Builders reach­ing out to na­ture in sus­tain­able way

Re­new­able en­ergy starts with good foun­da­tions, writes MELANIE CORAM

Geraldton Guardian - - REAL ESTATE -

You’ve bought the land, con­sid­ered the as­pect and set­tled on style and maybe, guiltily, even set your heart on Euro­pean kitchen tiles made with pre­cious met­als.

But in this plan­ning of your dream home, how much en­ergy have you put into how it will be pow­ered?

Builders, ar­chi­tects, de­vel­op­ers and en­gi­neers are pool­ing their con­sid­er­able smarts and ex­pe­ri­ence to come up with new ways to power the home.

As the price of heat­ing and cool­ing our homes rises, more of us are look­ing to the el­e­ments for a so­lu­tion that is kinder on the wal­let and the planet.

Wind, wave, di­rect geo­ther­mal and biomass en­ergy sources are still ex­per­i­men­tal, niche or not ap­pli­ca­ble for WA — at this stage.

So­lar power re­mains the shin­ing ex­am­ple of re­new­able en­ergy in the home mar­ket.

David Mor­gan is the founder of Iron Ma­trix, a com­pany that is cre­at­ing an en­ergy-ef­fi­cient hous­ing con­struc­tion sys­tem.

Mak­ing the most of his com­merce and en­gi­neer­ing de­grees, he was spurred “to max­imise the ac­cess to free en­ergy and then most ef­fi­ciently use that en­ergy”.

Mr Mor­gan worked in the oil and gas in­dus­try for 18 years be­fore mak­ing a green ca­reer shift.

“I had a front row seat to see­ing how these (oil and gas) projects were get­ting less and less eco­nom­i­cally at­trac­tive,” he says.

“The hy­dro­car­bons in re­serve aren’t get­ting eas­ier to pro­duce.

“But on the other hand, things like so­lar and bat­ter­ies are go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion; they’re get­ting cheaper and eas­ier to pro­duce and eas­ier to ac­cess.”

Mr Mor­gan says the cost of so­lar pan­els has fallen to the point they are cheaper to buy than ply­wood.

When the cost of stor­age bat­ter­ies for res­i­den­tial use also comes down, likely in the near fu­ture, re­new­able en­ergy will come into its own as a vi­able, ev­ery­day op­tion for home builders.

“When that day comes, all our life­styles and the way our houses are de­signed will all be around this bat­tery and so­lar power,” he says.

“It’ll be in­evitable that we end up switch­ing over.”

Mr Mor­gan fore­sees a third change — a shift to di­rect cur­rent ap­pli­ca­tions in pref­er­ence to al­ter­nat­ing cur­rent — to come out of the so­lar rev­o­lu­tion.

Lobby groups say the Aus­tralian build­ing code needs to be up­graded if the coun­try is to be fit for a ze­ro­car­bon fu­ture.

The Built to Per­form re­port by the Aus­tralian Sus­tain­able Built En­vi­ron­ment Coun­cil and Cli­mate Works Aus­tralia says set­ting stronger en­ergy stan­dards for new build­ings in the code could, be­tween

now and 2050, re­duce en­ergy bills by up to $27 bil­lion, cut en­ergy net­work costs by up to $7 bil­lion and de­liver at least 78 mil­lion tonnes of cu­mu­la­tive emis­sions sav­ings.

Mr Mor­gan says while there is a place for en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, the fu­ture of sus­tain­able con­struc­tion will in­volve greater gen­er­a­tion of free, clean en­ergy rather than min­imis­ing fos­sil fuel-based en­ergy.

So­lar pan­els are seen as the way of the fu­ture. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

The 24-apart­ment Ev­er­more de­vel­op­ment in White Gum Val­ley.

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