The ecology and economy of housing. An assessment system for the evaluation of the suitability of buildings and housing estates for the future.

Content Description




The central focus of the project is to evaluate of the "ecology and economy of housing" in different types of residential buildings. The aim of this comprehensive evaluation, which is based on already existing "total quality" assessment methods, is to establish the comparability of macro- and microeconomic costs as well as the ecological efficiency of housing (especially of one-family houses). The ecological/economical arguments and conclusions resulting from the assessment should support and influence developments in the housing market along the guidelines of the "Building of Tomorrow" programme.

Starting point and aims of the project

Houses and buildings are an essential element in the living and working infrastructure of society. More than 40% of the overall material input into the Austrian economy goes into construction business, 77% of which goes into building construction. A high degree of sealing and high energy consumption during the construction and usage of housing premises betrays high ecological inefficiency in current developments. The main framework for developments in building is provided by political decisions (e.g. regional planning) and political subsidies (e.g. housing subsidies, financing of infrastructure).

The aim of this study is to develop strong economic and ecological argumentation for houses and housing estates "fit for the future". These arguments are based on the results of a building assessment which also takes macroeconomic costs into consideration.

The assessment focuses on the type of house that takes main consumer motives into account.

Methodical principles

Construction methods, production technique, site criteria and versatility are the main grounds of the assessment. Both subjective arguments/ arguments concerning the household budget and living costs, and all-embracing economic arguments (e.g. the costs of infrastructure, further external costs) are used as criteria for assessing the economic aspects of present and future housing. The ecological assessment criteria should be based on the principles of the "building of tomorrow" programme: optimal resource use (energy and materials efficiency), the flexibility and adaptability of houses and estates for different stages of the lifecycle.


Living in a green house, near the forest - a common dream. But is this kind of settlement economically and ecologically sustainable? What about the society-related costs of single-family housing compared with dwelling in urban agglomeration areas?
The project "homeVALUE" analyses the environmental soundness and the economical efficiency of various settlement patterns. In contrast to other research approaches investigating the ecological quality of individual types of buildings (environmental aspects of building material, etc), homeVALUE puts the focus on the comparison of various settlement patterns. The main criteria for the assessment are demand of space, sealing, energy efficiency and the costs of infrastructure.
The main result of this research work is a concise list of arguments ("argumentarium") for an economical/ecological optimisation of the settlement structure in Austria. In two workshops the project team discussed the issue together with scientific experts (architecture sociology, etc) and with stakeholders from public administration, local authorities and the housing sector. The insights from this workshops are the basis for the list of target group-oriented recommendations.

Main points of the "argumentarium"

  • Settlement systems are to be developed as an integrated and multi-dimensional offer including new building types, consideration of the residential surroundings (open space, traffic infrastructure) and technological innovations (e.g. local heating systems).
  • Clients associate certain qualities with the single-family house in the open countryside. These qualities are to be considered in the development of new settlement systems.
  • New marketing concepts are necessary for innovative settlement types. Consumers need to see and feel the advantages.
  • New methods are needed for the preparation and implementation of planning processes.
  • The efficient use of existing settlement systems and infrastructure bears the greatest potential for minimisation of costs and resource flows.
  • Currently, there is a mismatch between the fees to be paid for local public infrastructure and the actual (public or external) costs. A restructuring of the current fee system is suggested.
  • The development of settlements is a societal endeavour. Therefore more communication about this issue (especially about the intertwinedness of environmental protection and economical efficiency) is needed
  • Concerted national and regional policies are necessary for a sustainable settlement development. On the implementation level the municipality is often left alone with its decisions.

Project Partners

Project manager: DI Georg Tappeiner
Austrian Institute of Ecology
Partners: Inter-University Research Center for Technology, Work and Culture (IFZ)


DI Georg Tappeiner
Austrian Institute of Ecology
Seidengasse 13
A 1070 Wien
Tel.:+43 1 523 61 05-44
Fax: +43 1 523 58 43
E-Mail: tappeiner@ecology.at