In September, we celebrated Sustainable House Day – an environmental event that has been running for the past 17 years. The event is hosted by the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), whose aim is to inspire people to live sustainably in their homes. The event provides a peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge by giving people the opportunity to visit some of Australia’s leading green homes and talk to owners and building practitioners first-hand on how they have designed, built or renovated with sustainability in mind.
In 2017, the Sustainable House Day recorded 29,049 visitors to 206 home opens across Australia. With the rising energy costs, it was no surprise the topic that received the most interest was heating and cooling, which also extended to windows, insulation, building materials and solar power. Meanwhile, the concept of building a sustainable house is still very much consumer driven rather than being a regulatory standard. So far, Germany appears to be the only country where eco-housing has blossomed into a sector driven by the country’s regulatory environment.
Although Australia continues to lag in this respect, earlier this year a Geelong developer claimed to have built the country’s first sustainable housing estate in Melbourne’s south-east – Lyndhurst. Each house built on the estate uses rainwater and high-quality recycled sewerage water to reduce demand for drinking water by up to 70% (the equivalent of 1.2 million showers), while energy consumption will be reduced through solar panelling. Additionally, all homes have the capability to be connected to new rechargeable battery technologies along with recharge points for electric cars.
Another of the more popular sustainable housing trends at the moment is the incorporation of green space both inside and outside buildings. This can take the form of indoor plants (or even trees), roof gardens and vertical gardens. While some of the sustainable elements may require heavier capital investments, there are other features that can be more readily adopted and less costly to implement. For example, selecting appliances with high energy-efficient ratings, supporting utility companies that source renewable energy, food waste reduction, buying non-toxic materials and home products, and choosing finishes and furnishings that don’t compromise indoor air quality.
The continued backing of eco-friendly products and solutions is essential for improving the share of sustainable homes as an increasing number of educational resources continue to raise awareness. The Federal Government’s Your Home (yourhome.gov.au), developed in partnership with the building and design industry, is one example that provides expert and independent advice to those interested in building homes for a sustainable future. If consumers demand more sustainable practices in housing, the production of sustainable homes and designs will get a better deal on costs and in turn help drive down prices, which has been an obstacle for many.