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Tools For Sustainable Housing

By : Gerda Klunder , Minna Sunikka

Most research and development regarding sustainable building relates to new construction rather than the management of the existing stock. Nevertheless, the capacity of the existing stock to provide environmental benefits is substantial. The use of environmental assessment tools could support sustainable decision-making in housing management processes. However, the development of tools has been focused on new buildings. This article calls attention to gaps in the development of current tools for housing management and indicates some future challenges. The Netherlands and Finland serve as case studies. The development of tools for sustainable housing management, for the built environment in general, and for housing management tasks is described. Four tools have been considered: from the Netherlands, Duwon, the National Package for Sustainable Housing Management, and Green Invest; from Finland, the Environmental Systems Guide for Real-Estate Management. It transpires that these various tools can support housing managers in environmental decision-making, but the environmental impacts of management actions are not clearly indicated. Furthermore, the tools adopt different approaches and may yield results which are conflicting, or difficult to compare. Examination of the general developments and trends in environmental assessment reveals that the Dutch tools currently available address quantifiable aspects well, while Finnish methods tend to focus on more qualitative aspects. In general terms, the various methods and tools are capable of being applied to the existing housing stock in both countries. Interesting perspectives arise with respect to housing management tasks in the Netherlands and Finland. The Netherlands is concerned with restructuring neighbourhood plans, whereas in Finland updating involves renovation at the level of buildings. The Netherlands can learn from Finland’s more holistic approach while Finland can learn from Dutch methodology for the environmental assessment of buildings. Finnish refurbishment and renovation could profitably be assessed from a more quantitative approach, while Dutch restructuring would benefit from a more comprehensive, qualitative approach. We conclude that updating the housing stock in both the Netherlands and Finland increases the need for tools which stimulate managers to deal with the housing stock in a more sustainable way. In both countries there is a strong need for tools which could contend with the environmental impact of decisions made at the strategic level and policy development. An example would be a comparison in environmental terms of renovation with demolition followed by new construction. Our recommendations include proposals for more research on tools for sustainable housing management, the attention necessary for the dissemination of tools, and strong policy incentives.

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