Dr Ruth Rettie and Dr Kevin Burchell from the Faculty of Business and Law have received a major award from the RCUK Energy Programme for a three-year study in north Kingston of how a community can work together to reduce energy usage. The work will begin in January 2011 and they are encouraging staff who live locally to get involved.
The research project, entitled Smart Communities, is the first research project to bring together members of a community to discuss, develop and adopt new energy-saving ways of doing everyday things. The community includes all families with children attending Fern Hill School and households around the school in the area within the triangle defined by Richmond Road, Tudor Drive and Latchmere Road.
"We will bring together members of the community, so that they can decide what energy consuming practices they would like to change," says Ruth, who is the project's Principal Investigator. "We really hope people will become more energy conscious and change the way they do things that use energy – like cooking, cleaning and washing – hopefully reducing energy consumption for the community as a whole." The virtual hub of the community will be the Smart Communities website, which will launch next April. Everyone in the research area who joins the online community will receive a free energy monitor, and will be able to create a webpage to track their energy progress and compare their energy use with the rest of the community.
The project partners include three researchers from the Faculty of Business and Law, the Sustainability Team at the Royal Borough of Kingston, Transition Town Kingston and Fern Hill primary school. The school will host community meetings, teach children about energy saving using its own sophisticated energy monitor and run drama workshops. Tudor Drive Library, another partner, will run an energy appliances library, enabling people to borrow and try out energy-saving appliances such as standby solutions, home energy monitors and low-energy light bulbs.
Significantly, the project will allow Ruth and Kevin to expand on the work being undertaken as part of the University's CHARM project. This is a £1.1 million research project with the Universities of Swansea and the West of England, funded by the EPSRC. It involves 800 people in three case studies investigating electricity consumption, active lifestyles and green activity.
Ruth is encouraging University staff to join the Smart Communities research. "We hope that any staff members who live within the community area or who have children at Fern Hill School will become involved," she says. "They can take as active a part in the research as they would like."
The project will run from January 2011 to December 2013. If you live in the research area and are interested in getting involved, please email Kevin.