What are the future trends in sustainable residential development?

Property ObserverApril 13, 20160 min read


The benefits of living in a sustainable home include a more attractive and healthier environment, and lower costs through savings on energy and water bills.

But encouraging sustainability in the residential building sector has presented challenges.

“The residential sector is in some ways more complex than any other sector in that there are an incredible number of private owners, a pretty average National Construction Code, and huge gaps in knowledge both of residents and house builders,” says Vice-Chair of the Board for the Living Future Institute of Australia, Stephen Choi.

“Housing in general – and particularly our existing homes – is one of the most important and to some extent, ‘untouched’ areas of the built environment when it comes to providing better places to live.”

Despite the barriers, Choi is encouraged by progress in areas such as the ‘fabric first’ approach, which aims to maximise the performance of the components that make up the building fabric itself. Passivhaus is an energy performance standard that uses this approach to set targets for the thermal performance of buildings, including homes.

About 30,000 buildings worldwide have been constructed to the Passivhaus standard. The standard encourages the use of insulation, passive solar design, making a property airtight to minimise unwanted heat loss or gain, and good indoor air quality provided by mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems.

A home’s thermal performance has a major effect on its energy consumption.

About 40 percent of household energy is used for heating and cooling, according to the Australian Government’s Your Home website.

“This rate could be cut to almost zero in new housing through sound climate responsive design,” the website says.

Energy and water saving measures that reduce utility costs are popular in residential properties but beyond the cost savings it has been difficult to engage consumers’ interests in sustainable development, says Frasers Property Australia’s general manager of sustainability Paolo Bevilacqua.

As such, sustainability in residential developments has tended to focus on initiatives outside of individual apartments or houses.

The residential buildings at Central Park in Sydney share energy and air conditioning facilities rather than each building having its own facility, for

instance. This allows for a more efficient system overall. Residential developments are increasingly providing access to public transport, cycle paths and pedestrian footpaths to ensure residents aren’t restricted to travelling by car.

Some developments include fitness facilities, swimming pools and walking trails to promote residents’ health. Similarly, parks and gardens, including roof top and vertical gardens where space is limited, are becoming more common.

Bevilacqua says the green walls at One Central Park is one example of how green elements can be successfully introduced into an urban development.

“From a visual point of view it has benefits for people living in those buildings. It’s a beautiful outlook and improves air quality,” he says.

Better air purification, access to day light and lighting that works with people’s circadian rhythms are priorities gaining traction in residential developments as people begin to understand the impact on their health and wellbeing, Bevilacqua says.

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Property Observer

Residential Construction
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