Under One Roof : The Social Relations and Relational Work of Energy Retrofit in Multi-owned Properties

Cairns, Iain and Hannon, Matthew and Owen, Anne and Bookbinder, Ruth and Brisbois, Marie Claire and Brown, Donal and Davis, Mark and Middlemiss, Lucie and Mininni, Giulia and Combe, Malcolm (2023) Under One Roof : The Social Relations and Relational Work of Energy Retrofit in Multi-owned Properties. Preprint / Working Paper. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. (https://doi.org/10.17868/strath.00084471)

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Domestic properties make a significant contribution to carbon emissions and we must retrofit the majority of existing homes to reach net-zero. Nowhere is this task more challenging than in Multi-Owned Properties (MoPs), chiefly due to the difficulties of reaching an agreement between co-owners. Prevailing conceptualisations that treat individuals as discrete, isolated decision-makers are problematic in addressing the collective decision-making processes of MoPs. Drawing upon ideas from relational sociology, especially Zelizer’s concept of ‘relational work’, we argue that current retrofit policymaking unduly neglects those efforts to build relations of trust between parties and which underpin all economic transactions. We deploy two of Hargreaves and Middlemiss’ three types of social relations (intimacy and institutions) as an analytical framework to understand attitudes towards and experiences of renovation work in historic MoPs in south Glasgow, UK. We find that the increased relational work required to smooth relations between neighbours in an MoP is a barrier, but that more intimate relations between neighbours in MoPs can be supportive of renovation works. Furthermore, inadequately designed legislation inhibits renovations in MoPs, as it subjects householders to excessive relational work. To improve retrofit policymaking, we propose: 1) a model of MoP governance which balances owner engagement and professional administration; and, 2) transparent and accountable property managers, who are adequately supported to provide leadership in delivering MoP retrofit.

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