The role of a house in Australia is not just limited to providing shelter. A home, for a large number of people, is their biggest financial asset that they often slog through their lives for. Investors use their houses to generate rental income while mortgages account for a large part of banks’ assets.
However, is your house safe from the rising threat of climate change?
Australia is highly exposed to climate change that will lead to sea level rise, more intense rains and storms, increased temperatures and extreme weather conditions. Coastal erosion, floods, cyclones, bushfires, etc. – the already existing threats are likely to increase in the future.
Coupling this with the fact that average Australian plans to spend several years in a home, to minimise the impact of climate change on your home, it is essential to take these factors into consideration now and build adaptable houses that are future ready.
So, how do you create a flexible house that is ‘future-ready’?
For a start, understanding how climate change will impact the area you reside in will help you plan renovations to minimise the impact, ensuring your home remains safe and habitable. The other aspect is to create an energy efficient home with minimal carbon footprint. In fact, with resource depletion being a reality, utilities would only get more expensive in the future, and housing would need to be capable of meeting its own energy requirements.
In the future, smaller houses that are naturally more space and energy efficient, and suitable for the growing aged population choosing to stay on their own in the later years would be the norm. Thus, building family homes today that could be easily divided into smaller units in the future would accommodate changing demographic requirements without significant structural changes.
In short, you could make your house ‘future-ready’ by designing it to be flexible and durable, while using sustainable design principles that make a positive impact on the environment.
Reducing the carbon footprint
Apart from building resilient homes that can withstand the impact of climate change, the only long term solution to climate change is minimising or eliminating the amount of carbon released into the environment through human activity, and adopting renewable sources of energy. Towards that end, the house of the future would not only serve as a shelter or an investment but also act as a self-sufficient energy generation unit. Australia is gearing up for carbon positive homes that move beyond the current standard of ‘carbon zero’ by producing more energy on the site than the building requires and feeding it back to the grid.
Carbon positive home will serve a two-fold purpose – address the impact of the past carbon-intense lifestyle and help reduce the damage from projects where attaining carbon-zero standards is not possible.
Here’s how you can reduce the carbon footprint of your home, leading to a better future and reduced utility bills:
If you are building a home from scratch, choosing a site that allows renewable energy generation. Including energy efficiency strategies at the outset is important. You must consult an expert to understand the impact of climate on the area in the future, and accordingly design the house and choose the material for construction.
Installing solar rooftops – Reduced cost of rooftop photovoltaics (PV) make it a viable option for electricity generation. In fact, with Tesla (after its merger with SolarCity) claiming Tesla solar roofs to be a cheaper option than conventional roofs in the future, the energy-efficient solution may be better than using terracotta or concrete to line your roof, especially a few years down the line. Currently, several States have feed-in tariff systems in place to encourage households to feed the surplus electricity generated into the grid and get paid for it.
Thermal efficiency – Heating and cooling a home consumes the maximum amount of energy. Thus, properly insulating your house, and sizing and orienting windows to allow optimal lighting while minimising heat gain during summers and heat loss during winters will reduce your energy consumption significantly. Lighting is also an important contributor to your power usage. Efficient lighting in your homes could cut down the energy usage considerably, apart from making the house much more cheerful and pleasant due to ambient lighting. Here’s an in-depth article sharing useful tips on efficient lighting.
Hot water – Water heating significantly contributes to green house emissions, being the second largest consumer of household energy. Apart from reducing hot water usage by taking short showers and washing clothes in cold water, using a renewable source of energy such as solar power to heat water in your home will drastically cut down your energy consumption and carbon footprint on the environment.
Apart from making some lifestyle changes such as minimising wastage, growing your own food, reusing and recycling material, using public transport or walking down when possible, it is best to consult an expert to understand design requirements and modifications to build an eco-friendly, self-sufficient and safe home. It is possible that some of the suggestions might be cost-prohibitive, but the benefits, in the long run, are many. Several banks in Australia also offer Green Home Loans to encourage home buyers to buy or build environment-friendly homes. At HashChing, we have access to several lenders who offer discounted interest rates for ‘green’ houses. Finally, you can save money and save the planet, too! Get in touch with an expert broker to know more.
By Vidhu Bajaj
HashChing Content Writer