Sustainable homes with high environmental ratings and features like solar panels attract a price premium in Australia today.

It's clear that buyers don't need convincing when it comes to sustainable homes, its just the terminology that creates confusion.

A new report by CRC for Low Carbon Living and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) found consumers rate occupant comfort, energy efficiency and a healthy environment as priorities when selecting a home.

In fact two thirds of Australian home buyers prefer energy efficient homes when given a choice – but significant barriers prevent them from turning that desire into reality.

The first is confusion surrounding the term sustainability.

Australian consumers want sustainable homes – they just don’t use the word ‘sustainability’ when describing their desires.

Put simply, a sustainable home requires less energy to heat and cool, is more resilient to climate and weather extremes and provides enhanced occupant health and comfort which is exactly what buyers want.

However, despite these benefits consumers are confused by the terminology and lack of useful information.

The research found that the floor plans with additional sustainability’ features have, on average, 8.6 per cent higher purchase preference than the standard version of the same design. This highlights a massive but currently untapped market for sustainable homes.

In a bid to tackle this problem, CRC for Low Carbon Living and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) have released a new roadmap for sustainable homes.

Preliminary economic modelling outlined in the report finds that accelerating Australia’s transition to sustainable housing would deliver more than half a billion dollars of extra investment in the construction industry by 2030.

It would also create more than 7,000 new jobs and save Australians $600 million on their energy bills.

While the opportunities are enormous, the report identifies several significant barriers.

“Investment decisions about sustainable technologies are often made by building companies rather than individual home buyers. Discounts for volume purchasing, together with lock-in to supply chains, reduce the incentive for innovation,” the report said.

“Bespoke homes and renovations tend to involve smaller construction companies. Clients rely on these companies and tradespeople as important sources of information and advice. However, these builders have tight project budgets and timelines, which limit their ability to innovate on individual homes.”

Currently, consumers have limited choices, while the residential construction industry has assumed that sustainability is a cost burden rather than a market opportunity. This is unfortunate, because the report found that a growing market for sustainable housing has the potential to stimulate jobs and economic growth.

Research undertaken by the Housing Industry Association found that every $1 million of construction output creates nine construction jobs, seven additional jobs in the supply chain, and $2.9 million in economic value across the economy.

To implement the roadmap for sustainable homes the report recommends a national approach by government working in partnership with Australia's property and construction industry.

It supports the creation of benchmarks for sustainable homes along with a certification program and training for the home building sector.

The report also recommends a 1,000 home pilot program that incentivises volume builders to deliver sustainable homes. The results of the pilot program would be used to validate the sustainable home standard and support accreditation.

It would require a consumer engagement campaign and support from the finance industry to embed sustainability into property valuation methods and deliver lower cost finance for high performing homes.

ASBEC executive director, Suzanne Toumbourou, said some Australian home builders are already striving to move beyond minimum requirements by incorporating energy efficient designs and technology innovations into new homes.

“However, these builders lack scale and face significant barriers,” she said.

Consumers are unclear of their choices. Home builders are locked into business models and supply chains that limit innovation. And financiers don’t value sustainable homes.”

Describing the roadmap as a 'golden opportunity' Toumbourou said with the right incentives and support, the transition to sustainable homes can create a win outcome for builders, consumers, the economy and the environment.

CRC for Low Carbon Living CEO, Deo Prasad, said Australians want homes that are comfortable, healthy and affordable – all things that a sustainable home can deliver.

“We have the skills, knowledge and technologies at our disposal. Now we must create the right policies and incentives to help Australian home builders deliver the benefits of sustainable homes,” he said.

Guide to healthier buildings

Combining the latest research into air quality, thermal and acoustic comfort and lighting, the World Green Building Council has launched a new guide to creating healthier buildings.

It features simple, low-cost and practical strategies for building owners and occupiers to improve the quality of the air we breathe for good health and well being.

More than half of the body’s air intake during a lifetime is inhaled in homes and buildings.

Council CEO, Cristina Gamboa, said industry must look at ways to make buildings and homes good for human health as well as beneficial to the environment.

“Our key message is that homes and buildings across the world must be sustainable for people and planet. By publishing this guide, we hope this information will empower homeowners and occupiers to invest in a healthier home,” she said.
The guide recommends action to making a home healthier such as:

Ventilate your home to clear away the hidden indoor toxins and bring fresh and clean air into your home

Invest in insulation to boost energy efficiency, thermal comfort, less noise and lower energy bills

Maximise the use of daylight and be efficient with lighting to lower carbon emissions, reduce energy costs and unlock health benefits.





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