Households Declare Is a New Campaign to Fix Housing

This British campaign should be copied in North America.

Robin Hood Gardens
Robin Hood Gardens, which should have been retrofitted.

David Cowlard/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

There's Architects Declare, where "UK Architects Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency." When we covered it, I said architects all over the world should be doing this too.

Then there is the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN!): "a network of individuals within architecture and related built environment professions taking action to address the twin crises of climate and ecological breakdown."

households declare

Households Declare

And now we have Households Declare!, which is demanding the housing stock in the United Kingdom be fixed. Its mission:

"We need a just and fair transition to limiting our emissions in a way that doesn’t exclude households unable to pay or push even more people into fuel poverty. Demand is growing to see Net Zero carbon emissions delivered. Over 74% of people in the UK admit to being concerned about the climate. This is not a niche issue. This issue affects every single person and every type of household in this country."

One would think given the name, the typography, and the bold orange and black graphic design that this was a project of the Architects Declare gang, or maybe a joint venture, but nope. ACAN! tells Treehugger that "Households Declare was started by ACAN!, came from our Existing Buildings thematic group." ACAN! uses a lot of bold black design too. It is doing what it is supposed to do which is grab your attention.

Households Declare says there are 29 million British homes that are amongst the oldest and least efficient in Europe.

"Almost 20% of the total UK carbon equivalent emissions comes from our homes. As well as decarbonising our energy sources, almost every home needs to be upgraded, or retrofitted, to some extent to improve energy efficiency. That's one home every 35 seconds from now to 2050. The scale of the task can not be underrated."
carbon emissions

Household Declare

In fact, it is likely more, given they are listing energy supply as a different item when much of the energy supplied goes into our houses.

Energy flows UK

Department of Energy and Climate Change

I tried to find a Sankey chart like the ones from the U.S. that separate the supply from the demand— the closest I could find was from 2014 which had the domestic consumption at about 27%. The transportation bar is even bigger than domestic. It represents people driving, which really makes it a household responsibility; for 70 years they have been building car-oriented housing just like in North America. In many ways, you can't separate the two, but that's another post.

things to do for renovation

Households Declare

Households Declare is demanding a massive government program to help renovate British homes, because it can get expensive.

"Home renovations cost money, and not everyone can afford it. When our inefficient homes are effectively causing damage to the environment, the government has an obligation to do something about it, to make undertaking retrofit measures accessible to all."
ACAN mission


I have to say here that I consider ACAN! to be one of the most interesting, creative, and important activist organizations in architecture and design. It wants to change education, construction, the profession, everything, all focused on the climate emergency. I love its mission statement, and I have wanted North American architects and designers to take up the ACAN! challenge.

This campaign felt somewhat different, perhaps because, in much of North America, house prices have increased so much that owners are sitting on piles of equity and could pay for their own upgrades. Housing prices in the U.K. were up 8.9% this year, and when households declare anything, it's usually that they want a bike lane ripped out or are saying Not In My Backyard to some housing project.

But according to The Guardian: "At least 3 million homes in the UK are already thought to be unable to afford their energy bills, and the number in fuel poverty could grow by 392,000 within the coming months." They are almost all heated with natural gas boilers that have to be replaced. If they can barely afford the gas, they are not going to have the money for retrofits. So perhaps households in the U.K. do have something to declare, and are telling the government:

"Act now! There is no clear long term strategy from the government to address emissions generated from the homes we live in. Our homes urgently need retrofitting. Show us you mean it when you promise to build back better and establish a green recovery by setting out a national retrofit strategy. This means reducing our national demand for energy first, whilst decarbonising our heat and energy generation. "

They get the critical point about what comes first here: Reduce demand. Clean up electricity. Electrify everything. That costs real money.