Spotlight on a Student: PhD Candidate Catherine Kain

The value proposition of low carbon sustainable housing development: a property developer’s perspective

PhD candidate Catherine Kain comes from a background of business and property, so her research into energy efficiency naturally comes from a property developer's perspective.

Her work looks at if developers can integrate greater energy efficiency into their apartment developments and market this initiative for a competitive advantage.

What is your research about?

We have the technical knowledge to create sustainable, energy efficient housing but if we are to ensure its uptake on a broad scale, we need property developers’ support.

My research investigates the developer’s priorities in building medium-density apartments. Using the profit principle of providing value to customers and financial stakeholders, I ask: can the developer integrate greater energy efficiency into their apartment developments and market this initiative for competitive advantage?

I want to know what the developer thinks about energy efficiency, for instance, do they view the National Construction Code requirements as a maximum or minimum standard; and can they incorporate greater energy efficiency in their branding?

We know that property buyers typically prioritise location, features, and layout, but could purchasers be persuaded to consider how the apartment feels; the comfortable temperature without turning on air-conditioning; and how much money they could save on energy bills?

The research points to an opportunity for developers to take a strategic look at the ‘package deal’ including energy efficiency for a competitive edge.

Considering the urgency of climate action, ultimately, I would like to see developers recognising a market advantage in incorporating energy efficiency in creative branding without waiting for building policy to enforce change.

Who are your supervisors?

My principle supervisor, Dr Kathryn Davidson, Melbourne School of Design at The University of Melbourne, is a senior ecological economist with 8-years industry experience as a senior economist within international research and consultancy organisations prior to a career in academia.

My co-supervisors are Dr Stephen Berry, University of South Australia, and Dr Stephen White, CSIRO.

Dr Berry is a building scientist specialising in the investigation of the energy and carbon impact of residential and non-residential buildings, and the reduction of conventional energy use through the application of energy efficiency and renewable resources.

Dr Stephen White leads CSIRO's Energy Efficiency Research and manages the “Engaged Communities” Program within the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRC_LCL). He oversees a significant portfolio of residential energy efficiency research, including responsibility for the NatHERS Software and the Liveability Real Estate Marketing Framework and serves on a number of national committees including chairing the ASBEC Sustainable Housing Task Group.

What do you want to do next?

I am in the final year of my PhD and am excited by the scope and diversity that the field of energy efficiency and property development offers. Energy and climate change are both topical and highly relevant locally and internationally. My research will support property developers in making strategic investment decisions in energy efficient housing, and will inform policy. Application of my research has a place in academia, government and industry with potential for me to make a worthwhile contribution to change in either direction.

Catherine and her supervisors warmly welcome any enquiries about her research. You can email her at, Dr Kathryn Davidson at, Dr Stephen Berry at, and Dr Stephen White at

Funding & internships

This research is funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living as part of the CRC_LCL Adelaide Living Laboratory project.

Catherine received funding to attend the biennial European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE) in 2017 on invitation from leading academics in her field and thereafter participated in the Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA) Energy Summer School at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. She was also hosted by John Moores University in Liverpool, UK, and met with academics in Italy to further research collaboration.

More Information

Ruby Brown

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