Sustainable House Day Next Weekend!

Sustainable House Day is fast approaching – have you got your tickets for this virtual event yet? Block out Sunday the 20th September for a day of interactive learning from examples of sustainable homes all around Australia. One of our recently completed houses will be featured – here’s a preview of what you will see: https://sustainablehouseday.com/listing/suburban-treehouse/

 

If you have not participated in Sustainable House Day before it is a great source of information for an overview on the different aspects of sustainable homes, and if you have attended before it’s a great opportunity to see what new technologies and applications have arisen, improvements in existing technologies, and more inspiration of innovative designs.

 

While this year will look quite different being an online event, it means that you will have access to projects all around the nation – you could be getting inspiration from a house in Sydney, or see how a new sustainable technology works in a home in Brisbane, and then use it right here in WA. Each project will have a virtual tour or a pre-recorded video tour, with the possibility to ask questions of the home owners or architects, in addition to access to online discussions and webinars.

 

You will learn so much more from an event like this than by researching sustainable home design online. There is an overwhelming amount of information online, but it is hard to know what works in reality, what is value for money, how well certain things work for your particular climate and site, or what is just being promoted by an invested party. At Sustainable House Day, you can ask experts these questions, and talk to the people who live in these homes to get their feedback on how the home performs in reality.

 

Make sure you register to be able to participate – you will be able to walk through one of our recently completed projects too!

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National Low Income Energy Productivity Program

A group of over 50 businesses, charities, local council, and community groups have come together to advocate to governments for a National Low Income Energy Productivity Program. The main aims of the proposal are:

 

-To lower power bills for low income earners (this will ease financial stress, ensuring that a comfortable healthy home is attainable for all, for instance keeping homes warm in winter will not be an expensive luxury foregone to afford food or schooling)

-To increase the number of homes that are energy efficient (this will lower carbon emissions and reduce the load on the grid)

-To create jobs & spending to stimulate the economy (through the increased need for training, auditing, installation, manufacture, local retail)

 

 

The program outlines four key areas for strategic action:

 

  1. Social Housing – the government to provide energy efficiency upgrades and solar PV for the 440,000 social housing dwellings in Australia, in addition to an additional 30,000 new social housing dwellings to be built. The cost for only the upgrades would be $1.676 billion spread out over a 4-5 year period.
  2. Low-income home owners – a joint initiative between governments and community organisations for energy efficiency audits, upgrades, and solar PV for those who qualify as low-income home owners. The cost for this would be $4.18 billion over 4-5 year period.
  3. Inefficient rental properties – there is currently a proposal in development for mandatory energy efficiency standards for rental properties. This is to be supported by the federal government providing grants to landlords to support the upgrade of poor energy performing rentals. This will include a free energy audit for all landlords, those properties found underperforming would eligible for a $5k grant, with stipulations in place ensuring that rent isn’t unfairly raised after these grant funded improvements are undertaken. This would cost $774 million over 4-5 year period.
  4. Low-income appliance replacement – government subsidies to replace energy inefficient appliances such as heating/cooling appliances, fridges, hot water systems, washing machines, dryers, and TVs.

 

The list of energy efficient upgrades identified in the proposal include the installation of reverse cycle air-conditioners, more efficient heat pumps for hot water, draught sealing, installing ceiling fans, solar PV, shade structures, and insulation.

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A Look Inside the ‘Tiny Houses’ Trend

The trend of ‘tiny houses’ has well and truly swept the globe. A quick search online will show you an enormous array of tiny houses from Canada to Scotland to Indonesia in as many styles and layouts as you could imagine, there are even TV shows about tiny houses. These compact homes can offer a great range of benefits but despite this they will not suit everyone. Tiny houses are usually under 40sqm and are designed to be as compact as possible, with each space within the house performing multiple purposes, often with a mezzanine or loft level for the sleeping area.

