Integrating health, housing and energy policies: social practices of cooling

Yolande Strengers, Cecily Maller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Health, housing, and energy policies to address hot weather and heatwaves are typically based on divided 'technical' and 'behavioural' strategies and tend to be developed in isolation. This approach results in conflicting outcomes both within and across public policies, potentially leaving households more vulnerable to heat. The cooling practices of Australian householders are analysed using social practice theory to highlight inherent contradictions and tensions in current policies. A range of successful adaptive strategies is identified in participants of a dynamic peak pricing electricity programme or residents of an eco-living development without air-conditioning. The findings demonstrate how householders' ability to respond to heat is shaped by the elements of cooling practices, including common understandings about air-conditioners, practical knowledge and available housing infrastructures. There is a critical need to move towards a coordinated, multi-pronged and flexible public policy response framed around the dynamic cooling practices of households. This requires policies that prioritize and support adaptive cooling infrastructures, and that recognize, support and share householders' existing adaptive capacity to respond to heat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-168
Number of pages15
JournalBuilding Research and Information
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptive behaviour
  • air-conditioning
  • cooling practices
  • energy consumption
  • heatwave
  • inhabitant behaviour
  • peak electricity demand
  • public health
  • thermal comfort

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