With growing global concern around climate change and the increase of significant extreme weather events, we are in turn seeing a growing commitment to the reduction of green house gas emissions on a global scale. There is a greater need than ever before for the building and housing industry to deliver increased sustainability for a more positive future.
To put things into perspective it is estimated that in developed nations approximately 20-30% of energy is consumed in homes. Therefore, improvements in the area of sustainable or green building processes can contribute to significant energy reductions and a brighter future.
Australia is at the forefront of sustainable building practices with the use of cutting edge design and planning processes that are both environmentally friendly and resource efficient. Thanks to Australia’s harsh climate and weather extremes, we have seen a significant increase in both innovation and expertise in the areas of sustainable building practices over the last 10 years.
With major organisations established to lead the way such as the Green Building Council of Australia http://www.gbca.org.au, which introduced the Green Star environmental rating system for building in 2003.
There are three key benefits to sustainable building practices, which significantly help to build a strong case for a more sustainable future and these are the ability to:
• Save money long term
• Be socially responsible
• Contribute to environmental sustainability
An example of environmentally sustainable techniques in Australia include:
• Highly insulated buildings
• Optimal orientation
• Solar access
• Use of Thermal Mass
• Double glazing of windows and glass doors
• Rainwater harvesting
• Grey water recycling
• Waste recycling
Here in Australia there is a growing regulatory framework for sustainable building. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) has minimum mandatory energy efficiency measures designed to eliminate worst practice in the industry and also achieve significant improvements.
Other initiatives include “Build it Back Green” in Victoria, which encourages sustainable solutions for disaster-affected communities. It encourages rebuilding with a reduced carbon footprint. The key messages are affordability and sustainability.
The education sector is helping Australia develop our future experts and raise Australia’s global profile as a leader in the field of environmentally sustainable technologies. Perfect example of this is the Team from University Of Wollongong (UOW) taking out first place in the Solar Decathlon http://sbrc.uow.edu.au/news/UOW157974.html in 2013 in China. The team excelled in their winning entry of retrofitting existing homes with sustainable products for water efficiency, solar harvesting, passive design and ventilation systems.
This is certainly an industry to watch and one where rapid improvements in the area of technology can also contribute to greater improvements in creating even more sustainable building practices. While we are seeing a number of improvements in the area of new building processes, I expect the team at UOW are on to a winning strategy with endless potential also in the area of retrofitting.