Home Property Australia Making every building count in lowering emissions

Making every building count in lowering emissions

  • May 03, 2023
  • by Property Australia
L-R: Luke Menzel, The Hon. Jenny McAllister, Mike Zorbas and Davina Rooney at the launch of the Every Building Counts report

The Property Council of Australia and the Green Building Council of Australia have recently published a report containing policy proposals aimed at preparing Australia’s buildings for net-zero emissions and generating cost savings for households.

Launched at an event in Sydney last week, Every Building Counts outlines eight key policy recommendations to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.

  • Set out a long-term strategy for zero-carbon-ready buildings
  • Require all new residential and commercial buildings to operate on high-quality electric equipment in the National Construction Code 2025
  • Accelerate the shift to high performance buildings with targeted incentives
  • Accelerate the trajectory towards resilient, all-electric, zero-carbon buildings in the building code
  • Embed the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle in the National Electricity Objective
  • Commit zero-carbon-ready for all new and existing government owned and leased buildings by 2030
  • Expand Australia’s national building rating system (NABERS) to cover all building types and extend the CBD program, as well as introducing a single national rating for home energy performance
  • Adopt a credible national framework for measuring embodied carbon.

Property Council Chief Executive Zorbas said our national emissions reduction conversation is often pitched as “coal vs renewables” and focuses solely on the energy sector. This report encourages political leaders to start looking for emissions reductions opportunities across all sectors of the economy.

“Buildings account for more than 50 per cent of Australia’s electricity use and 23 per cent of all emissions,” Mr Zorbas said.

“The companies that make up the Australian property sector are global leaders in sustainability, which means we are incredibly well positioned to deliver high-impact and yet cost-effective ways to help achieve the nation’s net zero goals.

“All we need is the right policy settings to guide that effort. Smart policies should be front and centre for decision-makers seeking to reduce Australia’s emissions,” he said.

The joint report called for every Australian home to be given an energy performance rating, allowing buyers or renters to know the energy efficiency of their home before moving in.

Mr Zorbas said while most people are now used to knowing the energy performance of their fridge, there’s no similar rating system that gives homebuyers a clear picture of a home’s energy consumption.

“The energy rating on your fridge tells you if you are cooling your food and drinks efficiently, but there is no national rating scheme up and running to tell you about the efficiency of heating or cooling your whole home – your most important purchase of all,” Mr Zorbas said.

“It’s high time all Australian home buyers and renters had access to a consistent national rating, so they know the energy bill costs and comfort levels to expect during colder months,” he said.

Green Building Council of Australia Chief Executive Officer Davina Rooney said the implementation of a reliable rating system would allow buyers and renters to easily compare homes on the market, and ensure Australia joins other nations successfully implementing similar policies.

“Locally, we’re living with the impacts of climate change and a cost-of-living crisis, while healthy, affordable, energy efficient homes are increasingly out of reach for everyday Australians,” Ms Rooney said.

“Globally, we’re being called to ‘do everything, everywhere, all at once’ to reduce carbon emissions. Australia has the tools, the experts, and the guidance to meet this call and ready our buildings and homes for the future,” she said.

Recently a Melbourne homebuyer snared Mirvac’s first Green Star home, completed in conjunction with the Green Building Council of Australia.

‘The Future Is Now House’ at Waverley Park in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, is the final home in the master planned community. The house boasts four bedrooms, three bathrooms, an open plan kitchen and dining and multiple living areas.

The fully electric home, designed by the award-winning Mirvac Design team and constructed by Mirvac, has achieved a 7.8-star NatHERS rating and utilises the biggest solar panel system on a single dwelling delivered by Mirvac to date.

The home features smart design layouts and numerous sustainability features, including a 10-kW solar system with 13.5Wh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery system, a heat recovery ventilation system, thermally broken double-glazed windows, suspended concrete slab, a heat pump hot water system, highly efficient appliances, two 2,000-litre water tanks and a Red Water Diverter, all designed to reduce energy costs and save water.

“Mirvac is at the forefront of driving change in housing sustainability initiatives, with home efficiency now a key consideration for homeowners,” Mirvac Development Director Glen Greening said.

“The Future Is Now House has been designed to be energy efficient, provide water savings and run on renewables that emit less carbon, reducing living costs for residents and providing a healthier and more comfortable living environment,” he said.

Another key policy recommendation included in the report is the phasing out of fossil fuels in existing buildings and appliances, that would see the end of gas water heaters and cooktops in Australian homes.

The report also urges government action on a strategy for ensuring Australia has climate resilient buildings that can withstand more frequent and severe weather events caused by climate change, tackling embodied carbon (the emissions associated with the entire construction process), energy market reforms to elevate the importance of taking demand side action, and requiring all new residential and commercial buildings to be delivered as all-electric.

The report also sets the scene for a “just transition”, advocating for a suite of initiatives and incentives that would ensure vulnerable people, not just the wealthy, benefit from a cleaner, more energy efficient built environment.

Ms Rooney said the report also has a strong skills focus.

“The shift to low carbon, resilient buildings cannot be achieved without improving the skills and capacity of the workforce,” Ms Rooney said.

“Transitioning 85 percent of homes off gas by 2040 requires retrofitting hot water systems in 5,000 homes every week until 2040, starting now. Much of Australia’s building sector is not equipped or trained for this task, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“We have a unique opportunity to boost the capacity and know-how of our already skilled workforce, making the transition to low carbon, resilient buildings within reach and possible, sooner rather than later,” she said.