<a href="http://www.gmagazine.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Houses built of zero carbon


Credit: iStockphoto

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How feasible is it to build zero carbon homes? Work is now under way on a Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Buildings Plan.

Stephen Berry from the University of South Australia says our building standards need to move to net zero energy or net zero carbon. Building codes across Europe, the UK, US, and Asia are being modified to approach a net zero carbon standard as early as 2016-2020 and we need to do the same, he says.

As part of the research which will produce material that will be of the program at the Co-operative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living his group has been looking at homes in the Lochiel Park Green Village in Adelaide. All the homes there have a 7.5 Star rating, use solar hot water and are gas boosted, have 1.0 kW peak photovoltaic array for each 100m² of habitable floor area, have high energy and water rated appliances, use low energy lighting (CFLs & LEDs), ceiling fans, rainwater harvesting and greywater harvesting.

“The energy performance in periods of peak summer heatwaves is outstanding,’’ Berry writes. “Electricity demand in Lochiel Park homes is not only appreciably less but – due to the excellent level of thermal comfort – the demand peaks later in the day, helping to flatten the Adelaide-wide electricity load profile. Due to the production of renewable electricity by the solar photovoltaic panels, many homes at Lochiel Park are operating at or near the performance expected by net zero carbon homes. Detailed monitoring will help us to understand which elements of the guidelines could be improved to deliver, on average, a cost effective net zero carbon standard for all new residential construction.”

Similarly, a new home built by Mirvac will achieve cost reductions when compared to the average Victorian home of $1200 per year on energy bills. There will be savings in mains water use of 125,000 litres per year. The house has been designed so that there will be no net greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in the home, saving an estimated 12.047 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Of course, these sorts of homes might be more expensive. Would people be prepared to pay a premium and thousands of dollars extra for a zero carbon home? According to research out of the UK, consumers won’t pay a premium for new homes enhanced with renewable technologies but home buyers might be willing to pay a premium when there is a clear saving on energy bills.

Other researchers say more people would take it up if they were given better information about the energy savings. If that were to happen, then valuers and mortgage lenders would have to factor in the higher levels of energy efficiency of new homes into their valuation and lending decisions.