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When well-designed, quality built homes are combined with roof top solar power it’s possible for a house to meet its own net energy needs across the year. Known as a Zero Energy Home, or ZEH, they have a reduced reliance on heating and cooling, they have improved occupant comfort and they address the very real concerns of rising energy prices and climate change.

A two-year research project funded by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living and led by Dr Josh Byrne  was set up to better understand the construction cost implications and consumer interest of Zero Energy Homes (ZEH) in Australia. The project has followed four land developers and builders in four different states, with each of them embarking on the design and construction of a zero energy display home in their respective residential developments.

The research team from Curtin University and the CSIRO provided design and technical support to the builders using modelling to assess the expected performance of the final designs. They also tracked the construction costs to determine the price impacts of design and technology features. Once the homes are built a detailed survey of potential home buyers will be undertaken to assess the level of market interest. The research findings will inform state and commonwealth government policy initiatives and are expected to generate significant interest from industry.

Mainstreaming Net Zero Energy Homes

Project Introduction

Dr Josh Byrne and his colleagues from Curtin University and the CRC for Low Carbon Living set out to impact the Australian housing market through demonstration and research into high performance Net Zero Energy Homes. But how do we make this mainstream? What does it cost and is the market interested? This latest project aims to find out.

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Townsville Case Study

In tropical-arid Townsville in Northern Queensland, we follow local builder Darren Finlay as he builds a ZEH display home in the North Shore estate by national developer Stockland. We learn about the local conditions, typical construction methods and what Darren has done differently. We find out about the market response and get the builder and developer’s opinion on where they see the industry heading.

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Melbourne Case Study

Victorian based construction company SJD Homes build a ZEH display home at the Timbertop estate by Parklea near Officer in south-east Melbourne. Builder Simon Dunstan describes what makes this home different to what they normally build, and why it will perform better. We discuss the role of leadership versus regulation in terms of facilitating greater uptake of Zero Energy Homes.

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The Path to Change

We’ve asked the builders and developers behind the Townsville and Melbourne ZEH display homes whether they believe that industry is ready to voluntarily lead improvements to the energy efficiency of new homes, or if greater regulation is required. Now we meet Suzanne Toumbourou – Executive Director of the Australian Built Environment Council (ASBEC) to find out what can be gained by making improvements to the National Construction Code, and what are the costs of inaction.

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