• Lecturer in Sustainable Development

    University of St Andrews

  • About Me

    Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs is an interdisciplinary energy researcher interested in how ‘normal’ expectations of home are becoming increasingly energy demanding. Much of her work aims to bring the wealth of scholarship on the meaning and making of home into energy debates and she is best known for her publication ‘Home-ing in on domestic energy research: ‘house,’ ‘home’ and the importance of ontology’. She is currently working on a Carnegie Trust funded project ‘Is Bigger Better? Comparing Expectations and Experiences of House Size in the UK and Australia’ which builds on her PhD work exploring the meaning of ‘home comfort’ with occupants of zero-carbon homes in Scotland, UK.
     

    Towards the end of her PhD, Katherine contributed to Dr. Louise Reid’s ESRC funded research on energy prosumption, investigating householder’s experiences of installing and living with microgeneration technologies in the UK and the Netherlands. She defended her PhD from the University of St Andrews in July 2016 and has held her post as Lecturer at the same institution since the beginning of 2017.

  • Research

    PhD: Home-ing in on Domestic Energy Research

    Research Fellowship: Energy Prosumption & Smarter Homes

    1st PI project: Is Bigger Better?

  • Home Comfort & Energy Demand

    PhD (2012-2016)

    My PhD research centred on domestic energy and low-carbon living; investigating how lifestyle expectations influence, and are influenced, by the physical features of the home. This approach is informed by a growing body of literature on social practice theory and the importance of a socio-technical perspective. Thus, my research moves away from ideas of behaviour change, informed by social-psychology, to thinking more broadly about what energy is for, and in particular asking what comfort means in Scottish homes. Indeed, the meaning of comfort has become an important concept in order to critique the dominant techno-economic approach to meeting demand, yet this is mainly focused on thermal comfort and no research in this context has aimed to empirically study this concept. Thus, my research employed qualitative methods to ask about the meaning of comfort, including the use of household interviews, house tours and drawings. The research was based on speaking to residents of ‘low-carbon’ homes in Fife, Scotland. Read my PhD abstract or full thesis by clicking on these links.

     

    Published outputs include 'Home-ing in on domestic energy research' (2015); 'Our obsession with comfort is the carbon conundrum everyone ignores' (2015); 'The history of home making and expectations of 'normal' home life' (2016); and 'Integrated Framework of Home Comfort' (2018).

    Energy Prosumption & Smarter Homes

    Research Fellowship (2015-2017)

    Supporting the ESRC Future Leaders funded research on ‘Smarter homes’, which compares the experience of Dutch and British households living with microgeneration technologies through online research methods. My role has included literature reviews on a range of online research methods and debates, co-organising a two-day international workshop on online methods and household sustainability, and dissemination through peer-reviewed academic journals as well as non-academic outlets (i.e. The Conversation, updating our website). For more information visit https://smarterhomes.wordpress.com/

     

    Published outputs include 'Conceptualising energy prosumption' (2016); 'Attempting to Bring Digital Tools to the Study of Everyday Home Life' (2016); 'World’s progress at making heating renewable is pitiful – here’s why' (2016); 'Practicing energy prosumption' (2017); and 'Nudge(ography) and practice theories' (2018).

    Is Bigger Better? Comparing expectations of house size in the UK and Australia

    1st Project as Principal Investigator (2018-present)

    This project aims to explore changing patterns of house size, space per person and expectation of privacy in the home. Domestic energy research and policy is critiqued by social scientists for being dominated by techno-economic thinking, which overlooks critical social considerations that also impact on energy demand. Despite increasing contributions by sociologists, historians, and geographers to provide more complex and contextual accounts to inform intervention strategies (e.g. challenging the normalisation of thermal comfort as 21C, which local and cultural ways of coping with variation in indoor temperatures) changes in house and household sizes are missing from these debates. Decreasing household sizes and rising space per person significantly influence energy demand per capita, and are widely seen to undermine energy savings from improved energy efficiency. This project will be a first step in a broader programme of work expanding our understanding of changing patterns in space per person, allowing the development of novel strategies for reducing energy demand.

     

    Published outputs include 'Fixing the housing crisis: it’s time to challenge our thirst for more living space' (2018).

