Housing Pathology: Towards a Holistic Pathological Approach of Residential Buildings

A.F. Thomsen

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Housing pathology is the holistic approach to identify, investigate and diagnose housing deficiencies, specify preventive measures and remedial interventions and evaluate their effects. In analogy with health as the core condition for the quality of human life, the health of housing accommodations stands for housing quality, being the ability of residential buildings to fulfil adequate shelter for specified groups of residents.
The relevance of housing and building pathology as a relative new knowledge field lies in the paradigm shift from new construction to maintenance and adaptation of the existing housing stock that occurs in most western countries, but also in the fast growing urban areas in developing countries. To maintain the fast ageing housing stock in developed countries as well as to shelter the growing population in emerging economies in a durable and sustainable way, the service life span has to be optimally extended. The impending assignment to reduce the ecological footprint and CO2 and N2 emissions of the construction and housing sector – also a major paradigm shift - requires major adaptations of homes and services as well as of the mindset and behaviour of builders, managers and residents. For the implementation of the Paris Climate Action Agreement, knowledge based sustainable stock management and adaptation will be indispensable.
Though it is the combination and interference of technical, social, spatial and economical processes that is determining for the health and life span of housing stocks, they are hardly interdisciplinary studied nor integrated in practical knowledge, let alone in a pathological context. The existent theoretical and applied knowledge about the different fields of housing stock management – in particular life span, life cycle and quality condition management is up to now too limited and segmented to successfully fulfil the new assignments. Rearrangement in a comprehensive pathological domain appears as an obvious solution.
This paper defines and explores the knowledge the knowledge required for the coming assignment, overlooks the available knowledge and shortcomings, the field of application, the main diagnostic tools and instruments and the practice in housing management. The paper concludes with the necessity of better holistic, building type and behaviour directed pathological knowledge and further international interdisciplinary research cooperation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventREHABEND 2020 (webinar): Euro-American Congress on Construction Pathology, Rehabilitation Technology and Heritage Management - Granada ->webinar, Spain
Duration: 28 Sept 202030 Sept 2020


ConferenceREHABEND 2020 (webinar)
CityGranada ->webinar
Internet address


  • building pathology
  • housing quality
  • housing management
  • life cycle management
  • sustainability


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  • Lifespan assessment of dwellings

    Thomsen, A. & Straub, A., 2018, Conference papers of the European Network for Housing Research (ENHR 2018): More together, more apart: Migration, densification, segregation. ENHR, 8 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

    Open Access
  • Housing pathology

    Thomsen, A., 2015, Proceedings of the 1st International Symposium on Building Pathology: ISBP-2015. de Freitas, V. P., de Angelis, E., Corvacho, H., Delgado, J. M. P. Q. & Guimaraes, A. S. (eds.). Porto: FEUP, p. 377-388

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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