Experts Call for Government’s Construction Stimulus To Embrace Sustainable Building Practices

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Experts are calling for the federal government to embrace a push toward more thermally-efficient, sustainable and renewable technologies in its yet to be revealed stimulus package for the construction industry. 

Authorities on the topic of sustainability have said the government has an unprecedented opportunity to push the adoption rate of green building practices, implementation of efficiency standards and even incentivising rooftop solar installations. 

For context, a week ago, we reported that Master Builders Australia was calling on the government to inject $13 billion into the sector to spark growth and reduce the rate of unemployment in an industry that directly employs more than 1.2 million people. 

MBA said that $30 billion in new economic activity would be created, 100,000 jobs would be created and the industry would avoid job losses totalling 464,000 with proper intervention. 

Since then, we’ve reported on remarks from both the federal Treasurer and the PM, who said that the sector will indeed get a boost, in the form of modifications to the homebuyer’s grant. Details are yet to be unveiled by the government, but it’s expected that the grant will be increased to encourage the construction of new dwellings, and modifications to existing ones. 

This brings us to today’s update, with experts saying the government has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encourage the rollout of renewable and sustainable technologies with its grant program. 

Environmental think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions has stated that if the government’s stimulus measures encouraged installation of thermal-efficient houses, emissions could be drastically reduced and cost savings passed on to the homeowner. 

Heidi Lee, architect and BZE industry lead has stated that “Beyond Zero Emissions welcomes the government proposal to stimulate construction activity through home renovations but urge that the program be used to improve the energy efficiency of buildings to reduce Australians’ energy bills.” 

“We have a unique opportunity to upgrade Australia’s notoriously poor housing stock, and upskill our construction workforce so that we can deliver significantly better builders for all Australians,” Lee added. 

“Our Million Jobs Plan, set for release shortly, demonstrates that over 100,000 jobs can be created with a nationwide retrofit program for existing properties alone… it is vital that we don’t waste this opportunity to provide healthy, comfortable and efficient buildings,” Lee concluded. 

Experts have pointed to research from RMIT that showed Victorian homes that were constructed with a 7.5 energy star rating were 40% more energy efficient than the current national average of 6 energy stars. 

Solar installation

Trivess Moore, senior construction lecturer at RMIT has said that Australia is “lagging between 10-15 years behind in Europe, and parts of the US and Canada,” adding that “we have a long history in Australia of delivering poor quality housing in relation to thermal efficiency but also in broader sustainability terms.” 

“They will tell you they’re building what the customer wants. But consumers are not really across sustainability, they’re not really across these challenges,” Moore continued to explain. 

“Unfortunately, the most efficient and effective way to lift standards is through regulation,” Moore continued to explain. “The industry will adapt, it will adjust. Any additional cost price will quickly be reduced through efficiencies, through learnings, through the competitive market,” he said. 

“If you do it right, you can wind up with little or no energy bills. What you do with those savings could be quite significant,” Moore concluded. 

We’re yet to receive the specifics of the government’s construction stimulus plan, but earlier this week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that “house building or residential construction will be one of those gaps that we have to address,” adding that “the tradies and all the others, the apprentices and others who work in that home-building sector, are a sector we know are going to feel a lot of pain unless we can keep a continuity in the business with house construction.” 

It’s also been pointed out by MBA that construction activity in Australia is at a 12-year low, and the forecasts are even worse without government intervention for the vulnerable and embattled industry. 

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Thermally-efficient housing in the US with solar installation.

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