Low-carbon building and climate change expert, Dr Rajat Gupta, has been awarded a major research grant of £1.14 million by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Oxford Brookes University (OBU) and University of Oxford (OU) on a three-year research project worth £1.37 million1. Dr Gupta is a Reader in the Department of Architecture, and Co-Director of the Low Carbon Building Group of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development. The EVALOC project seeks to evaluate the impacts, effectiveness and success of DECC2-funded low carbon communities on localised energy behaviours.
The EVALOC grant is one of only seven awards made under the ESRC's £6 million Energy and communities collaborative venture, which attracted about 85 applications. Oxford Brookes is the lead research organisation on the EVALOC project, with the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) of University of Oxford as the partner institution. Dr Gupta is the Principal Investigator on the project and Dr Nick Eyre from ECI is the Co-Investigator. Six Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) funded low carbon communities across UK, including Low Carbon West Oxford are key partners in the project, along with DECC, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and the Energy Saving Trust (EST). In addition, selected international experts from USA, Sweden, Austria and Germany will contribute to specific aspects of the research design. Also two new full-time three-year Research Fellow posts have been created as a result of the grant.
The EVALOC project, which starts in January 2011, brings together social science and building science-based disciplines to assess, explain and communicate the changes in energy use due to community activities within six selected low-carbon communities funded under the DECC's Low Carbon Communities Challenge (LCCC), a government-supported initiative to transform the way communities use and produce energy, and build new ways of supporting more sustainable living. The six geographical low-carbon communities represent: best-practice low-carbon interventions, socio-economic status (affluent and non-affluent), and track record in achieving carbon reductions. In the EVALOC project, these low-carbon community projects will be evaluated in terms of their:
- Impacts (on changing individual and community energy behaviours)
- Effectiveness (on achieving real-savings in energy use and carbon emissions)
- Success (in bringing about sustained and systemic change).
To undertake such an integrated evaluation, the research programme is divided into two core elements: community-led action research and a programme of monitoring and evaluation of the DECC-funded interventions on energy consumption. Thee two core elements are expressed through four inter-related work packages.
- Work package (WP) 1 is on community-led action research to collaboratively develop and test a community 'toolkit' to empower communities to self-monitor, evaluate and communicate their energy behaviour change activities.
- WP2 is about measuring, monitoring and mapping the actual environmental performance of low carbon communities, using in-use monitoring equipment, post-occupancy evaluation techniques and a web-based monitoring tool.
- WP3a helps communities use their consumption and generation feedback to work towards low-carbon goals. It is linked with WP3b to facilitate sharing of results and reflection through social and community networks within and across communities.
- WP4 focuses on the exchange of knowledge between different communities.
Besides the academic community and policy-makers, community groups across UK and abroad will have access to research findings of the project. The key outputs of the EVALOC project will include:
- A map-based interactive community energy monitoring toolkit which will extend the capability of the RIBA award-winning carbon-counting DECoRuM model to present results dynamically on impacts and effectiveness of low-carbon interventions to community groups
- A community engagement toolkit which will provide usable materials and guidance for community energy projects.
Dr Rajat Gupta, the Principal Investigator from Oxford Brookes, said: "We are delighted to win this award. Given the current drivers of big society and localism, it is essential and timely to examine the role and impact of community-led initiatives in meeting UK carbon targets. The socio-technical, integrative and collaborative approach of the EVALOC project is a significant contribution in this area."
"This project will also expand our research and expertise on carbon counting to low-carbon communities. Sophisticated and tested versions of the DECoRuM model will be developed to provide real-time disaggregated feedback on energy consumption and reduction both on a household and community level and investigate the consequent effect on inhabitants' habits, behaviour and practice.".
For further information, please contact Dr Rajat Gupta on firstname.lastname@example.org
1Under full economic costing
2Department of Energy and Climate Change
News Item Dated:
22nd November 2010
Using communities to find the answers to energy demand problems
ESRC Press Release
Monday 11 October 2010