1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Attitudes of residential builders to energy issues and usage

This article was contributed by Paul Giles, Senior Project Manager, BIS Shrapnel.

The bulk of Australian building companies believe that mounting pressure by regulators will compel the industry to build energy efficient housing within five years.

A study by BIS Shrapnel, Attitudes of Residential Builders to Energy Issues and Usage in Australia, 2001-02, demonstrates that most builders are sympathetic to the concept of the 'clean, green' home, but are deterred by perceived higher building and installation costs. Further, builders believe that greater community education of the benefits of energy efficient housing is required. The study involved interviews with 121 building firms in all the mainland state capital cities.

It found substantial increases over the past 12-24 months in the installation of building products with a significant bearing on energy efficiency and usage, including air conditioners, floor and wall insulation, hot water temperature controls, water efficient shower heads, and even solar hot water systems, where the level of acceptance has been low.

The study also identified substantial differences in attitude and product usage between the states, and between sectors of the building industry. For example, small builders tend to be more sympathetic to environmental considerations in housing design than their larger colleagues, who are much more likely to cite competitive price advantage for a lukewarm attitude.

But the industry is almost unanimous in its view that change will be driven by the regulators, and particularly by local authorities, with one builder commenting: 'Legislation is required …because people are not interested in more expensive options. Hence it must be forced'. The three most compelling reasons cited by builders for support of the concept are energy efficiency, long-term cost savings and reduced environmental impacts. Builders nominate increased construction costs as the standout reason for not recommending energy-efficient solutions. 'To be green is more expensive,' said one respondent. For example, only 3% of new homes have solar hot water heaters installed. Builders believe that only lower costs and/or rebates will result in an increase in this figure.

The study identifies and researches the incidence of 15 major building products which impact on energy efficiency (table 20.12).The study discovers considerable variations between the states: New South Wales is the leading installer of air conditioning and well above average installer of ceiling insulation, wall insulation and gas hot water systems; Victoria is the leader in ceiling insulation, gas hot water systems, insulated hot water pipes, ducted gas heating and ducted evaporative cooling; Queensland leads in the installation of roof insulation and electric hot water systems, but lags well behind other states in wall insulation, gas hot water systems and air conditioning; South Australia is a high installer of energy-efficient products, and the leader in wall insulation, water efficient devices and floor insulation; Western Australia is the leading installer of hot water temperature control and solar hot water systems, but has a very low rate of wall insulation due to the prevalence of double brick housing.

Builders identified trade magazines as their main source of information on energy efficient products and developments, followed by trade representatives. The Housing Industry Association, government bodies and trade shows and seminars are also important sources.


Builders using product
Selected products with a bearing on energy efficiency

Dual flush toilets
Ceiling insulation
Wall insulation
Gas hot water systems
Hot water temperature control
Roof insulation
Water efficient shower heads
Electric hot water systems
Insulated hot water pipes
Air conditioning
Water efficient taps
Ducted gas heating
Ducted evaporative cooling
Floor insulation
Solar hot water systems

Source: BIS Shrapnel, 'Attitudes of Residential Builders to Energy Issues and Usage in Australia 2001-02'. Further information about this study can be found at http://www.bis.com.au.