 

One of the most attractive advantages to living in a tiny home compared with a typical home is that the home is cheaper to build as significantly less materials, labour, and time, are required to build a tiny house. Imagine being able to pay off your mortgage even a decade earlier than typically expected – it’s appealing right? With the reduced cost of a smaller footprint home, higher quality materials that are more expensive can be chosen as they are only being used on relatively small areas. Additionally, not only are tiny houses cheaper to build, but they are also more economical to run. Smaller spaces require less lighting and less heating and cooling, reducing your overall energy needs. This contributes to an overall more sustainable home. These needs can easily be met by solar PV installed on the roof of the tiny home. As the building and construction sector’s energy usage is over 35% of global energy usage and the sector contributes heavily to landfill, tiny homes that use less material, labour, and have less wastage, can reduce the negative impact of the construction sector.

 

Another benefit of a tiny home is that a lot less upkeep is required. Smaller spaces mean less time spent cleaning and maintaining your home, though as the space in a tiny home is condensed you will get more concentrated wear as spaces are multipurpose they have to ‘work harder’ than in a typical sized home where the wear is more dispersed among larger areas.

 

Many people who live in a tiny home have used the move to inspire a different mindset towards their lifestyle. To live in a tiny home requires the re-evaluation of the necessity of all your possessions, it encourages the inhabitants to change their mindset towards consumerism and materialism, and to declutter not only their house but their lives. Moving in to a tiny home requires some serious “Marie Kondo-ing”, with this, many see a streamlining of their overall lives, they live with less distractions and can focus on what is important to them.

 

Tiny homes can be designed to be built or installed in place without the intention to move it in the future, or they can be designed to be fully transportable, built on a trailer and classified as a registered caravan. The latter gives you the benefit of flexibility to move your home to wherever you want to go, however there are very strict regulations guiding the design of these and also the rules on where they can be parked and how long they can be lived in. Therefore most people who live in a tiny home, unless they intend to live a consistently nomadic lifestyle, choose to build a fixed home.

 

Another interesting side to tiny homes is that there have been a few projects that have proposed this more affordable form of housing as one solution to providing homes for the homeless, and social housing for those at risk of homelessness. There is also the possibility for tiny houses to increase the density that we are struggling to achieve in our inner suburbs if local governments and planning bodies acknowledged the potential of this housing model. It could help provide the missing middle for those who do not want to live in an apartment or unit, but also do not require a large 4 bedroom family home.

 

 

However, as with every unique style of house, tiny houses will not suit everyone. Tiny homes force a unique lifestyle upon their inhabitants. Often those who live in tiny homes enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors away from their home, so if you are a homebody consider whether spending extended periods of time in a condensed space would bother you. Tiny homes often are also not suitable for those with mobility impairments as circulation space is limited making it difficult to navigate with mobility aids, storage is often in unusual places that are hard to access and often tiny homes have multiple levels to take advantage of vertical space which requires steps or ladders. Those who live in tiny homes often find they have to be organised and tidy, and err on the side of a minimalist lifestyle, otherwise the limited space available easily becomes cluttered and chaotic. If you do enjoy entertaining with large groups of people, this too becomes more difficult. While we have seen more permanent tiny homes have fantastic decks and outdoor areas, these are not as suitable for entertaining in poor weather so having guests over in winter may provide difficult.

 

So while you are indulging in browsing all the beautiful tiny homes that are scattered across Instagram and Pinterest, and consider whether living in a tiny home is something you would genuinely be interested in, remember the above. There can be huge advantages to your life if you go down this route and it has certainly changed peoples lives, but only if this suits the person you are and the lifestyle that you want to live. However if you are interested in living in a smaller home but not sure if you can quite commit to a tiny home, there are many tiny home design principles that can be applied to a more traditional house. We can work with you to incorporate innovative space saving measures that will see your overall build cost reduced, your running costs reduced, that will have you cleaning less and cluttering less, but tailored to your unique space needs. Get in touch with us and see how we can help you achieve the right balance between your home aspirations and your lifestyle realities.

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