Limbo dancing towards energy efficiency

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University students who live in privately rented houses account for nearly 40% of total student population in the UK, according to the NUS. The majority of them live in relatively old housing stock which is energy inefficient. Many lack the knowledge and skills and with energy bills ever increasing, students are a vulnerable group with little external support.

Competing with 120 student unions all over England, the University of Worcester Students’ Union was successful in winning a grant of £172,000 to run a project to improve energy efficiency in student houses.

This far reaching project works with students, landlords and Worcester City Council to retrofit student houses to improve housing standards and conditions along with their energy behaviour.

Bespoke software, peer learning from accredited students as well as curriculum ‘live’ project opportunities are hallmarks of #EnergizeWorcester. To test its replicability the project will be run with Birmingham Guild of Students and aims to offer the National Union of Students a similar model to Student Switch Off that can be rolled out to any University.

Student Switch Off which the University of Worcester have run for the students for over six years teaches good energy habits to students when they live in student halls of residence.

#EnergizeWorcester looks to embed this behaviour even further when students move on to houses in their second and subsequent years when they, possibly for the first time, will be responsible for paying their own energy bills.

Giving students real projects as part of their studies is very important at the University of Worcester, so linking #EnergizeWorcester to the curriculum was an easy decision. Peng Li #EnergizeWorcester project manager says:

“We have worked with creative students (3rd Year Creative Digital Media), who have come up with the creative strategy and look for the campaign. Student teams worked in teams and had just 24 hrs to deliver a concept for the campaign. The winning designs were awarded a cash prize of £100. The quality was remarkable and we thank all the teams for their ideas”.

Students who live off campus are being encouraged to save energy, win prizes and learn good energy habits by signing up to #EnergizeWorcester.

The theme of the campaign is limbo dancing with students being encouraged to take selfie’s of themselves limbo dancing around campus and competing to reduce energy in the ‘how low can you go’ campaign. All Worcester students need to do to enter is take a couple of photos of their electricity and gas meters and tweet or upload them. They can have fun as well and win prizes with the limbo competition.

Kynton Swingle president of the Students’ Union says the project will be a transformation for students who don’t know much about energy saving:

“This two year project trains student energy advocates who also gain City and Guilds Energy qualifications to speak with their peers in their homes and show them what they need to do to use less energy.”

Rosa, a second year psychology student and energy advocate has benefited from the training and advice available through the scheme:

“The training was very interesting and I learned a lot from it. Certain bits of information led me to do more research, and gave me a more rounded view on the topic as a whole. I feel like I should carry out this job with a high level of professionalism and deliver knowledge to the best of my ability”

Kynton added: “It is nationally recognised that students are in fuel poverty, which is the amount of money they pay for their energy bills is disproportionate to the amount of income they have. Sometimes students’ fuel bills are included in their rent. This means it’s even more important for students to understand about their energy use so that when they are responsible for the bills, they have good energy habits which they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

This innovative project also greatly involves landlords accommodating students at the university. It aims to support property owners to make their rental properties more energy efficient and thus reduce cost of gas and electricity bills. The project team will look at ways to finance retrofit measures to houses, such as new, more efficient boilers and insulation.

The National Landlords Asscociation (NLA) supports the initiative that would provide tenants with more energy efficient homes that are sought after.

Don Robbie, NLA Local Representative in the West Midlands says:

“Making sure that private rental accommodation is as energy efficient as possible isn’t just about sustainability; It’s a core priority for landlords in meeting the needs of their tenants.

“It makes it a much better learning and living environment for students if they are renting easy to heat homes. An increasing number of landlords are switching on to the benefits of offering higher quality housing stock. It’s a question of consumer demand, and landlords in an increasingly competitive market are becoming wise to the fact that students are looking for lower bills and warmer homes. As awareness about energy conservation increases, more and more tenants are asking to see Energy Performance Certificates and will discuss the energy efficiency of homes before they agree to rent.”

  7 comments for “Limbo dancing towards energy efficiency

  1. February 13, 2014 at 10:47 am

    The final year Graphic Design and Creative Digital Media students really enjoyed working on this project via their CDME3003 ’24hr Pressure Projects’ module.. It’s always great when we can get a collaboration together that helps both a client achieve their goals (Energise Worcester & Peng) and also give students valuable experiences working for a client with real life requirements. The added element on this occasion was that there was also a tight design and production turnaround required too – such as those the students will experience from time to time in industry.. Great experiences for students and some great design outputs – I hope that this helps towards making the campaign a successful one..

  2. kboom
    February 14, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Andy the campaign has been really successful at raising awareness amongst the students, even in a week which has seen a disrupted campus. The student Energy Advocates have been really pleased by students reactions to the project. So many of them are eager to register.

    The SU president Kynton Swingle commented that this issue is something that many students want to be involved in. As soon as they realise that it will help them save money on their energy bills they go…where can I sign up!
    It’s such an eye catching campaign and lovely info graphics in terms students can engage in, the project team are very grateful for the creative input.

  3. Neil Jennings
    February 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I think this is a great way to save energy and money at the same time! For so many people energy is quite an abstract thing and we often go for months without knowing how much we’re using and how much it’s costing us. This platform should help tackle both those problems, good stuff!

  4. February 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Students will also use this project as a platform to learn skills about energy efficiency and become aware of the importance of living in a thermally comfortable home. Hopefully, by the end of the project, engaged students will leave the university with the necessary skills to empower them to demand better quality housing with lots of insulation and efficient heating and hot water.
    There is evidence building that property developers and landlords are seeing students want this level of quality in their homes.

  5. February 17, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Having shivered (or worn my duvet) inside many a student house in the past, I’m excited about how this project can work to get a better deal for students. But as Peng says, these students will then go on to teach others (friends, colleagues, family) about the importance of energy efficiency and therefore apply pressure to bring the general standard of housing up from it’s current “leaky” state in the UK. As energy costs continue to rise the issue of fuel poverty isn’t going away without projects like this.

  6. Jake Harper
    February 19, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    I took part in the limbo in challenge in the SU and didn’t fall over! It was really fun and good laugh, I’m glad it’s for a good cause. The video’s also really well presented.

  7. Lynsey Smith
    November 11, 2014 at 11:50 am

    What a fun and eye catching campaign! We can do a lot to help students in university-managed accommodation reduce their energy, but reaching out to those in private accommodation is a much bigger challenge. Well done Worcester!

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