By Jamie Durie
Most of us will design our homes with current décor or renovation trends in mind. However, now more than ever before, sustainable living has become an increasing priority for many Australians across all areas of life, including the home.
I’ve partnered with Allianz Australia and UTS to release the Future of Living Report – which explores the many ways we might see our future homes adapt and change, in light of the growing responsibility many Aussies feel towards the environment.
We might choose to offset our carbon emissions when travelling, eat a little less meat throughout the week or try to use less plastic. However, research has found that Aussies will be making permanent changes within their homes to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.
The report identified the five biggest changes we can expect to see in our homes over the coming years:
Living in Nature: Native sustainable plants will take over Aussie homes, inside and out.
Shared Living Spaces: With the ‘sharing economy’ taking over everything from accommodation to cars, we can expect to see this trend transforming our concept of ‘living arrangements.’
Sustainability: Sustainable materials and neutral carbon footprints are no longer seen as ‘fringe.’
Timber Homes: Timber will be the material of choice for Aussie homes, over brick.
Austerity Chic: Mismatched furniture made from a mix of flatpacks and second-hand stores will be the leading style of modern homes.
Sustainable living and future-proofing our family homes is something I am incredibly passionate about. So much so, that I’m building my very own prefabricated eco-home as I write this.
For any savvy home buyer or builder, it’s important to think about how you are creating a home that has value today and tomorrow. By building sustainably, not only can you add value to your property, you can do our earth a favour and feel good about improving our children’s futures while you’re at it.
So, I have created some simple steps that will help you feel better informed about how you can future-proof your next home, without breaking the bank.
Start Simple with Solar
A simple and very achievable goal is creating a ‘solar passive’ home. This is my number one tip for two major reasons. Firstly, it reduces your carbon footprint by saving millions of tonnes of carbon emissions by allowing cool air into the building and hot air to escape, and secondly, you can expect to see your electricity and gas bills decrease significantly. In any project, it’s all about making an achievable goal for your new home. Solar panels are a great way to start your sustainable journey and don’t cost as much as you might think. Simply put, if every home in Australia installed solar panels, we would be able to rely significantly less on fossil fuels.
Use Sustainable Materials
There are a number of ways you can lighten a new home’s impact on the environment, and one of the most logical alterations is asking your contractors to use sustainable materials. We’re starting to see the building industry coming to the market with wonderfully innovative and accessible products, all available at your local hardware store. Products like solar roof tiles, low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint and textiles, or even insulated bricks made of recycled paper. It’s also important to proactively use everyday materials that are environmentally friendly, such as using FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified timber.
Wood has been increasingly recognised as a global solution to climate change through its ability to store carbon and reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Findings uncovered in the Future of Living Report also indicate that in the future, the exterior construction of our homes will prioritise wood over brick or concrete.
Create a Smarter Home
Have you ever thought about how much energy it takes to keep your hot water tank ready for when you want to take your next shower, 24 hours a day, seven days a week? It’s a lot – potentially hundreds of litres of water per day, per household. Think of it like we’re boiling a giant kettle all day, which results in hot water systems being the second biggest carbon emitter in the home, next to the car. As it is often hidden under the house, it is often forgotten about when thinking of our energy output. Where possible, Australians should install an inline hot water system that heats the water only as it is required, and where possible, install a solar panel hot water system.
Additionally, panels and cladding with high thermo insular properties that block out the maximum amount of heat are very easy to purchase, preventing the need for unnecessary use of an electronically sourced cooling system. The Future of Living Report demonstrates that these sustainable material innovations and merging the latest technology together with our local climates, will soon become the way we stay comfortable in our homes. So why not get ahead of the curve, while dramatically lowering your electricity bill?
The Secret Garden
Our gardens can play a pivotal role in helping us to reduce our impact on the environment, while also providing the perfect opportunity to celebrate our beautiful Aussie flora and fauna. It’s not just what we build the house out of, it’s also what we surround the house with. Planting dense foliage around the side of the house, such as Australian native plants, can stop hot weather from infiltrating the house and you guessed it, reduce energy costs too!
Instead of planting expanses of grass that have zero positive impact on the environment, I urge you to consider pollinator-attracting plants, such as bottlebrush or grevillea, so that we are increasing the bee population instead of suppressing it. This is a landscaping decision I highly encourage Australians to consider, especially given the recent devastation to our local wildlife caused by the bushfires.
Embracing nature and native plants will soon begin to blur the inside and outside lines of modern homes. The Future of Living Report indicates that plant-friendly interiors and exteriors will become a pivotal trend in homes of the future.
These are just a few thought-starters to hopefully inspire and encourage any new homeowner or builder who is looking to renovate a little more sustainably. It is so important to create a home that is fit for the future. It is not only your families most valuable asset, but the environment’s too.
-Jamie Durie is an international award-winning landscape designer, author and TV personality, and Allianz Sustainability Advocate.