Understanding New Zealand Homeowners Apparent Reluctance to Adopt Housing-Sustainability Innovations
This thesis investigates why sustainability innovations are not being adopted at the expected rate when they not only reduce environmental problems but also improve health, comfort, productivity, and economic and social wellbeing. Homeowners' demonstrate an apparent preference for sustainability innovations. However, there are apparent inconsistencies in their decisions as demonstrated by the lack of success of numerous intervention schemes. The aim of this research was to understand the motivations behind New Zealand homeowners' apparent reluctance to adopt sustainability innovations such as solar water heating panels or double glazing. A mixed methods research approach was taken to account for the numerous explanations and to address the research questions and concerns. This included a preliminary study to further establish the need for this research by investigating the implied market value of sustainability through real estate advertisements; a survey to identify homeowners engaging in this behaviour and their reasons for doing so; and a series of verbal report interviews to develop a qualitative insight of the thought processes behind their decisions. Numerous groups of homeowners were identified; the focus of this research however were those who displayed apparently unreasonable behaviour in that despite knowing what the logical answer should be they still said that they were not willing-to-pay full price for the innovation. This group were found to represent the largest proportion of homeowners suggesting that our time and resources need to be focussed primarily on convincing this large group of homeowners. The cause of these homeowners apparently unreasonable behaviour was observed to be due to an exaggerated perception of risk. In addition to the obvious risks that the innovation might not suit their house or that the financial return would not occur, these homeowners seemed averse to being seen to be different from the average homeowner. It is proposed that the findings from this research can be used to plan interventions that either change behaviour or align policy and other marketing responses to the characteristics this group of homeowners displayed.