Healthier, more efficient homes for Victoria
ISF is partnering with UTS colleagues at the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluations (CHERE) to undertake research into the health benefits of home energy efficiency retrofits. The research project is an “Australian first” for assessing the relationship between the quality of housing for vulnerable occupants and health outcomes.
The Victorian Healthy Homes program, funded by the Victorian Government through Sustainability Victoria (SV), will upgrade the homes of vulnerable householders who are receiving home and community care service.
One thousand homes will be upgraded as part of the Home Energy Assist package, announced in this year’s Victorian State Budget. Upgrades will be installed throughout Western Melbourne and Goulburn Valley, with program recruitment due to start in early 2018 in Melbourne and 2019 in the Goulburn Valley. Nine local councils across the chosen suburbs will help recruit participants for the program.
The Healthy Homes program is a research driven project that aims to understand how energy efficiency upgrades effect the health, comfort and financial situation of occupants by improving building thermal performance. ISF brings two decades of experience to this project, leveraging expertise in residential sustainability, thermal comfort and energy efficiency assessments and understanding the future impacts of climate change. ISF has also has significant experience in working with vulnerable households to improve energy efficiency and policy decision making.
CHERE is the Program Research Partner and brings expertise in health economics and health services research. Its staff will lead the research on behalf of UTS and be responsible for designing and analysing the occupant surveys and linking health records to assess the health outcomes, with an emphasis on cardiac and respiratory illnesses. At the project completion, UTS will deliver an integrated health, energy and climate change co-benefits assessment, monetising the benefits associated with improved home energy efficiency and warmth.
The data collection will be undertaken across two winter periods, with control and intervention groups in both cohorts. All participants will receive a home energy upgrade with those selected as the control groups receiving their upgrades after the winter period.
ISF’s responsibility as the Energy Research Partner is to measure changes in residential energy efficiency, energy use and thermal comfort associated with improved home energy efficiency and warmth. ISF will undertake statistical modelling to determine whether there is a statistically significant difference in thermal comfort and indoor air quality for homes have received an energy efficiency upgrade.
Temperature and humidity data loggers will be used to collect high resolution data from each home included in the study, and energy billing data, physical characteristics, socio-demographics and information on a buildings heating system will be collected at the point of intervention. The information will then be used to assess whether energy efficiency measures have contributed to changes in internal temperatures and humidity.
From this information, we will be able to ascertain whether one form intervention leads to better outcomes for occupants. Other sources of information include data from The Bureau of Meteorology providing historical weather data over the period of the study, energy data for each household from the utility companies, and detailed interval data that is available as a consequence of Victoria’s state wide electricity smart meter deployment.
The ISF team will be lead by Dr Scott Kelly, with contributions from Kerryn Wilmot, Jay Falletta and other specialist support from across the Institute.
The program also partners with Moreland Energy Foundation Limited (MEFL) and Kildonan UnitingCare who will provide the frontline services for the home visits, house audits and energy efficiency upgrades.
UTS’ involvement commenced in November and is expected to continue until project completes in December 2020.