Guide to the benefits of low carbon social housing

This story is republished from The Green List.

Lowering carbon emissions in social housing can yield multiple benefits and improve the ability of tenants to stay comfortable in periods of intense heat or cold weather.

Lowering carbon emissions in social housing can yield multiple benefits and improve the ability of tenants to stay comfortable in periods of intense heat or cold weather.

One of the opportunities is the relatively centralised ownership and management of the stock. This enables providers to develop a process for improving their stock and then roll it out at scale, Dr Daniel Daly from the University of Wollongong Sustainable Buildings Research Centre says.

“Always, the starting point has to be improving tenant wellbeing.”

Daniel was one of the lead authors on the CRC for Low Carbon Living’s Guide to Implementing Low Carbon Social Housing Retrofits.

He says a big challenge is the large proportion of stock that’s ageing, much built before there were energy efficiency provisions in construction codes for residential dwellings.

This means social housing managers often face onerous maintenance costs just to keep properties liveable. There’s also the legacy of historic underinvestment by previously state owned and managed public sector housing.

The new guide is a way to help both private and public sector social housing managers navigate complexities and reap the rewards, both financial and operational.

Ivanhoe Estate, Macquarie Park, Sydney – proposed development by the NSW Land and Housing Commission. To include 1,000 social housing and 128 affordable housing dwellings, community facilities, a high school, retail and green space.

Tenants benefit with improved comfort and lower energy costs

And let’s remember that “social housing is there primarily to help tenants,” Daniel says.

“Always, the starting point has to be improving tenant wellbeing.”

This includes both the physical health and wellbeing benefits of better thermal comfort in extreme heat and cold, as well as the mental wellbeing that comes with more affordable energy bills.

During the research for the guide, Daniel and the CRCLCL team found tenants can implement quite extreme measures to keep their energy bills down, such as not switching on heating during freezing weather, or cutting back on showers to save on hot water energy use.

The guide maps out a three-step process to help property managers support tenants to avoid uncomfortable practices and still manage energy bills.

The first step involves implementing simple measures that should benefit all homes. It explains how to measure air tightness and fix problematic gaps, improve insulation, options such as ceiling fans.

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