Building Sustainable: For the Future, and for Good 

Sustainable homes aren’t just the wave of the future rather, they are a wave of the here and now.

The concept of sustainable building includes and encompasses the related concepts of high energy efficiency, low environmental impact, low-energy, zero-energy and zero-carbon ready. In general, sustainable homesteads takes less energy to heat and cool, and thus are less expensive to maintain. As very important added bonuses, a sustainable homestead also benefits the comfort and well-being of residents, and is more tolerant to varying climate and weather conditions.

By 2050, it is estimated that Australia will boost a population of 37.6 million people. About 197,000 homes are being constructed per year to accommodate this growth—and ideally, these homes should be built sustainably.

And according to CSIRO modelling, a regimen of voluntary measures intended to make homes more sustainable by 2030 could result in a $612 million of additional investment in the construction industry, and 7,000 new jobs.

And one can’t forget all of the money that folks will save on energy bills, which CSIRO estimates would stand at $600 million by 2030. Plus people who live sustainably are happier and healthier.

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) collaborated with Climateworks Australia to produce the report Built to Perform: An Industry Led Pathway to a Zero Carbon Ready Building Code. This report states that, by enhancing the strength of the minimum energy performance level outlined in the National Construction Code, we will alleviate stress on our electricity network and facilitate lower emissions, while also passing along cost savings to homes and businesses.

And this year, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council agreed to implement a Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings, a nationwide strategy that should result in a low energy residential sector. The ‘trajectory’ concept is valuable, in that if industry professionals know how new energy efficiency policies will be prepared and administered, they can prepare for any and all needed changes. And we will see these changes far more quickly, and with better results.

Volume builders are already primed to build sustainable homes, if they put supply chains into effect and pursue low energy goals in building. A standard sustainable home package, provided at scale, could set the stage for a widespread trend.

Of course, some feel that sustainability measures are too costly, and not wanted by buyers. But according to market research, Australian home buyers do want and are willing to pay for these houses. It comes as little surprise that consumers do want to be healthier and comfortable, and receive lower energy bills each month.

To meet their needs, ASBEC and the CRC for Low Carbon Living have generated a Roadmap called Growing the Market for Sustainable Homes, which features an outline of all conditions needed to transition the housing market to an infinitely more sustainable state.

Sustainable show homes are one surefire method to most literally show home buyers the many benefits of sustainable houses. And when offering home packages to their clients, home builders should offer packages that automatically include sustainable features instead of offering these features as costly upgrades in addition to the standard package.

We also can motivate construction industry professionals to build sustainable, offering certificates of competency for achievements in sustainable building like the installation of insulation or proper air sealing. Furthermore, homeowners and builders who employ sustainably minded tradespeople should be recognised and rewarded for this action.

Also, we need to spread the word about sustainable building—using testimonies from environmentally aware celebrities who have sustainable homes to promote the idea in mass media. And on social media, all of those who own sustainable homes should spread the word about the benefits of this amazing, forward-thinking building method.

And economically speaking, sustainable home builders should receive financial incentives including low-interest loans for building energy efficient structures.

In a time when building designers are striving to build better, more beautiful and more sustainable structures, they ultimately aim to build for the future going beyond the basic requirements of the building code to create their best works. For these visionaries, the BDAA in association with Renew presents Beyond the Code – practical ways to make buildings fit for the future.

Beyond the Code covers virtually every aspect of building design with a real eye to a more productive, more sustainable future. Subjects discussed will include thermal performance and energy; the principles of ’the old’ Passive Solar Design; the specifics, benefits and applications of the verified ’next big thing’ in sustainable building, Certified Passive House (Passivhaus); building materials in relation to Embodied energy, Operational costs, Life Cycle Analysis, the Avoid-Reuse-Recycle concept, Timber & timber treatment, Product search resources, Hazardous materials & safe options, Termite management, and indoor environmental quality & off-gassing; water, specifically in terms of hot water and waste water; and how to up-sell sustainability to clients.

Beyond the Code will be presented Thursday 22nd. August, 8.45 am/9 am to 1 pm, at the

Toowoomba Library, Level 3.

Light refreshments will be provided for morning tea.

Early bird tickets, as sponsored by Renew & BDAA, will cost $50. For more information, visit https://renew.org.au/events/toowoomba-branch/innovative-building-materials/