"Last month, the Property Council of Australia and the Green Building Council of Australia released Every Building Counts – A practical plan for emissions reduction in the built environment. Launched by Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, the report is designed to guide local, state and federal governments on how to incentivise the transition to ‘net zero energy’ buildings. A week later, Mirvac announced it will build a master-planned ‘net zero’ housing estate in Victoria next year with government support.
These Australian developments are indicative of a global move towards sustainable development and ‘net zero energy’ buildings which are buildings that produce as much energy as they consume.
In the American property development and energy sectors, ‘net zero’ or carbon neutral buildings are a hot topic along with the role that electric vehicles, battery storage and microgrids could play in housing design and urban planning. In California, the goal is for all new residential construction to be ‘net zero’ by 2020 with new commercial construction to follow suit by 2030. Policies aimed at achieving zero carbon buildings have also been introduced by many other US states.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit one of the first ‘passive house’ certified ‘net zero’ apartment buildings in San Francisco and to talk with the residents and developer. A ‘passive house’ is designed with insulation, an airtight building envelope and high energy efficiency resulting in a home that needs little heating or cooling. As a result of this design, the apartment building actually produced more energy than it needed.
As we sat on the building’s rooftop balcony under a double-sided solar panel canopy, the developer described the growing demand for homes that surpassed the energy efficiency requirements of the local government. He had moved into sustainable development because he believed it was important, but he had discovered an untapped market willing to pay higher premiums for ecological credentials.
Across a range of markets, from vehicles to housing to electricity, consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for sustainability. This is creating new industries and business opportunities. The ‘conscious consumer’ market in the US is estimated to be worth $300 billion and is a key focus of businesses including the likes of Lego and Google. When Qantas announced that it will cut its emissions to net zero by 2050, CEO Alan Joyce said ‘we’re doing this because it’s the responsible thing to do, but hopefully it will also encourage more people to choose Qantas and Jetstar.’
The Hunter is well placed to participate in and benefit from the growing sustainability market. We have exceptional engineering and manufacturing businesses with a track record of adapting to change. We have architects who are ready to embrace cutting edge design. As the industry incentives and policies of the ‘Every Building Counts’ report are introduced, it will create new opportunities for our innovative and nimble businesses who are ready to ‘ride the green wave’.
Elizabeth McDonald specialises in renewable energy and property law. This year, she received an Executive Leadership Award from the Australian Government and recently returned from a trip to the US where she met with industry leaders in the sustainability sector."
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