There are lots of issues impacting the housing market. However, among all of the commentary surrounding the market aspects such as affordability, supply and financial hurdles, one topic has been quietly ticking away, and that’s the relationship between housing and the environment.

It’s is a topic that is set to become more of a headline grabber over coming years as lots of millennials start to make a serious impression on the housing agenda.

We have all become very used to the widespread sight of solar panels on the roofs of individual homes and also as now apartment buildings. Across apartment projects solar panels are not only being used to supplement services like hot water and common area electricity, but where possible individual apartment owners are looking to access their own solar panels.

There’s also an emerging trend to use eco-friendly and recycled materials in apartment projects. Individual projects can do this by featuring such materials across common areas of buildings or as a feature, for example in entrance foyers.

Another widespread trend is the use of natural light and ventilation to foyers and the use of shutters and sunscreens to reduce the heat load on buildings and indeed for individual homes.

Why Eco-design is Growing in Popularity

Sustainability is a word that we are now very familiar with and its part of a community wide awareness aimed at reducing carbon emissions and saving the environment.

A recent survey by the ABC helps to highlight why these are issues that concern many people. For example, one key finding was that climate change was noted as affecting 72% of those survey personally. The figures also showed that 60% of Australians nominated climate change as a serious problem.

While in the same survey 46% of respondents noted they were concerned about affording a home. And when asked if they were spending more on housing than they could afford all age brackets were impacted.

This included two age brackets in particular with 28% of those aged 30-39 agreeing with the statement and even a higher percentage in the age bracket 40-49 where 30% agreed.

Millennials have grown up in an eco-aware society, and they are more likely to drive demand for more eco-friendly homes and services, and they may well be willing to pay any extra costs involved, and that’s despite being impacted by the challenges of housing affordability.

A survey conducted by The Guardian (UK) revealed that 66% of global respondents said they were willing to pay more for products that were eco-friendly. Or buy from companies that were committed to positive social and environmental policies.

As the many solar panels on roofs across our suburbs testify consumers and that very much includes home buyers are also looking to reduce the day-to-day cost of living. By relying on renewable energy, it is possible to reduce monthly utility bills. Saving this much may well make a big difference in a homeowner’s financial ability to buy a home.

It’s also possible that as more planning and research is directed to building eco-friendly homes, they will become more common, more accessible and that will fuel their popularity.

The Australian Government’s website Your Home states in its introduction: ‘Your Home continues a long standing effort by the Australian Government, in partnership with the building and design industry, to give comprehensive, expert and independent advice to everyone interested in building homes for a sustainable future.’

The site covers a wide range of topics including passive design, materials, energy, water and housing. The housing section is of particular interest. In part this section notes that Australia’s future housing stock will be flexible, adaptable and resilient, helping to respond to both predicted and unexpected change. Reference is also made to the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The institute was also established in Australia in 2012.

The ILFI has a wide range of initiatives in place to help foster an urban environment free of fossil fuels and encourage the world’s most rigorous green building standards. The institute is also seeking engagement with communities and professionals such as architects, engineers, planners and building contractors to help plan and build cities and towns.

Much closer to home NSW Planning & Environment’s Apartment Design Guide addresses many issues that relate to environmental issues, these include solar and daylight access, natural ventilation and energy efficiency.

The guide was also a direct response embracing some of the issues talked about here at both a local, Australia wide and international level that would help advance innovation that ranges across social, economic and environmental topics to help deliver sustainable and very livable developments.

As there’s greater awareness among the current and next generation of home buyers eco-friendly and sustainable housing will be in demand. This will very much require buildings and housing estates that are adaptable with improved energy efficiency and water sensitive design with an improved relationship to the natural environment.

According to David Attenborough: “No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced”.  In today’s world where there’s an ever-greater focus on the environment and sustainable living it’s becoming very clear that homeowners will and do care more and more about these issues.