Everything from the local cafe to the biggest buildings have sustainability as a goal. But for many regional Victorians what is now seen as sustainable, environmentally friendly living — rainwater tanks, growing fruit and vegetables, composting, collecting and chopping firewood — have been part of life for generations.
Since the rules governing new buildings, including additions and renovations, were introduced in Victoria almost three years ago some of these features of country life have become much more ‘‘mainstream’’.
They’ve also become a part of the building requirements. The six-star energy efficiency rating, which aligned Victoria with the Building Code of Australia, requires all new homes to either have a solar hot water system or a rainwater tank for toilet flushing.
The rules also focus attention on insulation, the thermal performance, size and location of windows and building orientation — the days when country homes all faced the main road and city homes had a path from the street-facing front door have given way to north-facing living areas to capture winter sun and shade out summer sun; and that shady grapevine over a pergola becomes part of an energy efficiency plan.
Environmentally friendly design was seen as the province of the well-off and of no great interest to buyers. But times change and agents report buyers increasingly ask about a home’s sustainability credentials. For example, with more than one million Australian homes now with rooftop solar panels, most people are aware of their potential energy and cost saving benefits.
There have been thousands of new homes which comply with the new six-star rating built in regional Victoria in recent years. In Swan Hill one of Australia’s only nine-star energy rated homes was built as a demonstration centre, part of the Tower Hill housing development.
But throughout regional Victoria there are many older homes. Agents report that while buyers may be charmed, they also ask about other features such as double glazing and solar hot water that reflect the home’s overall sustainability.
Not so many years ago agents would not bother promoting sustainability features. Now, though, these are seen as attracting buyers who want to reduce their footprint and their bills. Features such as solar panels, rainwater tanks and energy-efficient design are taking their place in marketing campaigns.
So while investing in such features can also repay that investment through reduced costs, increasingly they add to a home’s capital value.
For more details see www. sustainability.vic.gov.au and www.buildingcommission .com.au/sustainability — Real Estate Institute of
Think green: Sustainability is becoming a consideration when buying property.