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Improving health and energy efficiency through community-based housing interventions



Houses designed for one climate and cultural group may not be appropriate for other places and people. Our aim is to find cost-effective ways to improve the characteristics of older homes, ill-fitted for New Zealand’s climate, in order to improve the occupants’ health.


We have carried out two community randomised trials, in partnership with local communities, which have focused on retrofitted insulation and more effective heating and have two other studies under way, one which focuses on electricity vouchers and the other on housing hazard remediation.


The Housing, Insulation and Health Study showed that insulating 1,350 houses, built before insulation was required, improved the occupants’ health and well being as well as household energy efficiency. In the Housing, Heating and Health Study we investigated the impact of installing more effective heating in insulated houses for 409 households, where there was a child with doctor-diagnosed asthma. Again, the study showed significant results in the intervention group; indoor temperatures increased and levels of NO2 were halved. Children reported less poor health, lower levels of asthma symptoms and sleep disturbances by wheeze and dry cough. Children also had fewer days off school.


Improving the energy efficiency of older housing leads to health improvements and energy efficiency improvements. Multidisciplinary studies of housing interventions can create compelling evidence to support policies for sustainable housing developments which improve health.

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Correspondence to Philippa Howden-Chapman.

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This paper belongs to the special issue “Housing for health promotion”.

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Howden-Chapman, P., Crane, J., Chapman, R. et al. Improving health and energy efficiency through community-based housing interventions. Int J Public Health 56, 583–588 (2011).

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  • Community trials
  • Health
  • Home heating
  • Energy efficiency
  • Sustainability