Global Communities and society

Energy saving and greener homes: Case studies and resources for local government


Green futuristic skyscraper Bosco Verticale, vertical forest apartment building with gardens on balconies. Modern sustainable architecture in Porta Nuova district, Milan, Italy.

Every week, we highlight inspiration and innovation from local government worldwide. In this article, we’re focusing on how we can help create greener homes, retrofit existing dwellings to be more sustainable, and be more efficient with household energy use. You’ll find best practice from Ireland, Spain, India and New Zealand, along with plenty of practical policy and resources for more insight and guidance on the topic.

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Policy innovation and inspiration examples from the local government sector

A social housing scheme developed in partnership with Wicklow County Council has received several awards for its sustainable development and green operations. The mix of 40 houses, duplexes and apartments used a 10-step measure in development to enhance biodiversity without impacting costs. Further, the architects behind the development worked with their manufacturers to ensure limited environmental impact in the products used in the development’s construction, and used a national water calculator to limit water use. Now, with people living in the social housing, the 40 units achieved an average energy performance approximately 80% below 2005 regulations.
Passive House Plus

Spain: The housing development that produces no carbon
The Entrepatios Las Carolinas development in Madrid was created with the explicit intent of being as energy-efficient as possible while creating a comfortable environment away from the increasing heat of the city. It was conceived as a triple balance building, being environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. The net zero building is designed to reduce energy demand with a system set up to minimise consumption through top-quality insulation while generating its own energy via an array of solar panels. Much of the premises, which was developed from reused timbre, collects rain and recycles water, saving some 750,000 litres each year. The building was awarded the Energy & Temperate Climates Prize at the Green Solutions Awards 2020-21.

New Zealand: Prioritising housing relocation and deconstruction over demolition
Up to 50% of waste to landfill in New Zealand stems from construction and demolition waste, representing some 6 million tonnes per year. To help address this, the Kāinga Ora agency in New Zealand launched an ambitious deconstruction and demolition programme. The scheme aims to recycle 80% or more of uncontaminated construction and demolition materials in Auckland and Northland development areas, by prioritising house relocation and deconstruction. The former allows as entire house to be repurposed, while the latter allows for greater reuse of materials. The agency’s first deconstruction project in Auckland saw an 85% diversion from landfill, diverting 203 tonnes of demolition and construction waste, at a similar cost to conventional demolition.
Kāinga Ora

India: Water efficiency at recycling at the heart of apartment block
The Northern Star development in Thanisandra, Bangalore, India has embedded water efficiency in the heart of its design and in its use. The building manages to recycle 100% of its water all year round despite the hot and humid climate. It does this through several water efficiency techniques, ranging from planting drought-tolerant species to reduce water consumption, to zero-electricity waste converters that convert wet waste to landscaping manure, to on-site grey and black water separation and recycling. What’s more, residents are encouraged to be more mindful of their water habits through nudges. Other efficiency credentials include reflective paint and glass to reduce heat, and LED lights and sensors.
World Green Building Council

Resources to help build stronger communities

Old file folders books

Report: Enabling electrification: addressing the barriers to moving off gas faced by lower-income households
This paper examines the issues households in Victoria, Australia have reported in disconnecting from gas and switching to less-intensive or renewable fuel sources. It finds that most respondents supported a transition away from household gas, with housing tenure a key factor in electrification. It also highlights policy solutions to achieve equitable electrification, such as greater access to solar panels and targeted approaches to address stressors that may prevent households from prioritising electrification.

Report: Smarter energy use: how to cut energy bills and climate harm
This report also highlights the necessity of electrifying our homes, arguing it will lead to greater efficiency, lower energy bills during a cost of living crisis, and cut emissions in the climate crisis. This report takes a closer look at the important role efficiency will play with electrification in the energy transformation. It also highlights practical, affordable ways people can improve the energy performance of their home, as well as how all levels of government can work together to improve housing performance.

Study: Sustainable housing at a neighbourhood scale
The strategies and policy levers employed in “eco-neighbourhoods” are examined in this report. It looks at how these case study neighbourhoods from across Europe and Australia can inform future policy and practice. It also considers the challenges and opportunities of planning, designing and implementing sustainable housing developments at the neighbourhood level.

Toolkit: The role of local government in advancing a just transition in the built environment
The social impacts of local policy to decarbonise the built environment can vary considerably, ranging from helping those most in need to exacerbating inequality. This report identifies ways local governments can ensure net zero planning policy can both tackle inequality while reducing carbon emissions. It provides six tools with guidance and examples to help ensure the green transition in housing and planning is grounded in human rights.


Looking for even more on this topic? Check out our collection of resources on environmental governance! Make sure you subscribe to LGIU to never miss out on this essential service for the local government sector everywhere.


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