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At Australia’s first National Housing Forum on carbon reduction held last week, housing industry leaders and researchers formed a united front in making recommendations to ensure low carbon housing is fast tracked to be part of Australia’s residential future.

Initiated by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRLCL) and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and hosted at the University of South Australia, the Forum brought together around 50 leaders and experts to explore opportunities to improve energy productivity in the Australian housing sector and kick start a plan to facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy.

Recommendations from the CRCLCL National Housing Forum:

  1. A more ambitious building energy regulatory target to be put in place for new housing, matching jurisdictional net zero carbon aspirations;
  2. Regulation of energy standards for rental properties to protect the most vulnerable to energy poverty;
  3. Disclosure of energy performance should be mandated to provide independent information and empower consumers;
  4. Incentives should be established to drive the market beyond minimum regulations;
  5. Greater effort should be made to engage the community through the development and promotion of exemplars, providing tangible examples of low carbon housing.

The Hon Robert Hill AC, Chairman of the CRCLC, who presided over discussions, said the industry desire was clear: to make real change by updating building regulation, initiating practical applications, continuing research and increasing community engagement.

“As Australia lags behind the developed world in addressing the environmental impact of our homes, Forum participants believed that urgent and significant action must now be taken to reduce Australian housing sector carbon emissions by creating a more ambitious building energy regulatory target for new housing.

“We also recommended that disclosure of energy performance should be mandated to provide independent information and empower consumers. This requires changing regulation of energy standards across the board, including rental properties in order to embrace all so as protect the most vulnerable to energy poverty,” said Mr Hill.

ASBEC President, Professor Ken Maher, expressed the importance of industry collaboration and how this had been successfully applied to produce two recent major reports: Low Carbon, High Performance: How buildings can make a major contribution to Australia’s emissions and productivity goals, and the National Framework for Residential Rating.

“These reports reveal how high performing buildings can provide a cost-effective and quality-of-life-enhancing solution to Australia’s emissions reduction commitments. The reports, like the Forum, illustrate that industry is committed to working side by side to make the necessary changes to reduce emissions,” he said.

South Australian Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Climate Change, The Hon Ian Hunter MP, who spoke at the Forum, said it was important to include the community on the journey, underling the fact that credit must be given to the intelligence of the general public in recognising the benefits and opportunities that come with a low carbon economy.

CRCLCL CEO, Scientia Professor Dr Deo Prasad said that South Australian research funded by the CRCLCL indicated that low carbon homes are close to being a reality and also have financial benefits.

“The South Australian research we fund is setting the grounding for change through evidence and recent findings showed that by adopting a zero carbon housing standard locally was demonstrated to be ‘overwhelmingly positive’, with potential for the South Australian community to receive benefits in the order of $1.31 billion if the policy were implemented state-wide for 10 years, meaning that for every $1 invested in low carbon homes, the community would receive $2.42 in economic gain,” he said.