Update on EVALUATE household energy interviews and diaries

Neil Simcock provides an update on the progress of EVALUATE’s ethnographic fieldwork with households.

The qualitative aspect of EVALUATE’s fieldwork is now underway.  As I said in a previous update, this work will complement our neighbourhood surveys and associated quantitative analysis providing an in-depth understanding of household needs, experiences, and their interactions with the built environment.  Overall, with each participating household we will be conducting three semi-structured interviews with each participating household, alongside a personal diary detailing their winter warmth strategies and an ‘energy audit’ of their home. Although we’re adopting a fairly standardised approach across all of our case study cities, there’s also some flexibility to adapt the questions to local contexts.

In Budapest, fieldwork is about to begin and we are pleased to say that Dr Gerda Jónász will be helping us here.  Gerda has recently completed her PhD at Central European University in Hungary, and has a lot of experience in conducting ethnographic and qualitative data collection.  She will be coordinating directly with Neil at Manchester, undertaking many of the interviews with households in this area.

Fieldwork in Skopje will also be beginning very soon.  Here, Nevena Smilevska, of the Centre for Environmental Information and Research at Eko-svest, and Ana Lesoska of Bankwatch, will be our local researchers undertaking much of the data collection.  They are very enthused and excited to be undertaking the research, as energy poverty is an area that interests both.

Fieldwork in Gdansk has been well underway since mid-January, with our local coordinator at the University of Gdansk being Jan Frankowski.  We should soon begin to have some initial data back from the first round of interviews and energy audits, which I can then begin to analyse and start to draw some initial findings.  But reports from our colleagues in Gdansk are that the data gathered so far is providing some rich detail on participants’ lives and circumstances.  I was also able to visit Gdansk in mid-January, when the fieldwork first began.  As well as being a beautiful city, the main impression I had was of how cold it gets during the winter months! Temperatures were (on average) around -5 Celsius during the daytime whilst I was there.  As I’m used to the relatively mild British winters, even when fully wrapped-up in thick coat, hat and gloves I began to get cold if I was outside for too long.  Along with Jan, I was also able to conduct interviews with a couple of participating households.  Both displayed signs of energy vulnerability; for example, mould occurring inside the house, or very expensive energy bills.  In one case, it was clear that the rigid district heating system did not fit with the needs of the occupier – although she spent relatively little time at home and so often did not use her heating, her bills were set at a fixed monthly price and so still very high.

I’ll provide further updates as the fieldwork progresses into February.

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