As a home's energy increases what else is possible?
Designing homes for energy efficiency, so they need less energy to heat and cool, is a great way to reduce residents’ living costs. It means lower power bills, and it also means lower emissions. But according to recent research, the positive impacts of thoughtful, energy efficient design go far beyond a power bill.
While amazing developments are popping up across Australia where architects and developers are focusing on sustainable design and utilising our natural resources in efficient ways, not all of us have the funds to take advantage of many great energy efficiency opportunities. And while costs can level out over time, the initial investment isn’t at everyone’s fingertips.
The Department of Health and Human Services provides housing for over 60,000 people on low incomes, as part of Victoria’s social housing supply. And in 2016, they completed a study with RMIT University looking at how investing in sustainable design for social housing type accommodation could benefit residents.
Though the study was relatively small, the results were big: They built four ‘catalyst’ houses, utilising a number of sustainable housing principles - and achieved an 8.9-star NatHERS rating. This included designing the house to take optimal advantage of sunshine, allowing for ventilation, and utilising glazing and insulation to ensure residents could stay cool in summer and warm in winter, with minimal heating and cooling. The houses also had access to rainwater tanks, their own solar panels and a solar hot water system.
As it turns out, the results were extraordinary. Saving money on electricity was just the tip of the iceberg. Residents also reported a greater sense of security and safety, and their health and comfort levels had increased. One resident was able to come off income support and experienced an overall improvement in life satisfaction and wellbeing.
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