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Green living policies are bypassing tower blocks

News release
Wednesday 28th November 2012


People who live in tower blocks are missing out on the chance to make energy savings and live greener lifestyles.

Green policies, like those encouraging energy and water saving, more sustainable transport and recycling, are mostly designed with individual, street level properties in mind, so high rise residents can’t take full advantage of them.

As schemes designed to make homes warmer and more energy efficient are not targeted at tower blocks, high rise residents, many of them on lower incomes, unfairly miss out on the chance to reduce their energy bills.

But the new study, Towering ambitions, by think tank Green Alliance, finds that factors unique to tower blocks mean there is actually huge potential for them to be at the forefront of the UK’s greener living housing options and to support better connected, stronger communities.

The research shows that whilst there are opportunities across energy, waste, water, transport and green spaces, the greatest potential for change is in addressing heating and energy challenges. It cites inspiring examples where action has been taken by residents and housing providers to make their tower blocks greener places to live (see selected case studies below), but finds that these are rare cases.

To make the most of the biggest opportunities for heating and energy, the report recommends that:

• housing providers and energy companies should work together, using the forthcoming Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to finance whole block retrofits, as a cost effective way for energy companies to meet their ECO targets and making retrofit more affordable for housing providers;

• the government should set minimum energy efficiency standards for social housing, to bring widespread improvements to many of the lowest performing blocks; and

• the government should integrate tower blocks into its proposals for heat networks, explicitly encouraging city decision makers to include them in their low carbon district heating plans.

Edward Hobson, Green Alliance deputy director, said:

“Doing the green thing is difficult for individuals in tower blocks because often they do not have direct control over their heating, power and waste collection. But we should prioritise transforming this communal infrastructure as it offers real potential to engage communities and deliver significant improvements for everyone in the block.”



Notes to editors

[1] Green Alliance is a charity and environmental think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment.

[2] Towering ambitions: transforming high rise housing into sustainable homes is published as part of Green Alliance’s Towering Ambitions project, supported by the City Bridge Trust. The report recommends how green living in tower blocks can be facilitated, and highlights what the various actors, from national and local government, to landlords and residents themselves, can do to make policy work for high rise housing. Alongside this, we have also produced a high rise green living toolkit, A better place to live, aimed at helping tower block residents to take action.

Download the report here
Download the toolkit here

[3] The report will be launched at an event in central London on Tuesday 4th December, with Jack Dromey MP, shadow minister for housing and MP for Birmingham Erdington, Professor Anne Power, professor of social policy and head of LSE housing and communities, Dave Allport, Birmingham Energy Savers programme manager, and Toby Gale, Westbourne neighbourhood manager at the Paddington Development Trust. For more information and to register to attend, see:

[4] To gather evidence for this study we ran workshops with residents of: the Petticoat Tower on the Middlesex Street estate in the City of London; the Warwick and Brindley estates on Harrow Road in the City of Westminster; and, the Grantham Road estate in the London Borough of Lambeth. We also conducted a series of 35 interviews with housing associations, local authorities, policy experts and other stakeholders across the country.

[5] Some of the inspiring examples featured in the report are attached.

[6] For more information contact Hannah Kyrke-Smith, policy adviser, on 020 7630 4520 or 07814 525 957.