Post-COVID pathway to net-zero-carbon homes

Post-COVID pathway to net-zero-carbon homes

As we mark progress towards the global goals, here are three key changes that will drive transition towards net-zero-carbon, healthy, affordable homes.

Housing The low energy rating of most rental properties leaves tenants paying more for heating and cooling.

Affordable energy

COVID-19 restrictions have highlighted the importance of access to a warm and comfortable home, hot water and electronic means of communication, the School of Property, Construction and Project Management’s (PCPM) Dr Nicola Willand says.

“But staying at home has increased people’s use of gas and electricity and creating challenges for those living in poor quality homes or on a limited income,” she adds.

While there’s been a temporary stop to disconnections and penalty fees by retailers in some states, Willand says people need a longer-term solution.  

“COVID-19 responses that guarantee energy are a welcome acceleration in the progress to the SDG7,” however, “retrofitting buildings and solar PV programs must be a cornerstone of any post virus recovery response for long-term affordability,” she says.

Programs should focus on low income households, tenants and people with limited technical understanding or English language skills.

“Many have limited resources, control or power to improve the thermal quality of their homes or to install rooftop solar PV and batteries,” she notes.

“COVID-19 has shown that we are prepared to act quickly, comprehensibly and with solidarity to an existential external threat. We need to adopt the same mind set for a clean and fair energy transition.”

Sustainable housing

If we are to move toward sustainable cities and communities, as outlined in the SDGs, substantial improvements in new housing and retrofit programs are key, according to PCPM’s, Dr Trivess Moore.

“Delivering new housing which performs significantly better than minimum building code requirements is crucial,” he says.

“Improved building performance and renewable energy technologies can lower household energy consumption for heating and cooling by at least 40% and reduce energy bills to less than $500 year and in some cases eliminate them all together.”

As well as improvements in new housing, a push towards sustainable cities must include a systematic energy retrofit program to lift the quality of existing housing.  

“Retrofit can improve thermal performance and reduce energy consumption for heating, cooling and other uses,” he says.

“Ultimately, improving existing homes makes them more healthy, comfortable and affordable to live in and will also have broader impacts for our society such as reducing costs related to peak energy demand.” 

New housing Most new houses fail to meet optimal environmental, social and economic outcomes.

Mandatory disclosure of energy ratings

Most house hunters fail to appreciate the importance of a low star rating, according to the School of Property, Construction and Project Management’s Dr Neville Hurst

This is despite the fact it can have profound impacts on a household’s health and budget.

“In a home with a low star rating, it can be hard and costly to maintain a comfortable temperature and occupants’ health can suffer,” he notes.

However, it’s extremely difficult for house hunters to obtain basic information like energy star ratings in the home rental and ownership markets.

One of the issues is that many real estate agents lack sufficient knowledge of energy efficiency and its impact on the housing market.

“The problems can only be overcome if state and federal governments work together to make it mandatory to disclose the energy efficiency of housing at point of sale,” he says.

This would require home owners to provide information to buyers and renters about the energy star rating, allowing house hunters to easily compare the performance of all homes they are interested in.

Such transparency would also provide more options to owners.

“Mandatory disclosure does influence the housing choices buyers make. Properties with higher energy ratings are often more appealing and potentially fetch higher prices compared to less efficient houses,” he says..

“Mandatory disclosure is no panacea for improving the poor energy performance of Australian housing, particularly the rental properties that would benefit from minimum standards.

“However, it’s an essential element of a suite of policies that governments should implement to drive the transition towards net-zero-carbon, healthy homes.”

 

Story: Diana Robertson

21 September 2020

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21 September 2020

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  • Property & Construction

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