Modeling socioeconomic pathways to assess sustainability: a tailored development for housing retrofit

  • Maria Isabel Touceda
  • Francisco Javier Neila
  • Marc Degrez



In the European context, energy and climate have been prioritized by policies related to retrofitting, but social concerns such as unemployment or poverty need to be tackled. Policy makers need supporting assessment methods to comprehensively address complex processes as retrofitting, and the methodology of life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) seems an appropriate tool. However, LCSA needs further adaptation for the intended application. The objective of this work is to define socioeconomic models that, added to environmental life cycle assessment, enable LCSA. The intended application is guiding policy making related to retrofitting from a life cycle perspective.


This study defines models to assess social and socioeconomic impacts similarly to environmental life cycle assessment. These models address social and socioeconomic concerns, relevant in housing retrofitting processes, for which a cause-effect relationship can be established. Characterization models result from the identification, combination, and adaptation of available methods, developed within various research fields. These methods analyze damages to the health of workers involved in the life cycle and to the health of the household living in the retrofitted dwelling. Impacts on human well-being and dignity are addressed by analyzing prosperity, in terms of fair employment, alleviation of fuel poverty of households, and economic growth.

Results and discussion

With the proposed LCSA methods, we have compared impacts associated to the retrofitting of a house in Brussels in two scenarios, considering a remaining life cycle of 30 years and taking into account the reference situation. Environmental damages significantly decrease in one of the scenarios, but slightly increase for households that commonly under-heat. Retrofitting prevents indoor mold and associated damages on health but implies damages on the health of workers. Fair working hours involved in the life cycle have been quantified as well as the effects on the households regarding fuel poverty. The effects on the economic growth have also been studied to provide insights for the optimization of encouraging measures.


This LCSA proposal consists of a set of socioeconomic characterization models coupled with selected environmental ones. The models have been defined adapted to the particular application, given the context-specific nature of some of the social concerns, indicators, and characterization factors. This LCSA proposal helps adapting policies to housing typologies, household and dwelling conditions, as well as identifying potential improvements in the life cycle.


Case study Characterization models Fuel poverty Housing LCSA Retrofitting Social Hotspot Databse Social LCA 



This research is supported by the research team 4MAT recycling and environment, and was funded by the Brussels Capital Region through the INNOVIRIS Strategic Platform BRUSSELS RETROFIT XL for the period 2013–2014.

Supplementary material

11367_2016_1194_MOESM1_ESM.docx (168 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 167 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Isabel Touceda
    • 1
  • Francisco Javier Neila
    • 2
  • Marc Degrez
    • 1
  1. 1.Université libre de BruxellesIxellesBelgium
  2. 2.Universidad Politécnica de MadridMadridSpain

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