Climate change: evidence review of mitigation options in the Built Environment sector

Evidence review of potential climate change mitigation measures in the Built Environment sector.

2 Approach to the evidence review

The study incorporated a detailed search of the available evidence to improve the understanding of the current knowledge base. The search used a three-way methodology:

  • Systematic literature search,
  • Call for evidence,
  • Review of current research grant programmes.

Specific areas of interest had already been covered by two recent studies. The Department of Energy and Climate Change ( DECC) [2] funded co-benefits project (Smith et al., 2017) identified a number of key research areas and developed a database of literature relevant to the UK context, providing a good coverage of health-related co-benefits in the built environment sector. Secondly, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded Sustainable Pathways to Low Carbon Energy ( SPLiCE) project, published in 2015, summarised evidence on impacts (positive and negative) of energy technologies through conducting a 'review of reviews'. This present work, for the Scottish Government, reflects outcomes and recommendations from the above two research projects and, in particular, provides an opportunity to consider the role of quantitative modelling and the implications of the wider impacts on social equity in greater detail.

2.1 Literature search

The literature search performed for the Scottish context study took place from July to August 2016, and covered four key sources:

  • ResearchGate (articles, working papers and conference papers)
  • Repec (economics articles and working papers)
  • Scopus (research articles and working papers)
  • Google Scholar (all of the above)

The research further incorporated an additional literature search of relevant grey literature, searching the websites of key organisations, including the International Energy Agency ( IEA), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence ( NICE), the European Environment Agency ( EEA) and the World Bank. Additional references were included by 'snowballing', i.e. including important papers referenced by some of the reviewed papers. A particular point of relevance is the large body of built environment research evidence not necessarily framed as co-benefits. For example, there is historic literature on energy efficiency improvement and fuel poverty that does not necessarily utilise a co-benefits terminology. Consequently, more focused literature searches were undertaken, for these areas, where appropriate.

In total over 80 papers relevant to Scotland and the built environment sector were identified through the literature search, and their bibliographic details were added to a database. Most of these papers addressed the use of energy efficient technology in buildings, or were framed in terms of general action to achieve GHG reduction targets, but a number also considered lower carbon fuels, building insulation and energy saving behaviour.

2.2 Call for evidence and research grant analysis

A call for evidence was directed at key research organisations that had been identified from the literature search, as well as relevant organisations identified from networks in Scotland, the UK, or internationally. This resulted in over ten submissions with responses from a range of organisations. These responses were added to the database as appropriate. Furthermore, the review incorporated a research grant analysis to understand current and planned research funding relevant to the co-benefits agenda in the UK and internationally. Research funding sites reviewed included the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council ( EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council ( ESRC), the Scottish Government, Innovate UK, the European Union ( EU), the Research Councils UK ( RCUK) and the Natural Environment Research Council ( NERC). Relevant examples include the EPSRC-funded IDEAL (Intelligent Domestic Energy Advice Loop) project, which examines behaviour change and home energy use, and research into energy use behaviour and smart meters. The University of Edinburgh are the Principal Investigator for both projects, due for completion in 2017.

2.3 Framework for the report

Climate change mitigation in the built environment sector can be framed around an avoid/shift/improve framework (see e.g. Dalkmann and Brannigan, 2007 for the use of this approach in the transport sector). It has been adopted in this report to reflect the wide range of potential mitigation options available to the Scottish Government. The framework comprises:

  • Avoid: reduce energy demand [ Chapter 4]
    • Insulation and other building fabric improvements
    • Behaviour change
    • Building design
  • Shift: a more sustainable built environment [ Chapter 5]
    • Low carbon building materials
    • Green and blue infrastructure
  • Improve: low carbon energy options [ Chapter 6]
    • Renewable electricity and heat sources

The above framework is used to set out the findings from the literature review in Chapters 4 to 6 with an overview of results presented in Chapter 3. Chapter 7 summarises cross theme co-benefits relating to air quality and future energy security. Chapter 8 presents conclusions and recommendations.


Email: Debbie Sagar

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