4.5 Article

Housing structure and occupant behaviour to increase the environmental and health co-benefits of housing: Insights from expert interviews in New Zealand


Volume 30, Issue 4, Pages 535-553


DOI: 10.1177/1420326X19897965


Climate change; Housing; Co-benefits; Behaviour change; Technologies


  1. Alexander von Humboldt Foundation through the Alexander von Humboldt Professor award - German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

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Both housing structure and occupant behavior have significant impacts on health and environmental outcomes. Improving energy efficiency, indoor temperature, and air quality in homes is critical for promoting health. Additionally, strategies such as raising consumer expectations of housing standards, sharing personal stories, and providing incentives should be considered to realize the full potential of health-enhancing home design.
Both housing structure and occupant use of homes influence health outcomes and carbon emissions. However, it remains unclear how these elements interact. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 technical experts in the New Zealand housing and health sectors. We applied the general inductive method for qualitative data analysis and generated frameworks for 'housing structure' and 'occupant behaviour' including: (i) issues or barriers, (ii) solutions or facilitators and (iii) potential interventions. Addressing the location, aspect and design of the house were seen to offer the greatest gains in energy efficiency, indoor temperature and air quality. Insulation, heating and ventilation were the most critical technologies for promoting health. Raising consumer expectations of housing standards was thought to be critical to boost demand and drive supply for better quality housing. Participants proposed that sharing personal stories, combining information with active strategies (demonstration, skill rehearsal) and providing incentives were promising strategies to realise the full potential of health-enhancing home design. Schools and the local community were identified as suitable settings. We conclude that public health interventions should not only aim to build homes that maximise health and environmental outcomes but must also pay attention to how occupants behave and interface with their houses.


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