Participants from the recent Sustainable Building Industry Consultation Forum sent the State Government three key messages on how they would like to see it respond to Victoria’s climate change challenge.
First, protecting and improving Victoria’s housing affordability record was deemed paramount. Builders are committed to providing affordable housing stock which meets nation-leading sustainability standards. Victoria’s current Five Star home sustainability standards enjoy Master Builders support, and although they had a very bumpy introduction, we are glad to see it now being extended to renovations on existing housing stock.
In regards to future measures, builders are keen to see sensible reforms which deliver immediate and wide-scale results without compromising affordability. The best way to achieve that is by tackling Victoria’s 1.9 million homes which lack effective insulation, efficient showerheads and modern internal plumbing.
These ideas were considered low hanging fruit which can be quickly achieved without compromising housing affordability.
Alternative proposals such as raising the minimum energy efficiency ratings for new homes were dismissed by many builders as being too expensive (adding $5,000-$15,000 per home), too long-term (decades before substantial change is achieved) and socially irresponsible (exacerbating the housing affordability crisis). In this area, builders concluded that while urgent action was required, it must be weighed up against the factors which make Victoria an affordable place to live.
The second message at the Forum was that climate change reforms must be economy-wide and targeted. Builders believe they have important responsibilities in regards to tackling climate change, however, they were also of the view that not all emitters are bearing their fair share of the costs.
Manufacturers, consumers, government departments and water and energy providers must also take responsibility for the products they produce and the practices they employ. While the inefficient operation of the built environment was considered a priority area, it was noted that many other more affordable opportunities for emission reduction could be found elsewhere in the economy.
According to the Department of Sustainability and Environment, more than 65 per cent of annual emissions per dwelling result from the operation of inefficient whitegoods or temperature management equipment. In recognising this fact, builders are keen to see an aggressive phase out strategy for inefficient whitegoods and other energy and water consumption devices.
To ensure that manufacturing jobs are not relocated overseas, builders would like to see transitional support provided to manufacturers who will need to adjust away from their dependence upon high emission energy resources.
The third and final message from the Forum was that the government needs to be mindful of not holding double standards within the climate change debate. Bold and aggressive action on future and existing housing stock should only be implemented after government buildings have adhered to those same standards.
At present, Victoria has hundreds of schools, hospitals and public buildings which have horribly low energy efficiency ratings and antiquated plumbing systems. If the government wants to lead from the front and be “ambitious” with its reforms, it must first be honest with itself.
Approval of a project like the La Trobe Valley’s new brown coal fire power station may well be essential to Victoria’s continued economic growth, but it makes for extremely poor symbolism when expecting homebuyers to absorb the huge cost of climate change.
In conclusion, builders remain optimistic about the genuineness of the State Government’s consultation process on construction related climate change reform. Master Builders remains the only industry association in Victoria to favour an increase in the cost of energy and metropolitan water, so we are keen to see this issue tackled aggressively, as well as pragmatically. To that end, Victorian builders look forward to the next stage of the consultation process.
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