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Student accommodation, environmental behaviour and lessons for property managers

Sara Wilkinson (School of the Built Environment, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Agnieszka Zalejska Jonsson (KTH, Stockholm, Sweden)

Property Management

ISSN: 0263-7472

Article publication date: 16 February 2021

Issue publication date: 28 April 2021




Despite awareness of climate change for over 3 decades, per capita energy and water consumption increase and environmental impacts grow. The built environment contributes around 40% of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; action is vital. Whilst building code standards have increased, rating tools and technology to reduce energy and water consumption are developed; environmental impact grows because of human behaviour. In the tertiary education sector, student accommodation constitutes a large part of the property portfolio, contributing significant amounts of GHG emissions and environmental impact. Property Managers can educate and install systems and technologies to improve behaviour if they understand it.


This exploratory study used a questionnaire survey to explore how student's worldviews vary and the possible limitations to behaviour in respect of climate change. In total, 71 responses from international university students living in residential accommodation on campuses in Stockholm were analysed.


The results show different perceptions about the environment and actions that are needed, and this leads to different behaviours. Limited knowledge and inability to relate environmental consequences to one's own actions, effective communication and risk averse behaviour, are critical in mitigating climate change. A deeper understanding of participants worldviews and the different resulting behaviours was achieved.

Research limitations/implications

This pilot study involved a small number of participants and future studies should expand participant numbers, including those with more varied backgrounds, education levels and age groups.

Practical implications

If property managers gain a deeper understanding the different behaviours of their residents, they can develop effective strategies to facilitate action that will lower the environment impact and GHG emissions of student accommodation.


The knowledge gained about environmental attitudes and human behaviour can help property and facility managers, policy makers and regulators to develop more effective strategies to deliver improved sustainability outcomes.



This research has been founded by Swedish Research Council For Sustainable Development (2016-00684).


Wilkinson, S. and Zalejska Jonsson, A. (2021), "Student accommodation, environmental behaviour and lessons for property managers", Property Management, Vol. 39 No. 3, pp. 305-324.



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