Interview – Housing Industry Association

15 May 2012

Your Future Home recently interviewed Kristin Brookfield, Senior Executive Director – Building, Development and Environment, Housing Industry Association (HIA) about sustainability.

Kristin Brookfield HIA

How does the HIA define sustainability?

Sustainability in housing reflects the balance we manage everyday between providing people with the basic need for shelter and ensuring the productivity and value of the resources used in housing is maximised and the impact on the natural environment is minimised to the extent possible.

What sustainable goals are in place?

HIA and the residential building industry promote and encourage environmentally responsible residential building and land development through the GreenSmart program. Reducing waste and improving the environmental performance of new and existing homes is an ongoing challenge for the building industry.

GreenSmart was established by HIA in 1999 to provide practical, affordable and durable environmental solutions for residential design and construction. GreenSmart is a market driven program, achieving environmental and energy efficient improvements without the need for additional regulation. GreenSmart principles have been successfully applied to renovations, new homes and entire developments.

What, if anything, is holding the HIA back from achieving sustainable goals?

In terms of improving sustainability of housing in Australia, HIA sees existing homes as an area that needs more attention to allow the industry to achieve its goals of greater environmental performance.

HIA has been actively working to gain government support to address the poor environmental performance of the 8 million existing homes, which were built before mandatory energy ratings were introduced in 2003. There are far more energy efficiency and environmental gains to be made from addressing the underperformance of these homes than attempting to push new homes further.

Inconsistent regulation across jurisdictions is a further problem facing the industry.

What does the HIA see as barriers to entry into sustainability for the industry and the community?

As per the previous answer, the inequity in policy focus between new and existing homes creates a barrier to unlocking the environmental benefits that are available. Government funding and initiatives should be introduced to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes up to an equivalent standard as required for new homes under BCA 2003 and support consumer awareness campaigns which highlight the benefits of a more energy efficient home and how to operate a home more efficiently.

What initiatives are in place for HIA GreenSmart builders to go beyond current energy efficiency regulations and use sustainable building materials?

All builders should be complying with current energy efficiency regulations that apply in their own states as a matter of course. By definition, participation by builders and industry practitioners in GreenSmart training – and the application of the principles and skills learned – puts them beyond the current mandated standards.

The GreenSmart professional accreditation course provides the industry with recognised skills in sustainable residential design and construction. During the two-day course, participants are trained in topics including: energy efficiency & passive solar design; waste management & recycling; water efficiency; stormwater management; materials; and, energy & window ratings schemes.

The GreenSmart House protocol sets out a broad range of sustainability criteria that can be applied by GreenSmart builders and professionals to suit the needs of their customers.

What percentage of HIA GreenSmart builders are building 7+ stars and using sustainable building materials?

This data is not collected by HIA. The options used to improve the energy efficiency of a new home being constructed by a GreenSmart builder – and whether or not this is measured against a star rating above the regulated minimum – is a matter for builders and their clients to determine. HIA GreenSmart provides the tools that can be used voluntarily by any GreenSmart builder to suit their clients needs.

Is the HIA actively involved in educating the community on sustainable homes? If so how?  If not, are there any programs you are looking to implement in the future?

The GreenSmart framework helps building professionals offer their clients more informed choices for sustainable home by offering environmentally responsible housing design ideas and products. HIA recognises a variety of display villages, homes and residential communities across Australia which adopt the GreenSmart principles and showcase how home buyers can incorporate GreenSmart into their new home.

At present around 500 GreenSmart display houses, 14 GreenSmart estates, 6 GreenSmart developments and 7 GreenSmart display villages have received accreditation. Many of these homes are open for inspection by consumers.

The GreenSmart program incorporates an awards process that recognises excellence in the field of environmental awareness in building, and promotes the successful professionals to consumers.

HIA GreenSmart Professionals attend home shows and other events, such as Sustainable House Day, to offer free information to consumers.

Information is also freely available on HIA’s webpage about GreenSmart principles, display homes and other GreenSmart activities.

What would the HIA like to see the government and industry do to ensure new homes are more energy efficient and are built with sustainable building materials?

New homes are already regulated to deliver consumers with more energy and water efficient homes than were built a decade ago. These standards have increased over the last decade and new homes offer an excellent level of performance when compared with homes of the past.

Does the HIA believe that the mandatory 6 stars for energy efficiency are enough? If yes or no, Why?

HIA has sought and gained the Federal Government’s support to develop a new and more comprehensive assessment method for new homes and other buildings. Sustainability is more than a star rating and the regulations need to recognise this and offer a way to assess and disclose all of the environmental aspects of new homes.

Do you have a measure/tools in place to determine the total environmental footprint (greenhouse gases produced – materials used during construction + waste) of all HIA members? Or help your members determine the environmental footprint per project?

Tools for measurement of individual homes are available and are an option for consumers or builders if they choose to source this information.

Are there any mechanisms in place to test the toxicity levels (volatile organic compounds) in new homes built by HIA members? If yes, how are they used and received by consumers? If not do you think this is something that would be beneficial to consumers and your members?

Such mechanisms exist, and are privately available to consumers should they be willing to meet the costs of conducting such an analysis. HIA is unaware of any consumer demand for such a product and as a voluntary membership association has no role in regulating this type of matter.

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