Home Builder Stimulus Package
With stay-at-home restrictions imposed by COVID-19, it is understandable that we might start to think about improving or renovating our home. Now more than ever our homes feel too small, too disorganised and too inefficient.
Instead of desk space for one person, we now need working spaces for everyone in the family. Access to sunlight and green spaces within the home have moved beyond mere aesthetics as people realise how important these are to ongoing mental health. And, crucially, people are learning for themselves the real cost of running an inefficient house. A family we know were unpleasantly surprised by their recent $700 gas bill. It turns out that operating their heating unit all day, every day, while the whole family worked and studied from home, was far more expensive than they’d hoped. And as we approach the probability of staying indoors all throughout the warmer months, most homes will be relying solely on their air-conditioner to keep them cool.
Right now, the Australian government is giving $25,000 to eligible homeowners under the Home Builder Stimulus program—so surely it’s the perfect time to renovate, yes?
Before you rush to put solar panels on your roof or extend your home, consider for a moment the impact of your decisions on the environment. With thoughtful design and careful planning, you can reduce your energy costs AND reduce the need for energy consumption in the first place. A well-designed home doesn’t need the heater or air-conditioner to run 24/7.
We know that the running costs of a domestic dwelling are mainly driven by heating, cooling and appliances. We also know these costs are likely to rise and be less secure. Historically we have relied on cheap energy to compensate for our poorly built homes. However, increasingly those days are over and as we spend more time at home we are finding out just how expensive our homes are to run. So, from a pragmatic viewpoint we should invest money in making our homes more thermally efficient and environmentally friendly. Doing so has three distinct benefits.
Efficient homes reduce our annual costs, reduce our carbon footprint, and create a healthier home to enjoy.
One kilowatt saved is far better for the environment than even a kilowatt generated by solar power. That saved kilowatt requires less infrastructure to run and maintain. By saving a kilowatt we are not burdening the grid and we are creating simpler homes in which to live. This approach requires us to rethink how we insulate, ventilate, seal air gaps and utilise sunlight to absorb thermal mass—not terribly glamorous stuff—but these low-tech solutions can deliver healthier and less expensive homes for many people.
The government’s $25,000 financial incentive does make it a good time to renovate a typical family home.
DiMase Architects believes the Home Builder Stimulus package should have been directed to affordable and social housing. However, in the absence of government action on this issue we think homeowners should use the Home Builder Stimulus money to invest in the environment, generate local jobs and encourage local manufacturing.
People who can renovate should consider designs that significantly reduce annual energy consumption and save money. And every renovator, regardless of design, can still have a positive environmental impact if they install double glazing, insulation and seal gaps around the doors and windows.
As a wealthy community, we owe it to future generations to pay it forward and use the money under the Home Builder Stimulus package to do the right thing and improve our environmental impact. By all accounts, that is probably the best investment we can make.