Retrofit brings social benefits for high-rise tenants

Energy efficiency retrofits to high-rise homes can improve quality of life and give residents a greater sense of pride in the community. This is the conclusion of new research by the London School of Economics looking at the social implications of whole building energy efficiency refurbishment in a high-rise estate in west London.

The study, carried out the Edward Woods estate in Shepherds Bush, looked at upgrading work carried out across 754 flats in three 23-storey tower blocks. The refurbishment was led and managed by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which commissioned Energy Conscious Design (ECD) Architects and building contractor Breyer for the project, and began in 2011.

The retrofit primarily involved remedial work on the concrete structure, external cladding of the blocks with Rockwool’s external wall insulation system, and installation of solar panels to provide 82,000kWh of electricity annually for lifts and communal lighting.

The new report, High rise hope revisited, is the second part of LSE’s study at the Edward Woods estate. In 2012, an initial report, High rise hope, interviewed residents during the renovation works. LSE returned to the estate when the upgrading work was complete to highlight lessons learned and assess the social and community impact of the retrofit.

Key findings in the new report, which was produced in partnership with Rockwool, are:

  • Overall, residents value living on the estate. Residents like their homes, they find their flats comfortable and have a generally high quality of life
  • Residents are positive about the estate and their homes and generally feel safe living there
  • 78% now describe their quality of life in their home as good or excellent, compared with 68% in 2011
  • People are generally proud to live on the estate, with many saying this had improved since the regeneration. Residents overwhelmingly say they enjoy living there.

“Edward Woods has a fascinating history because it is a large, concrete, high-rise, council-owned estate, housing a very low income community in 23 storey tower blocks and maisonettes in a very busy part of West London,” says Professor Anne Power, LSE housing and communities. “It is popular, well managed, attractive and fully occupied. It shows that with careful on-site management, high-rise estates can work, if they are also made energy efficient. This is crucial so that residents can pay their rent, meet basic costs and escape fuel poverty.”

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