Cambridge University

Dr Alison Cooke was involved in energy efficiency in the built environment from 2010 to 2012, during which she worked at Cambridge University.

The Centre for Sustainable Development at Cambridge University has played a crucial role in researching into the future of energy efficiency in the built environment. In 2011 the department worked with Grosvenor and the Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment (EEBE) research programme, to deliver three main research outputs that have practical relevance and which will help property owners and developers establish optimal strategies for energy management. The research will be presented in three streams:

1. How Might We Use Energy In Buildings in 2050

In March 2009 EEBE concluded that, when considering the future of energy management in the property sector, it was critical to gain an understanding of the longer-term consequences of current decision making.

Grosvenor and Cambridge agreed on a research programme that investigates the most appropriate responses to energy management in buildings and property developments from now until 2050.

In this publication we touch on the theoretical foundations of scenario planning and the process that the research team undertook, identify some of the key outcomes of the work along with the boundaries and constraints to the assertions and, finally, suggest how the scenarios can be used to direct corporate strategy and practice and can guide legislation.

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2. How Can Barriers to Energy Efficiency Be Overcome?

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) state that ‘there is a high degree of certainty that there is a global potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 30% of the projected baseline from the residential and commercial sectors cost effectively by 2020’. This indicates that buildings represent a substantial proportion of ‘low hanging fruit’ in improving energy efficiency and reducing the undesirable social and environmental impacts of energy use on the global economy. The unrealised potential that currently exists provides evidence of barriers to behavioural change towards further improvements in energy efficiency.

This publication identifies and describes some of the barriers to achieving energy efficiency most common in the property industry and categorises them into a conceptual framework, and nominates appropriate interventions. An overview of research being undertaken by EEBE to overcome these barriers is given, explaining which barriers the projects address, significant outcomes, and likely implications for the property industry.

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3. How can policy improve the energy efficiency of Buildings?

Policy can sometimes be seen as a barrier to energy efficiency yet can also be seen as an intervention, or a significant opportunity for overcoming barriers to energy efficiency. Internationally, the building sector is subject to a high degree of regulation. Regulatory regimes, to the extent that they exist, may provide a pathway to improve efficiency for both building construction and a variety of building appliances. Policy can facilitate market transformation by focusing on the equipment and capital stock being used in the built environment. It can also change priorities and behaviours in individuals as well as corporations through the use of financial mechanisms such as taxation. This publication: examines the policy history that has moved energy efficiency up political agendas internationally, and specifically for the UK; provides a brief overview of energy concerns and motivations as well as key over-arching energy policies for three additional countries - Australia, China and the USA; and looks critically at key active and proposed policy measures from around the world that are expected to impact energy efficiency in the built environment.

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Think pieces for each of these reseach areas was produced and is accessible for downloading upon contacting the website admin for permission.

Additional Information

For additional information about the research programme or the research streams, please contact Professor Peter Guthrie, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development at University of Cambridge:

  • Email:
  • Tel: +44 (0)1223 333321