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About the ELITH Project


The ELITH program Energy and Low Income Tropical Housing was set up to research methods of reducing the energy consumption and climate emissions of low-income housing in hot climate developing countries.

The built environment is the source of some 40% of all energy use and climate emissions. The topic of 'energy efficient', 'sustainable' or 'eco' building has attracted huge interest in Europe and the richer countries since about 1990. This has led to innovative policies, regulations, designs and materials – offering greatly reduced environmental impacts from buildings. Much less has been done in developing countries and hot climates in general. But with population growth, access to energy and fast increasing urbanisation, the energy and climatic impacts of housing in these countries are now a major issue. ELITH’s brief has been to investigate solutions, processes and barriers towards sustainable building practice in low-income housing in hot climate developing countries.

ELITH embraces European state of the art experience and vernacular building traditions as well as recent innovative research and solutions in hot climates. Energy is used in creating houses and again in occupying them; the programme therefore combines studies of how good design can reduce both “operational” and “embodied” energy (the implications for carbon are broadly similar). Energy reductions generate cost savings, of particular interest to the poor, and greenhouse gas savings, of global benefit.

Sustainable development is, ultimately, not about energy or climate as such but about quality of life (of both people and the environment, both now and in the future). Our task thus includes improving indoor comfort and health. Since the poorest sectors may not have money for or even access to energy, ELITH concentrates largely on how good building design can achieve 'passive' cooling or reduce the energy needed for 'active' cooling. Regarding embodied energy, the programme addresses reducing the energy intensity of buildings by changes in materials, designs and methods of production.

The work builds on surveys and analysis of traditions, needs, trends and issues in housing and energy use in the partner countries. Activities and channels for improving energy efficiency have included academic exchanges, expert workshops, introducing energy efficiency into building codes, investigation of urban scale energy solutions, updating of architectural education, training of artisans, dialogue with housing planners and professionals, and improving the 'sustainability' understanding of policy makers.

Five quite complex – and interconnected – questions underlie this research program:

  1. Reduced or avoided impacts
  2. Defining poverty or low income
  3. Defining comfort and indoor environment
  4. Energy or Carbon?
  5. Transferring experience from temperate to hot climates

These are all relevant for many similar programs.


This website is an output from the ELITH project co-funded by UK aid from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC), for the benefit of developing countries. The project (2013-2016) with lead partner Warwick University, was part of a larger program entitled Energy and International Development. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID, EPSRC or DECC.