Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

This paper presents the results of a four-yearresearch project (1997–2001) entitled `Housingas a basis for sustainable consumption'. Theoverall aim was to obtain more empirical andtheoretical knowledge about the connectionbetween physical urban planning and householdconsumption. This knowledge provides a platformfor discussing principles and practices forsustainable urban development.

This project was based on two main assumptions.First, it was suggested that the significantand increasing environmental damage due toprivate household consumption presents a majorchallenge in achieving sustainable development.Second, a large part of this consumption appears to be influenced by our physical livingsituation, i.e., the way we design and locateour houses. This also applies to energy use forheating and technical appliances, transport,and even to the considerable amount ofequipment that is needed for householdoperation, redecoration and maintenance. Withrespect to transport, the study team includedboth everyday travel and leisure-time journeysin this research. While everyday trips such astravelling to work, shopping and taking thechildren to school are strongly influenced bythe living situation of the household, thismight also be true for leisure-time travel.

Based on two large surveys in the Norwegiantowns of Greater Oslo and Førde, the studyteam collected data on housing-relatedconsumption from 537 households. Ecological Footprinting was then used asan analytical tool to analyse the environmentalconsequences of this consumption. Theseecological footprint analyses suggest thatsustainable urban development points towardsdecentralized concentration, i.e.,relatively small cities with a high density andshort distances between the houses andpublic/private services.