A new study funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) says that a national, zero carbon housing standard will not only bring billions of dollars in benefits to the population, but can also improve living standards by providing greater comfort and better health to building occupants while delivering positive energy bills.

The CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) is a national research and innovation hub that supports Australian industry to be globally competitive in the low carbon built environment sector. The latest research examined the value propositions of a zero carbon housing policy from both government and householder perspectives, also utilising data from the South Australian Government’s near zero carbon housing estate known as Lochiel Park Green Village, a Renewal SA development consisting of just over 100 super low carbon homes.

The homes at the estate use less than one-third of the energy usually needed to maintain thermal comfort in a conventional home, and include features typical of low carbon dwellings such as energy efficient lighting and appliances, solar water heaters to reduce the demand for energy, and photovoltaic panels to generate energy on site.

Lead researcher Dr Stephen Berry at the University of South Australia said the results of adopting a zero carbon housing standard locally were demonstrated to be ‘overwhelmingly positive’, with potential for the South Australian community to receive benefits in the order of $1.31 billion if the policy were implemented state-wide for 10 years. This meant, for every $1 invested in low carbon homes, the community would receive $2.42 in economic gain.

According to Berry, each new home builder can also expect net benefits of around $25,000 across the life of their home through greater energy efficiency and on-site generation, while receiving other benefits such as better health and wellbeing.

When applied nationally, these results indicate that building standards should be raised from the current six star minimum rating to one that would achieve a much bigger reduction in residential carbon emissions. The first building energy standard was set in 2003 at four stars and progressed to six stars in 2010 after Australia took significant steps to embrace sustainable low carbon building. The CRCLCL- funded research confirms zero carbon housing is both achievable and financially rewarding for householders and the wider community.

CRCLCL Project Leader Dr Kathryn Davidson said the results predicted a bright future for zero carbon housing. With Australia well on its way to making zero carbon housing a reality for the near future, CRCLCL is now expanding their research to different types of housing precincts and looking at how people consume energy differently. These findings will help address more important questions that will impact the country’s zero carbon future within the built environment.