Sustainability is no longer a “buzzword” on the building landscape but an aim for many buyers, with it now being easier and more affordable to build a sustainable home.

“We are past the point of the importance of sustainability among buyers being a question; it’s now how quickly it will grow, ” LWP Property Group managing director Danny Murphy said.

“Buyers are environmentally aware and have been for some time, particularly as there is a direct relationship with the household budget.

“With the rising cost of utilities, smart buyers are seeing their home as a long-term investment and therefore building to ensure they can save money on utility costs such as electricity and water.

“People are also looking for sustainable communities in which to live; this can include being in a ‘walkable’ neighbourhood to ensure their new home is within easy walking or riding distance to local amenities.”

Mr Murphy said with the Building Code of Australia 6-Star house-efficiency rating now a mandatory level of sustainability required by law, it was much easier for people to ensure they were building sustainably.

Cedar Woods managing director Paul Sadleir said surveys had shown sustainable features were important to buyers. However, he added that people were very aware of the up-front costs.

“This means that smarter packaging and pricing of sustainability features is the key to increasing demand for more sustainable homes, ” he said. “People have a clear desire for climate responsiveness and reducing household running costs; the challenge is delivering these at a cost that people are willing to pay up-front.”

LandCorp chief executive Frank Marra said there was a common misconception among consumers, and to a certain degree in the development industry, that good sustainable design was not often affordable.

“For example, initiatives such as water tanks, double glazing, greywater recycling, PV cells, ceiling fans to supplement air-conditioning and switching to a green energy source are often regarded as expensive and unrealistic, ” Mr Marra said.

“Ironically, over the long term these very same sustainable features can actually become among the most important pillars of housing affordability.”

He said leading developers were increasingly implementing strategies and design solutions that promoted sustainable communities.

“In most cases lot/road orientation, the provision of transport facilities and green ecological corridors and open space are the macro solution applied to many subdivisions. Meanwhile, building innovation, energy generation and climate- responsive initiatives are now starting to be seen in housing with some developers willing to explore new market niches.”

One example is at LandCorp’s Alkimos Beach first-stage release, which included solar photovoltaic panels, provision for energy storage, water-efficient landscape design and financial incentives for high-efficiency appliances.

LandCorp has also employed the Precinx measuring tool in some of its developments to assess energy use, carbon emissions and water use and their impact on household running costs.

Stockland WA general manager Col Dutton said buyers could create a sustainable home through simple measures such as overall home size, orientation of rooms and the use of building materials such as concrete slab floors to help moderate temperature.

“Gas is also a cheaper domestic energy source than electricity and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, while solar power is a clean energy source, which can pay for itself within a few years, ” Mr Dutton said.

Mr Murphy said while common initiatives such as solar power, insulation, solar- passive design and rainwater tanks boosted sustainability, there were other measures that could encourage a more sustainable build and lifestyle.

“There is a growing trend away from four-bedroom, two- bathroom homes as people realise that there is no value in building and maintaining a home that’s bigger than what they really need, ” Mr Murphy said.

“A three-bedroom home is usually cheaper to build and run and therefore more sustainable.”

Purchasers should also ensure that the development they are interested in has design guidelines in place to support sustainable living.

“These include homes oriented to outdoor living areas on the north or east, mandatory eaves where required, verandas to promote street surveillance, light-coloured roofs and the encouragement of living areas facing the street, ” Mr Murphy said.

Urban Development Institute of WA chief executive Debra Goostrey said the UDIA’s EnviroDevelopment certification program, introduced in 2009, could help buyers recognise developments with good green credentials.

“EnviroDevelopment has six separate elements; water, energy, ecosystems, community, waste and materials, ” Ms Goostrey said.

“Developments can be certified in any or all of them. “They must also meet rigorous independent assessment standards and go through an annual recertification program.”

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