Australia’s first National Housing Forum on carbon reduction hosted recently at the University of South Australia saw housing industry leaders and researchers come together to make recommendations on fast tracking carbon reduction in the housing sector.

The Forum, which brought together around 50 leaders and experts, was initiated by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC). One of the important objectives of the Forum was to explore opportunities to improve energy productivity in the Australian housing sector and kick start a plan to facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy.

Recommendations from the CRCLCL National Housing Forum:

  1. A more ambitious building energy regulatory target to be put in place for new housing, matching jurisdictional net zero carbon aspirations;
  2. Regulation of energy standards for rental properties to protect the most vulnerable to energy poverty;
  3. Disclosure of energy performance should be mandated to provide independent information and empower consumers;
  4. Incentives should be established to drive the market beyond minimum regulations;
  5. Greater effort should be made to engage the community through the development and promotion of exemplars, providing tangible examples of low carbon housing.

CRCLCL Chairman The Hon Robert Hill AC explained that the industry sought to make real change by updating building regulation, initiating practical applications, continuing research, and increasing community engagement.

Given how Australia lagged behind the developed world in addressing the environmental impact of homes, Forum participants believed that urgent and significant action should be taken immediately to reduce carbon emissions in the Australian housing sector by creating a more ambitious building energy regulatory target for new housing.

According to Hill, the Forum also recommended that disclosure of energy performance should be mandated to provide independent information and empower consumers. This requires changing regulation of energy standards across the board, including rental properties.

Underlining the importance of industry collaboration, ASBEC President Professor Ken Maher said it was successfully applied recently to produce two major reports: Low Carbon, High Performance: How buildings can make a major contribution to Australia’s emissions and productivity goals, and the National Framework for Residential Rating.

Addressing the Forum, South Australian Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Climate Change, The Hon Ian Hunter MP said it was important to include the community on the journey, and that credit must be given to the intelligence of the general public for recognising the benefits and opportunities that came with a low carbon economy.

CRCLCL CEO, Scientia Professor Dr Deo Prasad said the CRCLCL-funded South Australian research indicated that low carbon homes were close to becoming a reality and also brought financial benefits. Recent findings showed that adopting a zero carbon housing standard locally was 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 also meant for every $1 invested in low carbon homes, the community would receive $2.42 in economic gain.