Australian Living calls for builders and tradies to look more seriously into the benefits that can flow through to their projects, business and clients if they embraced sustainability.

Commonly spoken about within the industry is builders and trades are holding back growth of the green building industry. Designers specify sustainable building materials and builders often use a different product that is not sustainable. Builders and trades sometimes don’t install insulation correctly, leaving gaps which leads to decreased thermal performance.

Australian Living approached a number of people in the industry to find out their reactions to their ‘call out’. The idea is to spark discussion amongst industry and the community leading to better outcomes.

The responses:

“I often wonder why we are taught to do certain things in a particular way, and more often than not the answer is well, that’s just the way it's always been done. I would hope we are a little more advanced these days. Sustainability will enable your business to grow and prosper for years and years to come.” Mark Diedricks, Arklen.

“When it comes to blaming someone for the slow growth of sustainability in domestic building, it’s easy to point the finger at frontline builders, certifiers and subcontractors but I don't. I blame a culture shared within our community that is anything more expensive is a rip off. As a true commitment to not just sustainability but a reversal of existing damage to our planet, I insist that contractors include at least two sustainable solutions in quotations. I like to set clear sustainability goals in which all trades and contractors involved must strive towards.” Master Builder and TV Personality, Barry Du Bois.

“Due to rising utility costs it is much better to go sustainable for clients. We use sustainable products and the orientation of the home so it uses less energy and saves money but building sustainably can be a little more expensive.” Steven Hedger, Hedger Constructions.

 “Good builders who are willing to embrace more sustainable ways of building are critical to implementing good ideas. The ones we have worked well with, have seen the great benefit to their work in understanding these ideas, and have adopted them into their mainstream approaches.” Caroline Pidcock, PIDCOCK - Architecture and Sustainability.

“Building a sustainable building is not only about the materials you use in the building, it is also about the way you treat the site and its surroundings. Think outside the box and lead by example.” Michael Dunn, Dafcam.

“Builders and tradespeople are such an important part of the design and construction ‘chain’, and in many cases have the greatest influence on client decisions and on eventual outcomes. They have a real opportunity to lead in creating more sustainable buildings and cities.” Caitlin McGee , Institute for Sustainable Futures.

“Low carbon and sustainable buildings are not only good for the environment but also makes good business sense. They are also generally better for the health and well-being of the occupants. With peak electricity prices now near 50c/kwh photovoltaics for example has a very short payback.’ The CRC for Low Carbon Living is looking at issues of affordability and barriers to adoption of both low carbon/sustainable buildings and how policies, education and training can enable better uptake, especially by builders and trades.” Scientia Professor Deo Prasad, University of New South Wales.

“Sometimes the idea of ‘sustainability’ gets lost in the rhetoric… But really, aren’t we just talking about good design – homes and workplaces that are lasting, resource-efficient, great places to live and work? That’s the reason we bring high-performance building materials and systems to market - to provide more pathways to create great buildings. Good builders act on the opportunity this creates.” Lachlan Austin, CSR.

“Communities are coming to expect sustainability as an inbuilt feature of their neighbourhoods rather than a bolted-on afterthought. Governments have already mandated requirements around things like energy efficiency and rainwater capture and reuse at the household level, but cutting-edge housing developers are incorporating these and other features in as standard for an entire housing estate development. Including these features at a neighbourhood level is a matter of holistic infrastructure planning, including robust, upfront agreements between planners, investors, homebuyers, tradespeople and builders. There may also be potential for developers to benefit from selling offsets achieved through their inclusion of carbon negative developments as part of the Federal Government’s Direct Action policy.” Kirsty Kelly, Planning Institute of Australia.

“We focus on the education of our clients and suppliers in order to ensure sustainable initiatives are implemented. This is especially important during D & C contracts, where the value of sustainability measures can be overshadowed by real dollar savings offered. This is why we use Integrated Impact Development (IID) and measure social return on investment to understand the real value of those initiatives.” Alistair Coulstock, Cundall.

“Sustainability is a core belief of our practice. We believe in a cohesive and well-rounded approach to architectural design and building. Team work is the key; everyone from the client right through the builder and tradies on site have a role to play in achieving this objective. Construction waste is not an inevitable part of a project but a significant opportunity to increase a project's efficiency and profitability.” Greg Adsett, Elevation Architecture Studio.

“The Master Builders Green Living program has gone a long way towards educating builders and tradespeople about how to build sustainably. Since its launch in 2005, the Green Living program has helped train more than 1000 people on the benefits of sustainable building. We also use the program to promote the green building message at expos and in the wider community. Master Builders takes sustainability seriously because we understand the big roe our industry has to play in managing impacts on the environment we live and work in.” Radley de Silva, Master Builders Association of Victoria.

“As ABSA accredited assessors, we are very diligent to ensure that the correct levels of bulk and reflective insulation are specified when completing NATHERS thermal performance assessments of new homes and renovations. However, if the insulation is not installed correctly during construction, this can significantly compromise the thermal comfort of the completed dwelling. Common issues include compressing bulk insulation to make it fit into a space that's too small, not installing reflective insulation with the correct gap, not insulating to the outer edge of the eaves overhang, and the way insulation is installed around ceiling penetrations such exhaust fans and downlights.” Sid Thoo, Association of Building Sustainability Assessors.