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What’s was this STEAM Challenge about? 

Across the country, millions of people live in houses which have a negative impact on their health, finances and the planet. Almost 40% of UK homes pre-date 1945, meaning they have low energy efficiency making them expensive to heat and in Birmingham alone, 21.8% of households live in fuel poverty. Retrofit (the improvement of existing housing) is widely accepted as the solution.  

On 23rd June, STEAMhouse and BCU’s School of Architecture welcomed over 40 representatives from local communities, industry and civic institutions to work collaboratively to explore how the sharing of knowledge might improve the way in which people live and the access they have to green, healthier homes.   


How does sharing knowledge play a role? 

The ‘why’ of this challenge is well understood, but what’s less clear is the ‘how’. 

…We know the products and materials exist that can do what’s needed to make peoples homes warmer, healthier and better for the environment.  

…We know that our Local Authorities are committed to upgrading the homes of their citizens.  

…We know that people have want to live in healthier homes.  

 But we also know that something isn’t working and there’s a huge knowledge gap between the those with the tools to help and the people who will benefit most from change.  

Collectively we explored how the sharing of knowledge at all levels might empower and equip communities, industry and institutions with equitable opportunities to create affordable, inclusive and regenerative solutions that improve homes and lives. 


What we heard. 

“We should be working constantly all together to do whatever we can to make sure that everybody lives in decent, affordable conditions…but we won’t ever come up with those solutions unless we take all the people with us”. 

 Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley 

There’s a breakdown of trust, we need to rebuild that trust but it won’t happen without commitment from everyone involved to earn it. 

Knowing who our ‘Community beacons’ are and working with them is essential in influencing change within communities. 

We need to ditch the jargon and speak to people in a language they understand about the things that matter to them.  

There are scales to the problem and people and organisations should try to find out what their best role is and at what scale. 


So what, what’s next?

Challenges at this scale can’t be tackled alone and collaboration is key to developing new and meaningful solutions that work. Our STEAM Challenge Event was the first step in supporting BCU’s School of Architecture in their vision to “provide climate leadership in the just transition in the region to building sustainable and inclusive futures.” 

Watch this space for what happens next. 


With thanks to our kind supporters; BCU’s RAAD fund (Research in Art, Architecture and Design) and Ecrofit.