Homeowners’ decisions to renovate emerge from identifiable and measurable conditions of domestic life

Panel: 8. Dynamics of consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Charlie Wilson, Tyndall Centre, United Kingdom
Lucy Crane, Tyndall Centre, United Kingdom
George Chryssochoidis, Norwich Business School, United Kingdom

Abstract

Energy efficient home renovations are commonly understood as the result of an intentional decision motivated by energy cost savings but constrained by financial and market barriers. In this paper, we argue for this broadly rational view of renovation decisions to be reframed as a decision process that unfolds over time and is situated within domestic life. Based on evidence from a series of interviews with renovating and non-renovating homeowners, we propose six conditions of domestic life which are relevant to the emergence of renovation decisions. The conditions range from balancing competing commitments to the physicality of living. Each condition is grounded in social science research into home making, domestication, and domestic practice. We then set out how each of the six conditions can be empirically substantiated, both qualitatively using methods such as interviews, and quantitatively using methods such as questionnaires. Drawing on the results of a nationally representative UK homeowner survey (n=1028), we test both our measurement approach and the ability of these six conditions of domestic life to help explain why some homeowners decide to renovate whereas others do not. We find that the conditions of domestic life in which renovation decisions take shape are broadly consistent across both amenity and efficiency renovations. We also find a number of conditions differ significantly between renovators and non-renovators. Homeowners considering renovations are more likely to (i) find differences between their and others’ homes unsettling, (ii) face competing commitments at home, particularly if associated with new things going on in the lives of household members, (iii) find ideas and inspiration for the home from external sources, and (iv) share and transmit information about renovations. Our findings support an overall picture of energy efficient renovations as an adaptive response to competing commitments within the home.

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