Low-Energy Housing as a Means of Improved Social Housing: Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities

  • Trivess MooreEmail author
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


Rising energy costs are significantly impacting low-income households. These households can struggle to pay their utility bills, and/or self-ration how much energy they consume which impacts on liveability within the home, such as the provision of appropriate thermal comfort. While incremental progress is being made in terms of improving the energy efficiency of housing in many developed countries, such improvements are typically inaccessible to low-income or social housing tenants. This chapter presents outcomes of a multi-year evaluation of a cohort of low-energy social housing from Horsham in regional Victoria, Australia. The analysis includes technical performance data and is supplemented with the occupants’ own stories about improved liveability outcomes. It is clear that the evidence supports aspirations by the state housing agency, which owns and maintains the housing, to move beyond their current minimum housing standards for new construction. A combination approach, whereby the thermal performance of the dwelling is improved, in addition to including renewable energy generation, will address several goals of social (or public) housing providers—namely improving quality of life, health outcomes, finances and poverty. In addition, such housing will help them achieve organisational or broader government sustainability goals such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel energy consumption.



The construction, research and evaluation of this project were funded by the Director of Housing, Victoria and are reproduced with permission of the Director of Housing. The author thanks the research participants (householders and stakeholders) who generously gave their time to this project, Becky Sharpe and Daniel Voronoff from the Department of Health and Human Services, Ian Adams from Organica Engineering and acknowledges the wider RMIT research team involved in the project: Yolande Strengers, Cecily Maller, Larissa Nicholls, Ian Ridley, Ralph Horne and Shae Hunter.


  1. 1.
    ABS (2015) 6523.0—household income and wealth, Australia, 2013–14. Australian Bureau of Statistics, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    ACOSS (2013) Energy efficiency & people on low incomes. Australian Council of Social Service, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    AIHW (2017) Housing assistance in Australia 2017. Retrieved 18 Nov. 2017, from
  4. 4.
    Australian Energy Regulator (2016) Annual report on the performance of the retail energy market 2015–16. Australian Energy Regulator, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Australian Energy Regulator (2017) State of the energy market May 2017. Australian Energy Regulator, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    BCEC (2016) Energy poverty in Western Australia. A comparative analysis of drivers and effects. Bankwest Curtain Economics Centre, PerthGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Berry S (2014) The technical and economic feasibility of applying a net zero carbon standard for new housing. University of South AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Berry S, Whaley D, Davidson K, Saman W (2014a) Do the numbers stack up? Lessons from a zero carbon housing estate. Renew Energy 67:80–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Berry S, Whaley D, Davidson K, Saman W (2014b) Near zero energy homes—what do users think? Energy Policy 73:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Boardman B (2012) Fuel poverty. In: Smith SJ (ed) International encyclopedia of housing and home. Elsevier, San Diego, pp 221–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Chester L (2013) The impacts and consequences for lowincome Australian households of rising energy prices. University of Sydney, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    DBEIS (2017) Annual domestic energy bills. Average annual domestic electricity bills for UK Countries (QEP 2.2.2). E. I. S. Department for Business. London, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial StrategyGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    DHHS (2017) Social housing. Retrieved 18 Nov. 2017, from
  14. 14.
    EIA (2017) Short-term energy and summer fuels outlook. U.S.E. I. Administration. Washington, U.S. Energy Information AdministrationGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Essential Services Commission (2016) Victorian energy market report 2015–16. Essential Services Commission, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Farbotko C, Waitt G (2011) Residential air-conditioning and climate change: voices of the vulnerable. Health Promot J Austr 22(Spec No: S13–S16)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hoppe T (2012) Adoption of innovative energy systems in social housing: lessons from eight large-scale renovation projects in The Netherlands. Energy Policy 51(Supplement C):791–801CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Jacobs Australia Pty Limited (2016) Retail electricity price history and projections—public. Jacobs Australia Pty Limited, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Langevin J, Gurian PL, Wen J (2013) Reducing energy consumption in low income public housing: interviewing residents about energy behaviors. Appl Energy 102(Supplement C):1358–1370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Marzouk M, Azab S (2017) Analyzing sustainability in low-income housing projects using system dynamics. Energy Build 134(Supplement C):143–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Moore T (2012) Facilitating a transition to zero emission new housing in Australia: costs, benefits and direction for policy. RMIT UniversityGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Moore T, de Haan F, Horne R, Gleeson B (2018) Urban Sustainability Transitions. Australian Cases—International Perspectives. Springer, SingaporeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Moore T, Ridley I, Strengers Y, Maller C, Horne R (2016) Dwelling performance and adaptive summer comfort in low-income Australian households. Build Res Inf 1–14Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Moore T, Strengers Y, Maller C, Ridley I, Nicholls L, Horne R (2016) Horsham catalyst research and evaluation. Final Report. RMIT University, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Pretlove S, Kade S (2016) Post occupancy evaluation of social housing designed and built to code for sustainable homes levels 3, 4 and 5. Energy Build 110(Supplement C):120–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Roders M, Straub (2015) A assessment of the likelihood of implementation strategies for climate change adaptation measures in Dutch social housing. Build Environ 83(Supplement C):168–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Santangelo A, Tondelli S (2017) Occupant behaviour and building renovation of the social housing stock: current and future challenges. Energy Build. 45(Supplement C):276–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Smith A (2006) Governance lessons from Green Niches: the case of eco-housing. In: Murphy J (ed) Governing technology for sustainability. Earthscan, London, pp 89–109Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    US EPA (2011) Energy efficiency in affordable housing. A guide to developing and implementing greenhouse gas reduction programs. Local Government Climate And Energy Strategy Series. Washington, United State Environmental Protection Agency (2011)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Victorian State Government (2007) K2 apartments technical report. Retrieved 05 Aug. 2017, from

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sustainable Building Innovation Laboratory, School of Property Construction and Project ManagementRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations