10 October 2013 — Right Homes specialises in sustainable and passive designs for residential buildings.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Director Gary Wright said the Perth based company, which started eight years ago, did not originally have the “background knowledge” to push sustainability in its buildings.

“But once we had made the decision we found you can [build sustainable homes] quickly if you have a passion,” he said.

Mr Wright said he believed many builders turned a blind eye to sustainable design.

“But why you would not want to build a comfortable home with great indoor environmental quality… it’s mind-blowing,” he said.

“We just saw a better way to do it.

“And yes, as builders, we do have to run a business and the hard stuff does take time. For example we keep [volatile organic compounds] out of our homes and with that there is an ongoing battle.

“There is always a new product to research, or we might get a new painter so we need to educate them on what we do. Or maybe a client wants a new laminate. There’s never a dull moment.”

Mr Wright said clients wanted “a bit of both” in regards to being green and saving money in the long run.

“Education plays a big part. And we educate our clients that they can have a home that is comfortable in winter and summer, won’t poison them and has no accessibility problems as they grow older.

“The public aren’t educated yet enough about passive and solar sustainability – but that will happen. The clients have become pretty savvy in general – and the builders are just going to have to follow suit.”

Mr Wright said a minimum of a six-star home had only become mandatory in WA in the past 18 months but builders were already making better homes.

“The marketplace will get dragged up and while some builders just do lip service – we like to think we can do a little better than the basics.”

Mr Wright said building green did not cost more and often it was a matter of just getting the right orientation of a home.

“You may spend more on a rainwater tank or [photovoltaics] but that can be done in a cost effective way and actually costs less in the long term. And if you can reduce your utility bills that means you can afford a better lifestyle.”

Mr Wright said Right Homes built WA’s first nine-star Building Energy Rating Scheme home as a display home and then invited other builders to take a look and see if they could incorporate any of the initiatives into their own work.

“We had a few builders who said, ‘I can’t do that,’ and the obvious question was, ‘Why not?’.

“But your heart has to be in it and you have to see the benefit of creating healthy and comfortable homes.

“I come from a trade background; I was a carpenter, and was pushed into building by friends.

“And we just thought, ‘What sort of work makes us happy?’

“There is a lot of personal joy in building something sustainable.”

Mr Wright said Right Homes, over the past four years, had either won or been finalists in about 56 awards.

“It’s good to be judged by your peers and it also gives clients faith. And a lot of our focus is on affordable, sustainable homes. You can build one very sustainable multimillion dollar home but only one person lives in it.

“We concentrate on normal homes.”

Mr Wright said WA was “getting better” in terms of sustainable living, with the public getting more educated in regards to insulation, PV, rainwater and grey water.

“And it makes good sense. The reality is that we only have one planet.”

Right Homes is also busy educating school students and even overseas architects by taking them through display homes and showing them how it’s done.

“No age is too soon to learn about sustainability in general. With small children you start with simple things but by secondary college they are really absorbing lots of ideas.

“Education is also needed for the rental market. Often the owners are willing to come and work with passive design – they will even show you the energy bill and what they’re saving, but often tenants don’t understand how it works.

“They accept the bill as the norm but they will say the house is too hot in summer and too cold in winter. That’s because they don’t realise you need to open the windows in summer at the end of the day, and you need to close them in winter. They’re not operating it as it’s designed.”

Mr Wright said there were no plans to expand eastwards despite the business growing over the past four years from “three or four staff to 10 now”.

“We are getting bigger slowly but we are still a small company. I don’t think Right Homes will ever move outside WA.

“And we are more outcomes based than money incentivised. Some builders see clients as money walking through their doors; we see clients as the potential of what we can build for them.

“We don’t mandate [sustainability] but we do a lot of encouragement.”

For more on Right Homes go to www.righthomes.com.au

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