A new kind of lifestyle reality television program premiered on YouTube today, Tuesday 28 May 2019. Normally this isn’t our patch, but Renovate or Rebuild is a home improvement show with a difference.
Hosted by environmental scientist and Gardening Australia presenter Dr Josh Byrne and using behavioural science insights from the CRC for Low Carbon Living, Renovate or Rebuild aims to get “the masses” thinking positively about incorporating more sustainable elements into their homes. Channel 9 is considering picking up a full series of the program.
The first of a series of 30 minute episodes set to follow the same format featured a Sydney family looking to improve their living situation. They enlist the help of two teams to advise on possibilities for the upgrade: one advocating for renovation, the other for a rebuild.
Ultimately it will be the family that decides, but the winner will always be a more comfortable, efficient and sustainable home.
Language is key to mass appeal – the word “sustainability” is never uttered
Green star ratings systems and passive house technologies are employed throughout the episode, but not a single piece of energy or environmental related jargon is uttered.
This is a considered choice.
According to extensive research by the CRCLCL, dense sustainability terms tend to put the wider population off.
“When you think of energy efficient homes, you expect a bit of straw or a few spiders or something,” ex-Block star and member of Team Rebuild Jess said in the episode.
Instead, terms such as “healthy” and “comfortable” pepper the script.
“We would love to go from zero to utopia,” James McGregor, chief sustainability innovator and partner to the show said at the launch, “but we can’t.
We need to “stop lecturing and giving out fact sheets,” Mr Mcgregor explained, and start to sell people, “what they need by giving them what they want”.
The two teams vying for the win are headed by ex-The Block duos Michael and Carlene (Team Renovate) and Norm and Jess (Team Rebuild).
A balancing act
Dr Byrne expressed this as a concern when he initially signed on to do the film. He said he was “fearful of getting involved” if it were to go so light on the sustainability angle while using the “very ugly TV model” it employs.
However, the research out of CRCLCL points to the familiarity of the format and language used helping to get the average viewer excited about products and change in the industry that is good for both them and the environment.
It’s the “me factor” that resonates with people most, Dr Byrne concluded.
An emotion provoker that drives the audience to where the rational brain kicks in”
The goal is for the accessible language used and the enthusiasm brought by the hosts to get audience members emotionally invested, prompting them to head to the show’s website or social media to learn more.
In this way the program acts as “the emotion provoker,” eliciting impact that drives the audience to the website “where the rational brain kicks in”.
Dr Byrne says that the benefits of sustainability focused design and technology has already been demonstrated to industry and within academia.
“The problem has been that we’re just not hitting the mass audience.
“This project is all about trying to align the good design and good technology thinkings for better performing buildings… with people’s wants and needs,” Mr Byrne says.
Renovate or Rebuild is funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
The pilot episode of Renovate or Rebuild is available to watch on YouTube. Discussions are underway with Channel 9 regarding a full series on 9Life.
“But before we progress those discussions,” Mr McGregor added, “we want to finish the social science research to validate that the show and supporting website do actually change consumers attitudes and desires for sustainable housing options.
“We need to achieve that objective first and foremost.”