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Gender and household energy: female participation in designing domestic energy in India's slum rehabilitation housing

 Principal Investigator:

Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge 


Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank is a registered architect and a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on energy use behaviour and impact of policy instruments such as the German Energy Saving Regulations (EnEV), the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). Her current research looks at the application of social science methods on domestic energy use and gender as an overlooked factor in domestic energy use. Dr Sunikka-Blank is a Director of Studies and Fellow in Architecture at Churchill College.

Project Description:

Women's involvement in UN sustainable development goals 7 (energy) and 11 (safe, resilient and sustainable human settlements) remains an under-researched area, especially in the urban context. Yet women are key agents in domestic energy use and their empowerment is crucial to address energy poverty, adaptation of new technologies and improvement of living conditions. Recognising the key roles played by women in domestic energy use has the potential to contribute to innovative bottom-up approaches to formulate more effective energy policies.

It has been estimated that 17% of Indian households live in slums, and in cities like Mumbai 40%. In 1995 the Indian government started a new slum housing redevelopment scheme. In Mumbai, the current model is led by property developers and there are no specific standards on the quality of the rehabilitation housing, exposing a risk they will become 'vertical slums'.

The research asks how women are currently included in the design and delivery of slum rehabilitation housing schemes in India. Drawing from the interdisciplinary expertise of engineering and social sciences, the project aims to understand 1) quantitative energy use, household air pollution and environmental conditions in rehabilitation housing units in Dharavi, Mumbai, and 2) their female occupants’ comfort, cooking and child rearing practices, needs and aspirations. It investigates knowledge exchange between policy makers, developers, designers and female occupants focused on strategies to increase women's participation in the design process.

The research is collaboration between the Departments of Architecture, Geography, Engineering and Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-B) in Mumbai.

Fieldwork is being undertaken in Mumbai in April and September 2018, in collaboration with NGO partner Doctors For You (DFY) and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). The research is associated with the British Academy Cities & Infrastructure programme project “Energy innovation for low-cost housing in India and South Africa: strategies for interdisciplinary and cross-institutional dialogue’, led by Dr Charlotte Lemanski in Geography.

 Research team:

Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank (Architecture)

Dr Anika Haque (Architecture)

Dr Charlotte Lemanski (Geography)

Dr Ruchi Choudhary (Engineering)

Prof Jaideep Prabhu (Judge Business School)

Prof Ronita Bardhan (IIT-B, Mumbai)


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