    PhD Students

    I currently supervise two PhD students:

    Megan Carras (full-time): ‘Tiny house, big impact’: are tiny homes the cure for consumerism? Exploring the Tiny house movement in the United States

     

    Rachel Creaney (full-time): SHOW – health Smart Homes for Older peoples’ Wellbeing (James Hutton Institute/University of St Andrews)

  • Teaching

     

     

     

  • Sustainable Development

    Teach at all levels of the SD Programme

    I have been tutoring and lecturing undergraduate students within the BSc and MA degrees in Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews since 2012. I have been involved in curriculum development, most notably restructuring and co-designing an interdisciplinary first year Sustainable Development module. This included working with colleagues from different disciplines: climate science, biology, economics, human geography, population studies, and political science. Furthermore, I have designed my own module on 'Society, Sustainable Consumption & Implementing Change' which will run in Spring 2019.

    Living Labs & Theoretical Theatre

    One of my main contributions to the Sustainable Development programme has been giving students opportunities for their coursework and studies to contribute practically to sustainability activities in St Andrews and I am a key person at the University of St Andrews working across Schools and professional staff on embedding a ‘Living Labs’ approach. I am also passionate about innovative and engaging pedagogies, employing Gill Seyfang’s ‘theoretical theatre’. This involves ‘acting out’ different theories/debates, in order to bring them to life and demonstrate to student's the value of different theories and perspectives.

  • Publications

    click on title of publication for link to full text

  • Blogs

    Ellsworth-Krebs, K. (2018) "Fixing the housing crisis: it’s time to challenge our thirst for more living space" on the academic news analysis site, The Conversation (has a monthly audience of 5 million).

     

    Ellsworth-Krebs, K. and Reid, L. (2016) “World’s progress at making heating renewable is pitiful – here’s why” on the academic news analysis site, The Conversation (has a monthly audience of 5 million).

     

    Ellsworth-Krebs, K. (2015) “Our obsession with comfort is the carbon conundrum everyone ignores” on the academic news analysis site, The Conversation (has a monthly audience of 5 million).

     

    Ellsworth-Krebs, K. (2015) “Why you should start an academic writing group” on Professor Pat Thomson’s blog, Patter (has over 18,000 subscribers as well as 12,000 twitter followers).

  • Blog

  • I have just spent a month visiting the Beyond Behaviour Change (BBC) research program led by Drs Yolande Strengers and Cecily Maller at RMIT in Melbourne. BBC fund two international visitors annually, and I also funded this trip as part of my project on exploring expectations and experiences of...
    February 20, 2018
    As of today, I have been a lecturer in sustainable development for exactly a year. I thought it would be nice to take a moment to reflect on all that I have done and learned over this past year. A good point to take a break from perpetually looking ahead and preparing for future struggles. ...
    The fact that this blog is a week overdue hints at my goal to write 2 hours daily has not been happening. Nonetheless I have written a little about the last two weeks, reflecting on other things 'getting in the way'.   Week 4 A big part of going on holiday was a desire to have a week away...
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  • An active community member

     

     

     

     

  • I work with Transition University of St Andrews to better embed sustainability initiatives at the University and ensure greater cross over between action and research, including a stronger link with the School of Geography and Sustainable Development. Being active in practical sustainability projects, I helped set up a Transition Initiative in St Andrews in 2011. I was coordinator for two years (Oct 2010- May 2012) and I am now on the Board of Directors for Transition's Community Interest Company. Through my involvement with this Transition Initiative I have been lead and co-author on numerous successful funding bids as well as a member of multiple interview panels. From 2012-2016 I focused on a local bike project, which I founded and coordinated, to create a rental scheme and offer free classes on bicycle maintenance.

     

    I have been active at the University in other capacities beyond research. I was PG representative for my department (2014-2015), a tutor in the Sustainable Development programme (2013-2015) and an Assistant Warden at the University’s largest hall of residence (2013-2016). I have organised a Sustainable Development seminar series (2011) with over 12 presenters and some interactive formats (fish bowl, world cafe) and set up a 'writing group' (following from #AcWriMo and #SUWTuesdays) where we work for two hours regularly writing in the same room as a way to protect writing time and keep up to date on what our colleagues are working on (2014). More recently, Dr Shona Russell and I have organised a symposium on 'Sustainability in the Curriculum' at the University of St Andrews that has led to the formation of a Sustainability Learning and Teaching Committee (2018).

     

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