Could sustainability and energy efficiency be incorporated into designs for all new buildings and housing developments in Ballarat?
The newly formed Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions Advocacy Group is working to raise awareness of the environmental and financial benefits of sustainable housing design
One of its first actions is to promote Sustainable House Day which will be held virtually Australia-wide on September 20.
Long-time BREAZE member and sustainable house owner Jeff Dobell has selected a series of houses that are of particular interest and provide inspiration to a Ballarat audience.
"I encourage anyone who is thinking of buying or building a house to look at Sustainable House Day," he said.
We are building houses that are costing an enormous amount of money to heat and cool which is contributing to our greenhouse gases and it doesn't have to be that way.Jeff Dobell, BREAZE member
Members of the public can register to participate in the online event that will replace in-person tours of sustainable houses this year.
Mr Dobell opened his house to the public on Sustainable House Day when he finished building four years ago.
He said what could seem like small, often low cost changes, could make a big difference to energy efficiency.
Mr Dobell said a combination of house orientation, good insulation and the sealing of all gaps could make a massive difference to the comfort of a home.
"Orientation is a very important thing so you can get that winter sun into your house," he said.
"If you were going to have orientation, insulation and sealing of all gaps you are really heading in the right direction."
Mr Dobell said the next best steps, if you can afford it, included double glazed windows and thermal mass, which is a dense material inside the building like polished concrete floor or an internal brick wall that absorbs heat during the day and releases it when it is cold at night.
He said it was important to understand the primary elements of designing an energy efficient home, so Sustainable House Day was a great resource that provided an opportunity to ask questions of home owners.
Mr Dobell said sustainable design had saved him money in the long term; he has only used his air conditioner twice in four years and does not run heating all night during winter.
"I think it would be great if government and local government and the building industry could get together and create a regulatory environment that encourages all houses to be much more energy efficient," he said.
"The building industry could see they are going to get a much better value house.
"We are building houses that are costing an enormous amount of money to heat and cool which is contributing to our greenhouse gases and it doesn't have to be that way."
BREAZE president Mary Debrett said residential energy usage was responsible for more than 17 per cent of Ballarat's emissions, according to the Ballarat Zero Emissions carbon snapshot.
"Obviously these emissions could be considerably reduced if everyone chose to install solar panels and build all electric homes," she said.
"While building zero carbon homes is the gold standard, for people who just want to improve their existing home's energy efficiency there is still a lot that can be done - better insulation, double glazing, energy efficient fixed appliances, solar PV, LED lights, and draught proofing.
"And of course, the benefits are twofold - reduced energy costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions."
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BREAZE Advocacy Group coordinator Therese Footner said the group was working to plan how it could advocate for housing improvements in Ballarat.
"One of the directions we will take is education trying to create a conversation, particularly with people looking at new housing. Ballarat is in a boom stage and will continue to be," she said.
"If consumers are more aware and more educated that eventually does have some effect on what is delivered by builders and developers."
Ms Footner said the group also plans to engage with Ballarat council on housing and building developments.
"We can drive change together," she said.
"We are up for the long term to make an impact on the development of Ballarat because there is so much opportunity to get it right and cut costs for people. It will be a win win."
Visit sustainablehouseday.com/ to register for the online event or explore sustainable houses across Australia.
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