Co-benefits of Making Housing Healthier

Philippa Howden-Chapman

The indoor environment is where we spend most of our time and so is the most important exposure for our health. We have completed two community randomised trials, the Housing, Insulation and Health Study and the Housing, Heating and Health Study, that have demonstrated the effectiveness of retrofitting insulation and installing effective, non-polluting heaters in improving health. A subsequent evaluation of the first 45,000 houses in a national roll-out of this programme has shown additional benefits in reducing hospitalisations and premature mortality. Our latest two trials are providing electricity vouchers to older people with chronic respiratory diseases in the WHEZ study and remediating home hazards in the HIPI study.

These trials have highlighted that there are significant health gains to be made from improving the indoor environment in existing housing, as well as making significant gains in energy efficiency, which highlight additional benefits in reducing energy demand and thereby lowering carbon emissions. These measures can lower the costs of running a house and when combined with building new housing along public transit routes, can lower transport costs. Housing, energy and transport costs represent the major household expenditures and have been identified as the main areas where carbon savings can be made.