New houses across Australia are set to be much better built to withstand climate change, incorporating solar power and water and energy efficiency features with minimal toxins, under a world-first agreement.
The new scheme, acclaimed as a national “game-changer” in the housing market, will mean buyers could have much healthier homes and see their energy bills slashed by as much as 75 per cent by over $2000 a year, according to one study.
“This is a real game-changer for the industry, bringing more livable, affordable homes to all Australians.” said Davina Rooney, chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).
The Green Star Home Standard certification system, the world’s first mass-market residential climate-positive certification, has already been accepted by some of the construction industry’s major players, who have vowed to produce houses to the higher specifications.
It means many more houses built in the future by those companies signing up to the standard will be well-ventilated, insulated, fully electric and powered by renewables.
Leading residential developer Stockland is already a stakeholder. “We’re seeing people spending more time at home and they’re really concerned about the health and well-being impacts of the houses they live in,” said Andrew Whitson, Stockland’s group executive and CEO communities.
“They’re starting to wonder how they can live more healthily and more sustainably environmentally and reduce their carbon footprint. It was something already happening, but COVID-19 has really amplified it, and we felt we wanted to show leadership in the country in these issues.”
Australia’s largest volume builder, Metricon, has also jumped on board. “This is the way the industry and the world are moving, towards more sustainable living,” said David McKibbin, national product development manager of Metricon Homes. “We saw this as an opportunity to get involved and help the industry evolve in this area, and further educate our customers and help drive the whole sustainability issue. As consumers see the benefits, they’re likely to promote it to family and friends as well.”
Research has found the residential sector accounts for 57 per cent of Australia’s building emissions, while Australians in normal times, spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, with two-thirds of that at home. During the pandemic lockdowns, it’s much more.
To meet the new Green Star certification, homes will have to be more comfortable to live in and will include smarter air conditioning, LED lights and efficient electric appliances, and be far cheaper to run.
The GBCA is now working with the federal government to bring the scheme into the regulatory framework. Now, the National Construction Code requires a 6-star NatHERS rating, which just describes the level of insulation in the home.
Kerryn Wilmot, the research principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, said “Getting the volume builders of housing on board will give the scheme so much more momentum going forward rather than just going with architect-designed, bespoke buildings. This is where most Australians get their housing from, so signing up volume buildings is a brilliant idea with a great chance of shifting the market."
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