About my work:

Photo © Sarah Robertson 2020

I’m a Research Fellow in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University.

My work focuses on people and sustainable urban places, with a focus on people-nature relations and sustainable and just housing. I’m a cultural and urban geographer, thinking about the the cultural, social and ecological aspects of the way people live, make and relate with urban places.

So, what is it I do? Two examples might help clarify.

Household retrofits for low carbon futures

I’m currently researching experiences of homemaking and low carbon retrofitting in cities in Australia and the UK as part of a project at RMIT University. Improving Australia’s existing and newly built homes can have positive human health and environmental impacts.

Yet Australia’s housing stock has a long way to go in terms of its design and thermal performance. The average Australian home built before 2005, achieves a star rating of 2 or less. This means it’s hot inside when it’s hot outside and cold when it’s cold outside. Newly built housing also has a way to go. One recent study found that just over 80% of housing designed between 2016-18 was designed to only meet minimum requirements (6 stars).

There are policies and programs to help people retrofit their homes, but we need to know more about people’s experiences of these. We also need to know more about who is accessing these programs, who is missing out, why and how we might improve housing policy to make better performing homes achievable for all.

Considering human-nature relations, sustainable design and experiences of place

My other research interest is how people interact with the other-than-human world when they in their homes and communities.

What’s that you said? ‘Other-than-human’? Our everyday lives are defined by a multitude of interactions with things that are not human ( to take a topical example, think of viruses).

It’s an obvious point, but one we tend to overlook as we centre humans in the ways we think and act. What if we were to design houses and cities thinking beyond human needs and ends? How might that help us create better places for people and for the living animals and plants we share cities with?

My PhD research explored how the experiences of place, the sense of connection people feel to their homes, is influenced by our nonhuman urban companions. Read more here.