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The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies

- the research arm of the Department of Architecture

Studying at Cambridge


Sustainable Building Policies

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Sustainable Building Policies

Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank

The research focuses on how national governments can improve their sustainable building policies so as to increase feasible, cost-efficient and legitimate carbon reductions in the building stock.

Despite the energy saving potential identified in buildings few policy measures manage to address the complexity of economic and implementation barriers of improving energy efficiency of the existing buildings.

The objectives of the theme are to research how energy savings from the existing buildings could be achieved by either by improving energy efficiency of the thermal fabric and/or by reducing the energy demand with behavioural change, and what kind of policy instruments can most effectively support this.

The research is based on comparative policy analysis and quantitative impact assessment of specific policy instruments, such as the German Energy Saving Regulations (EnEV) or the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The research has a strong focus on user behaviour and, for example, how the gap between the predicted energy use and how much a household living in it actually consumes (‘prebound effect’), influences policy-making

PhD students associated with the research:

Aaron Gillich

Dimitra Dantsiou

Hui Ben

Recent publications:

Germany is seen as a leader in thermal retrofit policy and practice, but how effective is its approach? Our recent book A Critical Appraisal of Germany's Thermal Retrofit Policy examines this policy in context and assesses its effectiveness. The book finds that technical constraints and the costs of retrofitting still reduce the rate of progress. The book suggests a new policy paradigm that would encourage a better balance of partial and comprehensive retrofits, utilizing household behaviour changes based on a better understanding of fuel saving motivation and fuel price elasticity. See the interview on our research on ZDF.

Selected journal articles:

Galvin R., Sunikka-Blank M., 2013, Economic Viability in Thermal Retrofit Policies: Learning from Ten Years of Experience in Germany, Energy Policy, 54, pp. 343-351.

Sunikka-Blank, M., Galvin, R., 2012, Prebound effect: the gap between performance and the actual consumption, Building Research and Information, 40(3), pp. 260-273.

Galvin, R., Sunikka-Blank, M., 2012, Including fuel price elasticity of demand in net present value and payback time calculations of thermal retrofits: case study of German dwellings, Energy and Buildings, 50, pp. 219-228.

Sunikka-Blank, M., Chen, J., Dantsiou, D., Britnell, J., 2012, Improving energy efficiency of social housing areas – a case study of a retrofit achieving an ’A’ energy performance rating in the UK, European Planning Studies , 20(1), pp. 133-147.

Sunikka-Blank, M., Iwafune, Y., 2011, Sustainable building in Japan - observations on a market transformation policy, Environmental Policy and Governance, 21, pp. 351-363.

McGilligan, C., Sunikka-Blank, M., Natarajan, S., 2009, Subsidy as an agent to enhance the effectiveness of the energy performance certificate, Energy Policy, 38 (3), pp. 1272-1287.

Meijer, F., Itard, L., Sunikka-Blank, M., 2009, Comparing European residential building stocks: performance, renovation and policy opportunities, Building Research and Information, 37(5), pp. 533 -551.

Itard, L., Meijer, F., Vrins, E., Hoiting, H., Fawcett, W., Sunikka, M., 2008, Building renovation and modernisation in Europe: state of the art review, Amsterdam (IOS Press), 213p.

Beerepoot, M., Sunikka M., 2005, The contribution of the EC energy certificate in improving sustainability of the housing stock, Environment and Planning B, 32 (1), pp. 21-31.

Sunikka, M., 2003, Fiscal instruments in sustainable housing policies in the EU and the accession countries, European Environment, 13 (4), pp. 227-239.