy makers working on Europe’s trajectory to a highly energy-efficient building stock. Taking a socio-legal approach, this paper illustrates the complexities that occur with retrofit of mixed tenure (social and private) apartment blocks and, more broadly, how building governance is a determinant of the costs and outcomes of refurbishment projects. Forty-two percent of Europeans live in apartments and mixed tenure apartment blocks and neighbourhoods have become more prevalent in Europe in recent decades. The paper focuses on a detailed study of a large refurbishment project of five tower blocks by Oxford City Council, involving external wall insulation and other energy efficiency measures. In addition to the Council’s social tenants, these blocks house significant numbers of private owners who have challenged the Council’s attempt to recover from them a share of the refurbishment costs. The experience of the Oxford project raises questions about aspects of property law, allocation of project costs and benefits, and issues of communication, engagement and decision-making. The paper also presents qualitative data gathered from social housing providers through a survey and roundtable meeting to provide an indication of the extent to which these issues are affecting energy efficiency refurbishment projects across England.


Energy efficiency Law Housing Governance Retrofit 


Funding information

Financial support for the project is provided by the Oxford University John Fell Fund.

David Weatherall’s work on this project is supported by an Oxford University Knowledge Exchange Fellowship.

Compliance with ethical standards

The research underlying this paper has received ethics approval from CUREC, University of Oxford, ref no. R46808/RE001.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faulty of LawUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Energy Saving TrustLondonUK
  3. 3.Faculty of LawUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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