Understanding home improvements within the wider nexus of practice: Implications for encouraging owner-occupier low carbon retrofit

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In the context of global climate change and UK government targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80% before 2050, low carbon retrofit of the existing UK housing stock, which is responsible for more than a quarter of UK energy use, is imperative. Whilst grants and subsidies addressing fuel poverty in vulnerable households have resulted in increased energy efficiency of housing amongst these populations, incentive schemes, such as the GreenDeal, aimed at more affluent households have demonstrated low levels of uptake.

Drawing on 31 in-depth interviews and walk-through tours with affluent owner-occupiers undertaking home improvement projects, this thesis examines why, and how some of these projects incorporated low carbon retrofit measures, while others did not. Using a practice theory approach, the relationships between the components of practice, both within and between practices are examined to identify how they connect to the wider nexus of practices that extends beyond the home. Furthermore, the thesis employs a methodology that allows the relationships between the material home, teleo-affective structures and competences, to be examined using the home improvement measures themselves as the unit of analysis, rather than the individual. It is proposed that this not only more appropriate to the ontological assumptions underpinning practice theory, but also to specialisations within the construction industry which are focussed around specific home improvement measures rather than specific types of owner-occupier.

In conclusion, this thesis proposes a series of teleological constellations that provide a theoretical tool to further our empirical understanding of how low carbon home improvements fit within the wider nexus of practices that make up social life. These teleological constellations provide an alternative dimension through which the nexus of practices can be understood, revealing connections between practices that appear otherwise temporally and spatially dispersed. These connections, in turn, have implications for the way in which policy seeks to induce higher levels of low carbon retrofit in order to help meet national CO2 reduction targets and contribute to addressing global climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2018
EventResearch Matters - University of Sheffield/Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Oct 201819 Oct 2018


ConferenceResearch Matters
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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