Dr Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs

Project Title: Is bigger always better? Comparing expectations and experiences of house size in the UK and Australia

Around a quarter of a nation’s final energy use occurs in homes, making the domestic sector a key target for governments to meet goals on climate change, energy security and affordability. Often energy research and policy focus on how to encourage householders to change their behaviours or invest in technologies and the building fabric to reduce energy use. Yet there are many broader societal shifts outside of householder’s control which importantly impact on the energy demandingness of everyday life. For example, considering that 70% of energy use in the home is for heating, the amount of space per person is a strong determinant of energy use per person. Thus, this research shines a light on the latter, evidencing and exploring the trend of increasing space per person in homes.

For the first time, this project compiled government datasets to compare and evidence a general global trend of increasing floor area per capita. This has been published in Nature Energy and explains the demographic and societal shifts driving this trend.

Furthermore, the project compared the expectations and experiences of house size in two high-income countries: one with some of the smallest (UK) and some of the biggest (Australia) homes. Whole-household interviews and photo-elicitation were carried out with 24 households. The sample was stratified into three equal age cohorts (aged 20-40; 40-60; and 60-80), different household sizes (one single, two couples, one multi-generational) and with half above and half below the national average income to consider how and whether the ideas and actions linked to floor area per capita were changing over time or at different points in the life course.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Environmental Planning

University: University of St Andrews (now at Lancaster University)

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