City Futures Research Centre UNSW Built Environment

Social Determinants of Domestic Water and Energy Consumption

This project, co-funded by the ARC and Landcom, focuses on the critical, yet under-researched issue, of the impact that different forms of built environment and population structures have on water and energy consumption across urban areas. It is well understood that reduced water and energy consumption would reduce the environmental stress on urban areas, particularly in terms of impacts on water catchments, wastewater and sewage outputs, air pollution and greenhouse gases. Little systematic research has been conducted to understand how different types of built form contribute to these environmental impacts, what the contribution of social structure to these impacts may be, and how these impacts play out spatially across the city. Despite sustainability becoming a central concern of urban planning in recent years, much of the current policy directed at the reduction of urban water and energy consumption rests on relatively little empirical evidence about domestic consumption by households living in different types of dwelling. Fewer estimates are made of the per capita use of water or energy consumption is shaped by the needs of, and facilities used by, different kinds of households in different types of dwellings in Sydney.

The findings of the project will provide service providers and environmental planners with a substantially improved understanding of the role the built environment plays in determining water and energy consumption and its contribution to environmental stress. It will present an accurate estimate of the current geography of water and energy consumption of the Sydney population, in order to improve frame planning responses to urban sustainability. The research will also explore what level of change in pricing, regulations or availability of services would be needed to get households and individuals to reduce their energy and water consumption.

Research Paper No. 5 is now available to download: :

Water Consumption and the Built Environment: A Social and Behavioural Analysis Patrick Troy and Bill Randolph, June 2006


Professor Patrick Troy,
Chief Investigator

Funded by

Environmental Trust