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Kate O'Sullivan

Dr Kate O'Sullivan

Research Associate

School of Social Sciences


I am a Research Associate based in the School of Social Sciences and Understanding Risk Research Group. Currently I am working as part of the social science team led by Prof. Karen Henwood and Prof. Nick Pidgeon on the Greenhouse Gas Removal via Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) Demonstrator project. Our research is building knowledge of public perceptions and local community acceptance of ERW at 3 case field sites representative of major agricultural land uses in the UK. My role centres on the exploration of how cultural and historical context shape understandings of the environmental and societal risks and benefits of deployment; contribution to in-depth knowledge on ERW social/ethical acceptability to the GGR-D Hub; and development of upstream ‘social intelligence’ on deployment barriers and opportunities for ERW.

My background is in human geography and my research interests centre around the relational and multi-scale interplay between humans and environment, and the implications for how places are understood and experienced. My research has included the exploration of decarbonisation for peripheral communities in Wales which with a focus on energy and spatial justice. This work highlighted connections between spatial structures and the distribution of costs and benefits of decarbonisation.

My most recent research was as part of the Active Building Centre Research Programme, exploring lived experiences of new and novel low and zero carbon homes in Wales. Through unpacking the perspectives of the housing developers, emplaced communities and new residents, this research has elucidated how such developments are subject to, and can inform, placemaking processes. In this way they hold potential to evolve with existing community attachments to place, contribute to identity, as well as addressing local and societal scale concerns for climate change.







Book sections




My research interests are on the interplay between environmental, spatial and energy justice. I am concerned with how the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources is influenced by various economic, political and socio-spatial structures and how this manifests geographically. Research in this area is increasingly important as decarbonisation progresses and opportunities are presented that could enable emerging systems and structures become more just. My PhD research (2015-20) has highlighted the connections between political power, recognition, socio-economic development and the distribution of costs and benefits emerging from low carbon transition.


Henwood, K., Pidgeon, N., Shirani, F., O'Sullivan, K. and Hale, R. 2023. Living well in low carbon homes project report. Project Report. Self-publish.

O'Sullivan, K., Shirani, F., Hale, R., Pidgeon, N. and Henwood, K. 2023. Identity, place narrative and biophilic urban development: Connecting the past, present and future for sustainable liveable cities. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 5 (10.3389/frsc.2023.1139029)

O'Sullivan, K., Shirani, F., Hale, R., Pidgeon, N., and Henwood, K. 2023. New communities and new values? Exploring the role of green spaces in low carbon neighbourhoods. Architecture, Media, Politics and Society. Cultures, Community and Design, [Online], Calgary Canada, June 28-30. Available: Amps-Proceedings-Series-30..pdf (  

Shirani, F., O'Sullivan, K., Hale, R., Pidgeon, N., and Henwood, K. 2022. From Active Houses to Active Homes: Understanding Resident Experiences of Transformational Design and Social Innovation. Energies 15.   

Shirani, F., O'Sullivan, K., Henwood, K., Hale, R., and Pidgeon, N. 2022. Living in an Active Home: Houshold dynamics and unintended consiquences. Buildings and cities, 3(1), pp. 589-604. 

Shirani, F., O'Sullivan, K., Hale. R., Pidgeon, N., and Henwood, K. 2022. Transformational innovation in home energy: How developers imagine and engage with future residents of low carbon homes in the United Kingdom. Energy Research and social science. 

O'Sullivan, K., Shirani, F., Pidgeon, N., and Henwood, K. 2022. Why Active Buildings? Realising the potentials of energy networked homes: A social scientific perspective. In: Vahidinasab, V., Mohammadi-Ivatloo, B. (eds) Active Building Energy Systems Operation and Control. Springer: Nottingham. 

O'Sullivan, K., Henwood, K., and Pidgeon, N. 2020. Active Buildings in a changing policy landscape: conceptual challanges and sociel scientific perspectives. Active Building Centre Research Programme White Paper Series. Avaiable at: 

O'Sullivan, K., Golubchikov, O. and Mehmood, A. 2020. Uneven energy transitions: Understanding continued energy peripheralization in rural communities. Energy Policy 138, article number: 111288. (10.1016/j.enpol.2020.111288)

Golubchikov, O. and O'Sullivan, K. 2020. Energy periphery: uneven development and the precarious geographies of low-carbon transition. Energy and Buildings (10.1016/j.enbuild.2020.109818)

Marquand, J., O’ Sullivan, K., & Pearce, S.  2019. Factors influencing local and community engagement in renewable energy in Wales. Cardiff: The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods for the Institute of Welsh Affairs. (final project report available at: