An investigation into the impact of green low-cost social housing on the well-being of occupants in South Africa

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Climate change and economic challenges have intensified global efforts to accelerate the adoption of green building for sustainable development and the reduction of poverty through efficient uses of energy, protection of ecosystems and preservation of natural resources. The necessity for green building has evolved from being a choice of convenience and luxury to an obligation to a global society that is increasingly growing environmentally conscious. The benefits of green buildings in the commercial sector have been extensively researched, often focusing on productivity, return on investment and operating costs. However limited literature exists that investigates the relationship between green buildings and occupant well-being in a residential context. This study aimed to address the identified research gap by identifying various green-rated, low-cost social housing developments in South Africa and interviewing their occupants to investigate the impact that green buildings have on their perceived wellbeing and whether their environmental outlook was influenced by occupying a green building. A qualitative research method was adopted based on a review of the literature on green buildings and the subjective nature of well-being. Data collection was achieved via semistructured interviews in the form of multiple case study analysis, where thematic analysis was applied. The findings suggest that a positive relationship exists between green buildings and occupant well-being as well as their environmental awareness. Respondents reported experiencing improvements in areas that they considered contributory to their well-being and a noticeable positive change in their environmental awareness. Future research should investigate standardised tools for measuring occupant well-being in green residential buildings using larger sample sizes and a wider range of income groups as this study was limited to low-income groups within the social housing sector.