27/02/2007 - 22:00

Efficiency drive

27/02/2007 - 22:00

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

Western Australia’s love affair with double-brick homes is just one of the many hurdles the local industry needs to overcome if it wants to produce houses that are more sustainable and energy efficient, according to a leading Melbourne researcher.

Western Australia’s love affair with double-brick homes is just one of the many hurdles the local industry needs to overcome if it wants to produce houses that are more sustainable and energy efficient, according to a leading Melbourne researcher.

Andrew Walker-Morison, who heads the sustainable materials program for RMIT’s Centre for Design, told builders and developers at an industry conference in Perth last week that there was no “silver bullet” to creating more energy efficient homes.

There were, however, alternative materials that could be used to reduce that amount of energy used in housing construction.

Mr Walker-Morison said WA’s construction industry had an added burden to overcome – double brick.

“Double-brick is fairly unique to WA; nobody else in Australia has the same ratio of double-brick homes,” he said.

“Brick veneer is the stand out in Melbourne and Sydney. Double-brick construction requires relatively high levels of energy to manufacture compared to some other wall types commonly used in housing.”

Yet-to-be published research from RMIT reveals that the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from the construction industry is expected to jump by 40 per cent within 50 years.

The research also concludes that the amount of water used in building products will increase by 63 per cent by 2055.

However, builders say they are already building the most energy efficient and water-wise homes than they ever have.

Mr Walker-Morison said while that was true, a recent study for the Australian Greenhouse Office by the RMIT centre showed that new homes in Australia were less energy efficient compared with global peers in the US, Canada and the UK.

He said building construction was responsible for 10 per cent of a home’s emissions, with the other 90 per cent churned out was the result of occupants’ behaviour.

However, Mr Walker-Morison said building and designing better houses, including better block orientation, could help reduce the emissions created by the owners.

For example, he said if a builder constructed a “leaky home”, then the energy used by its owners to heat and cool the house increased.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the use of some alternative building products could help reduce the cost to build a house by as much as 30 per cent, but products had to be produced in large volumes.

“Part of the problem is that we have to have economies of scale, and until we get market acceptability it will be hard to do that,” she said.

Builder Dale Alcock said not enough work had been undertaken to interest the public in alternative building products and more had to be done to increase the energy efficiency of existing homes.  About 70 per cent of established homes were without insulation, he said.

The government hopes to make some inroads in galvanising public support with the opening of 12 display homes in Seville Grove near Armadale later this year.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options