March3, 2017: Massive Erections

Did you know that Australians have the biggest erections in the world?

I’m talking, or course, about the size of our new homes.

When they say 'acreage design' they're talking about the floor area.

When they say ‘acreage design’ I think they’re talking about the floor area but if you read the fine print, the good news is that ‘the layout ensures energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable living’…. hmmm, I’m going to call ‘Bullshit!’ on that one.

I’ve written about this before but was reminded again by this recent article from The Conversation just how crazy this is in a country that also has some of the least affordable housing in the world. The following quotes from the article help to illustrate the point.

Over the past 60 years Australian homes have more than doubled in size, going from an average of around 100 square metres in 1950 to about 240 square metres today. This makes them the largest in the world, ahead of Canada and the United States.

At the same time, the average number of people living in each household has been declining. This means that the average floor area per person has skyrocketed from 30 square metres to around 87 square metres.

Results show that larger houses use much more energy, but also that as size increases, the energy used in building and maintaining the house grows by more than the energy used to operate the house.

It’s important to note that the cost of homes as well as the amount of energy they use is typically measured in terms of $/sqm or kWh/sqm. This has the effect of making large houses seem cheaper and more energy efficient because you are dividing the cost and the energy use by a larger number of square metres. It is much more useful and realistic to think about the cost per person or the energy use per person. The following chart from The Conversation article does just that and compares the total energy use over 50 years PER PERSON for different sized houses with different numbers of people living in them. Note that the biggest house uses more that twice as much energy PER PERSON than the smallest house (also note that the smallest house listed is nearly twice the size of the Greeny Flat which we find to be perfectly adequate for two people at 57sqm).

170303 house size and energy per person

Smaller dwellings tread more lightly on the planet and on your pocket.

It is important for developers and architects to provide homes that are better designed for comfort and the environment while still being affordable.

Current energy efficiency regulations don’t account for the energy embodied in building materials, and so fail to adequately capture house size.

Most energy efficiency regulations also only measure energy use per square metre. Using this metric, larger houses appear to be more efficient

The Australian 6-star standard does include house size when considering heating and cooling, but other certifications don’t. Under these other certifications (including the BASIX system used in NSW), a larger house would therefore be easier to certify, considering everything else is constant.

This is ironic since larger houses use significantly more resources, both for construction and operation.

We need to revise current energy efficiency regulations to include embodied energy and other measures of energy if we are to reduce the total energy and broader resource demands associated with buildings.

I absolutely agree that we need stronger regulations. BASIX, which stands for Building Sustainability Index, is a total failure and the proof can be found in the fact that the house pictured in the advertisement, which is enormous and totally inappropriate to our climate with its brick veneer walls, single-glazed windows and black roof, can pass BASIX and is allowed to be built.

Unfortunately, whenever anyone tries to suggest higher energy efficiency standards, the big players in the housing development industry (who have a lot of political influence) jump up and down and scream bloody murder about how higher standards will drive up the cost of housing and make it even more unaffordable.

Well I have a very simple answer for them…. BUILD SMALLER HOUSES!

1 comment to March3, 2017: Massive Erections

  • Glenn Robinson

    Remember BASIX compliance only means it is the most poorly performing house you are legally allowed to build, it will still pollute for its lifespan and be expensive and uncomfortable to live in.

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