A new report by the CRC for Low Carbon Living and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has shown that while most Australian homebuyers prefer sustainable homes, there are significant barriers.

According to Growing the market for sustainable homes, two-thirds of Australian homebuyers prefer energy-efficient homes when given a choice.

“Our research shows that Australians want homes that are comfortable, healthy and affordable – all things that a sustainable home can deliver,” says Scientia professor Deo Prasad AO, CEO of the CRC for Low Carbon Living.

Preliminary economic modelling outlined in the report finds that accelerating Australia’s transition to sustainable housing would deliver more than half a billion dollars of extra investment in the construction industry by 2030. It would also create more than 7,000 new jobs and save Australians $600 million on their energy bills.

Some Australian home builders are already striving to move beyond minimum requirements by incorporating energy efficient designs and technology innovations into new homes, according to ASBEC executive director Suzanne Toumbourou.

The report proposes a ‘Sustainable Homes Transition Roadmap’ with four clearly defined steps to address these barriers:

  1. Differentiate sustainable housing in the market
  • Identify environmental sustainability features as ‘chunked down’ purchasable package options
  • Physically demonstrate the packages
  • Develop narratives that explain the packages in easy-to-understand lifestyle propositions
  1. Train and reward the construction industry
  • Invest in building capacity through training initiatives
  • Provide marketing support through certification-based endorsement to trained practitioners
  • Provide performance-based financial and structures incentives to buyers and renovators that utilise certified construction industry practitioners and high-performance products
  1. Build awareness
  • Use role models to socially validate claims
  • Use social media for peer-to-peer support
  • Use broadcast media for mainstream reach
  1. Broadcast the positive business case
  • Partner with the property valuation industry to correlate sales prices with sustainability features
  • Implement sustainability marketing tools and associated training for the real estate industry
  • Deliver incentives through the finance industry.

Toumbourou says the roadmap presents a “golden opportunity” for the industry to proactively address challenges and achieve a smooth regulatory transition as the Australian Building Code Board responds to COAG’s Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings.

“Our research shows that, with the right incentives and support, the transition to sustainable homes can create a win outcome for builders, consumers, the economy and the environment,” she says.

Prasad says Australia’s world-leading approach to sustainability in the commercial sector underscores the opportunity.

“We have the skills, knowledge and technologies at our disposal. Now we must create the right policies and incentives to help Australian home builders deliver the benefits of sustainable homes."