Industry report proves Australians want sustainable homes

Australians want sustainable homes.

Change has been slow when it comes to sustainable homes, but consumers want it and the benefits are there for the construction industry and the environment. The majority of Australian homebuyers would prefer to purchase an energy-efficient home, but are not aware of the wide range of sustainable products now available. That is the key finding of a new report into the residential market by the CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) for Low Carbon Living and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).

Suzanne Toumbourou, ASBEC executive director, says that while some builders are already incorporating the latest energy-efficient designs and technology into new homes, the industry as a whole has been slow to change. “These [innovative] builders lack scale and face significant barriers,” she says. “Consumers are unclear of their choices, while home builders are locked into business models and supply chains that limit innovation. And financiers don’t value sustainable homes.”

To overcome these barriers, the report suggests that the building industry adopt a number of new measures, such as an education program for consumers, greater differentiation of sustainable housing in the market and better training for the construction sector. “Our research shows that, with the right incentives and support, the transition to sustainable homes can create a win-win outcome for builders, consumers, the economy and the environment,” says Toumbourou.

Forward-thinking builders, such as Oracle Platinum Homes, are already incorporating energy-efficient building materials into their new residential designs. For example, Oracle’s new display home in the Brisbane suburb of New Beith features a Bristile Solar system, which incorporates high-efficiency solar PV roof tiles that resemble standard roof tiles but convert solar energy into electricity. They are also hail-resistant and available in two profile types and a variety of colours.

Bristile Roofing's integrated solar tile.

According to the CRC for Low Carbon Living, accelerating Australia’s transition to sustainable housing would generate extra investment in the construction industry, create thousands of new jobs and cut energy bills. Professor Deo Prasad, the organisation’s CEO, says Australian homes produce 13 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and yet Australia already has the skills, knowledge and technology to quickly adopt more sustainable building practices. “Sustainable homes require less energy to heat and cool, enhance occupant comfort, and are more resilient to climate and weather extremes,” he says. “They can also be a driver for economic growth.” Apart from the obvious environmental benefits of moving away from wasteful, high-energy building practices, Australia needs to transition to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 to meet our commitment to the Paris Agreement – Australia is currently one of the least efficient users of energy in the developed world. ASBEC applauds changes to the National Construction Code but says that the Federal Government needs to adopt a far more radical plan if Australia is to meet its international obligations to address climate change. “All of the buildings being built today will still be operating in 2050, when we will need to be at or near net-zero emissions,” says Toumbourou. “Our building code needs to be ‘zero-carbon ready’, ensuring that today’s new builds can operate in a zero-carbon future.”

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