A microgeneration technology innovation system analysis of the UK housing development sector

Project Overview

House builders in the United Kingdom are being challenged by the Government to deliver zero carbon homes from 2016 onwards. A range of low and zero carbon technologies can potentially play a role in this move to low carbon housing. Whilst work has been conducted on understanding the technical potential of individual technologies, and stemming from this which technologies ‘should’ be used to maximise reductions in carbon emissions, little or no effort has been made to identify which technologies are actually being used and why. Collaborating with the NHBC Foundation and Zero Carbon Hub, this EPSRC funded project investigated some elements of the socio-technical network emerging around low and zero carbon technologies to better understand two important aspects of the diffusion of low and zero carbon technologies. Which low and zero carbon technologies are being used and why, and how are end-users adapting the technologies and their routines around these technologies. 


The diffusion and adoption of technologies is not a linear process. The successful penetration, or not, of an innovation is supported by a complex web of actors all of whom can have different, and sometimes conflicting, needs and understandings on the new technology. This is certainly the case when considering the adoption of low and zero carbon technologies in the new build housing sectors. Actors include the Government (as the housing sector as key to delivering its carbon emissions targets), house builders (whose core business in the acquisition of land and production of dwellings), technology manufactures (who may see new build housing as a new market) and end users (who ultimately live within the homes that contain the new technologies). The complex interplay between actors often leads to the selection of technologies which can, initially at least, be considered technologically sub-optimal.

Key Objectives

The project's main objectives included:

(a) mapping out the structural elements and functional pattern of the housing development TIS. The analysis will identify and describe current key processes and their interconnection. Functions, for instance, include the market formation and legitimisation of microgeneration technologies (MGTs);

(b) identifying and calibrating inducement and blocking mechanisms which are driving (or constraining) the functional pattern of the current MGT technology innovation system (TIS);

(c) presenting recommendations for the goals, design, system-building and monitoring of the MGT TIS to steer the housing development sector on a low-carbon trajectory; and,

(d) developing a research agenda for contributing to the effort to progress the transformation of the MGT TIS in the housing development sector .


Industry partners
Barratt Homes

Home Builders Federation (HBF)

National House Building Council Foundation

Zero Carbon Hub

Research Outputs

The research output includes academic papers, industry reports, workshops, seminars, and the submission of conference papers.

Conference papers

Lees, T., and Sexton, M., (2011). "Low and zero carbon technology uptake in the new build housing sector: A UK perspective", Proceedings of the 12th International Housing and Home Warranties Conference, 24th - 28th September 2011, Cape Town, South Africa.

Lees, T.J.G., and Sexton, M., (2011), 19th - 23rd June 2011, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Conference papers under review

Lees, T., and Sexton, M. (2012 - abstract submitted). "The domestification of low and zero carbon technologies in new housing in the UK", Proceedings of the Association of Construction Management Researchers Conference, 3rd - 5th September, Edinburgh, UK.

Lees, T., and Sexton, M., (2012 - abstract accepted). "The Emergence of Low and Zero Carbon Technologies in the UK House Building Sector", Proceedings of the CIB international Conference of W055, W065, W089, W118, TG76, TG78, TG81 and TG84 - Management of Construction: Research to Practice, Montreal, Canada: 26th - 28th June.

Industry reports

Sexton, M. and Lees, T. (2012), Dominant low and zero carbon technologies: Diffusion and occupant behaviour in new build housing, NHBC Foundation UK.


Innovation for Low Carbon Housing, 27th March 2012, University of Reading, Reading.


Lees, T., (2010), 'Microgeneration technologies in new build housing: Technological trajectories', School of Construction Management and Engineering Seminar Series.

Lees, T., (2011), 'Emerging solutions for 'zero carbon' homes', School of Construction Management and Engineering Seminar Series.

Lees, T., (2012), 'Low carbon - Is it about the technology?', University of Reading Energy Group Seminar Series.

Associated Staff


  • Dr Tim Lees
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