The “Bloom 159” 9.5 star energy rated kit home

28 July 2010 – The introduction of tougher energy standards for housing has spurred a huge jump in demand for sustainable kit homes for one Queensland company.

According to Southport based Nathan Lude, his company Advantage Lifestyle which markets a sustainable kit home package, experienced a massive 3000 web-based inquiries since it went live 10 weeks ago. An appearance on television show Today Tonight stimulated another 500 inquiries almost immediately.

“Builders need to go green or go by the wayside,” Mr Lude said, pointing to new regulations and the introduction of mandatory disclosure in his state.

“Mandatory disclosure for houses has been in place in Queensland since January of this year.

“As of May 2010, houses in Queensland must meet a 6 Star Thermal Performance Assessment rating [that complies with the Australian Building Codes Board Protocol for House Energy Rating Software] before they can be built.

“Previously the minimum rating in Queensland was 5 Stars and previous to that it was 3.5 Stars, so this along with changes to the building code and the anticipated further rise in ratings, will mean that houses that have only a 4 or 5 star rating will be obsolete.”

The company started operations about 12 months ago, in joint venture with kit home designer and builder Thompson Sustainable Homes.

“Sustainable homes are a niche for us,” Mr Lude said.

“We’ve received 20 orders since we started selling the homes and received over 3000 enquries on our website and 500 more after Today Tonight aired a story on us.”

The attraction is both the price and the time to complete.

Mr Lude says  that his company can deliver a pre-fabricated or unbuilt sustainable house kit with a 9.5 Star Thermal Performance Assessment rating for only $169,000.

“The homes use up to 50 per cent less energy than a standard home and are built on a comparatively smaller 300 square metre block.

“A pre-fabricated home can be assembled in four days, while a normal home can be built within seven weeks, so there is a reduction in time compared to a standard home as well as less costs involved.”

Mr Lude said that sustainable features in  the homes include an electric key tag that allows unnecessary standby power outlets to be shut down when leaving the home while keeping all necessary chosen power outlets like the fridge running as needed.

Specialised “whole house” fans installed in the ceiling allow air to “rush into the roof space at high speed where it cools every surface and pushes roof space air outside so it can’t build to furnace like temperatures.”

The company offers solar photovoltaic cells as an optional extra. These are fitted to the the roof, adding 1.5 kilowatts to power the home and can pump electricity back into the grid.

“A traditional five-star rated home uses in excess of 55 megajoules per square metre of power. The 9.5 star rated home uses 20.5 MJ per sqm, which is a significant saving in the energy used per square metre in the home.

“This can save you upwards of $1200 per year on your energy bill.”

With sustainable homes now more affordable, Mr Lude said a future property market will be defined by houses that are sustainable and that operate at reduced energy costs, and those that are not sustainable.

“With energy ratings and mandatory disclosure [for residential property] already in Queensland you will see a segregation in the marketplace in the future between sustainable and non-sustainable houses,” Mr Lude said.

“Purchasing a sustainable home with a 9.5 Star energy rating is future proofing your asset as you will see a price-differentiation in the future between sustainable and non-sustainable homes.”

With kit homes costing far less to construct than an average house coupled with their decreased energy usage, is the increased demand for the homes based on a more environmentally conscious market or one that is recognising the savings that sustainable living brings, or both?

Mr Lude guesses it’s a mixture of both.

“If it’s an investor, they’re generally looking for a better return so they’re attracted to anything that keeps costs down, and because the kit homes use far less energy than regular homes, this aspect is the most appealing for them.

“If it’s an owner or occupier, they will generally look to the health aspects of the house as well as wanting to do right by the environment and having sustainable features like solar panels and better lighting but at the same time will want to save money.

“In years to come we will see more demand for homes that are more liveable, more environmentally friendly, have an natural light but also save money.”