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Media Release: Living Labs Housing Study

Posted 22 February 2017 - 4:44pm

There is increasing adoption of water and energy efficient design and technology in our homes, but in many cases how we operate them means they often fall short of their potential. Uncertainty surrounding the extent of this behavioural impact is often used as a reason not to mandate more stringent efficiency standards. The reality is the degree of behavioural impact is poorly understood, let alone what it takes to change it.

Josh House Living Labs is a two-year experiment undertaken by Curtin University’s Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP) and backed by the CRC for Low Carbon Living that is investigating how knowledge and behaviour can influence the operational performance of a house – particularly energy and water consumption.

Ten suburban homes near Fremantle in WA were chosen to participate. Each household is already making efforts to reduce its environmental footprint in some way or another, be it with energy efficient design, solar panels, rain water tanks or low energy lighting and appliances. The questions we are looking to answer are:

  • If provided with the right information and guidance will these householders go even further to reduce their energy and water consumption and lower their carbon footprint?
  • Is our behaviour the number one factor in living more sustainably?
  • And can simple lifestyle changes reduce our bills, make our homes more comfortable and save us money?

The participating households are a mix of old and new homes with different occupant profiles. There’s a combination of high performance homes and more conventional houses that meet the minimum 6 Star building code thermal performance requirement. There’s also some renovated dwellings. Monitoring equipment has been installed in each house to record and provide feedback on electricity, gas and water usage, internal temperature, as well as rainwater use and solar electricity production.

The research is being led by Curtin University PhD Candidate Christine Eon and Curtin Research Fellow Josh Byrne, who is well known for his role on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia program.

“These days our homes are full of energy efficient appliances, water saving fixtures and solar power is common place, so many people think they’re already doing their bit.” Says Byrne. “On top of that, bills are received so infrequently that people lose the connection between their actions and patterns of consumption. Here, we’re testing the impact of real-time data feedback, as well as other methods to help people go further if that’s what they want to do. It’s a fascinating real-life study spanning design, technology and human behaviour and attitudes and there’s a lot that we can all learn from it.”

You can follow the results of the study via a four-episode video series produced by Fremantle production company VAM Media, in conjunction with Josh Byrne & Associates as part of the award winning Josh’s House project. The episodes are now available from along with factsheets and other information aimed at helping people maximise their house performance through good design and management.

Contact for all media and communication enquiries:
Darcy Hodgkinson
Communications Manager
Josh Byrne & Associates
08 9433 3721