2005 volume 32(1) pages 5 – 19
doi:10.1068/b3050

Cite as:
Priemus H, 2005, "How to make housing sustainable? The Dutch experience" Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 32(1) 5 – 19

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How to make housing sustainable? The Dutch experience

Hugo Priemus

Received 22 July 2003; in revised form 20 July 2004

Abstract. Sustainable housing has been a major topic of national policy in the Netherlands for fifteen years. The author argues that sustainable housing is a badly defined concept, both in scientific literature and in policy documents. The Dutch government has never indicated how the sustainability of housing could be measured, or realized a zero measurement, which would enable researchers to evaluate environmental policies to promote sustainable housing properly. A narrow definition of sustainability is adopted, whereby the author concentrates on the ecological dimensions of the concept of `sustainability': the environmental impact on the greenhouse effect; the quality of air, water, and soil; noise nuisance; stench; the stock of nonrenewable materials; and biodiversity. An overview of ways in which the sustainability of housing can be measured is given and the use of a multivariate yardstick advocated. A set of recommendations is presented for politicians and public officials about the way in which sustainable housing can be promoted, and a research agenda on sustainability in housing presented. The author concludes by pointing out the analogy between the Dutch government's policy to promote sustainable housing and the story of the emperor's new clothes. The moral is that it is better to acknowledge that we do not know essential things about sustainable housing than simply to 'believe' in it.

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