Several volume builders are now piloting Green Star Homes that’s set to go live next month. They include Chatham Homes, Delos, Development Victoria, HEZ Development, Ingenia Communities, New South Homes, Rawson Homes and Stockland.
Australia’s residential sector is finally reaching a tipping point on sustainability says Green Building Council of Australia chief executive officer Davina Rooney.
For years the industry has struggled to drum up consumer interest in green homes but Rooney believes the tide is turning. There are now hard-to-miss signs of rising consumer demand, she says, such as the Australia’s first-ever sustainability reality TV show, Renovate or Rebuild, going to air in August on Channel Nine next month.
Rooney says the show, intended to harness the power of “edu-tainment” in accordance with behavioural science insights from the CRC for Low Carbon Living, is a “golden opportunity”.
“Just think about the popularity of the butler pantry after it featured on The Block.”
Rooney also says that anecdotally, sustainable homes are selling better than conventional homes, with a net zero home in Sydney’s south west selling for around 10 per cent more than predicted.
Proving this is a nationwide trend is tricky when only the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is required to disclose home energy efficiency ratings (EER) at the point of sale or lease, she says. Without this information, it’s impossible to know how buyers respond to different ratings.
Internationally, some studies have been released that suggest that people are paying more for green, including a 2021 study by the Bank of England that found that carbon intensive homes in England and Wales were £5000 ($A9276) to £9000 ($A16,700) less valuable.
The bank also recently released some research that showed people with more energy efficient houses were less likely to default on their mortgages due to lower bills, which Rooney says helps bolster the financial case for green homes.
The regulatory environment is also tightening on emissions-intensive homes as the national plan to achieve zero energy and carbon-ready commercial and residential buildings, agreed to by the COAG Energy Council in 2019, comes to fruition.
Promising policies on the table include minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties and nation-wide disclosure of energy performance, Rooney says.
She also sees build-to-rent opening the door to delivering sustainable homes at scale.
“The reason is it brings the same investor drivers we have seen in asset classes like retail and office to drive scaled sustainability in the residential market.”
Market leaders driving change
Also heartening are signs that market leaders are building greener products in the absence of regulation. Rooney says this is where the GBCA can play a role, using its soon-to-be-launched Green Star Homes standard to help drive market leaders.
She says the role of a voluntary standard like Green Star Homes, which will be stamped on healthy, resilient, net zero homes that pass stringent technical requirements, is to work with government and industry partners at the bleeding edge to eradicate barriers so the rest of the market can follow.
The draft standard was introduced last year and several volume builders are now piloting the scheme, including Chatham Homes, Delos, Development Victoria, HEZ Development, Ingenia Communities, Metricon, New South Homes, Rawson Homes and Stockland.
The standard is set to go live next month. For Rooney, the ultimate goal is achieving change at scale.
“Success isn’t getting a few homes built to the standard.”
The industry body will work closely with partners to give the standard the best chance of widespread adoption. This will involve looking at different business models, such as offering the standard as an upgrade or as a special home range.
Working with volume builders is key to building capacity in the industry so that sustainable homes can be delivered cheaply at scale.
What is driving consumers?
Rooney thinks there are several coalescing forces driving consumer interest, not least the discomfort people have experienced in their homes during Covid lockdowns.
She mentioned the discomfort she was feeling working in her own home, which, in fairness, had been exacerbated by half finished sustainability retrofits that left walls open to the elements.
“People have never been so aware of how uncomfortable their homes are, and never been more aware of the climate crisis either.”
These macro forces are likely contributing to a willingness to pay a premium for sustainability.