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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 11 November 2021) . . Page.. 3395 ..


What exactly do we mean by climate-ready and environmentally sustainable buildings? Canberra faces an uncertain future climate. One thing we know is that it will be hotter and drier, and there will be more extreme weather, particularly extreme heatwaves. By international standards, much of our housing stock does not provide good protection to occupants from temperature extremes.

To adapt our future houses for this, they must be able to provide better protection from extreme temperatures and other hazards, like bushfire smoke. This means houses that are better orientated, better insulated and better shaded, and capable of remaining comfortable in cold snaps or heatwaves. Canberrans deserve climate-wise houses.

The second objective is environmental sustainability. We must start building houses that do not require big heating systems to keep warm or air conditioners running all night so that we can sleep. Energy efficient houses lower the cost of living and are healthier and much more comfortable to live in. They will also make it easier for us to move away from gas, because energy efficient houses do not need a lot of energy, even if it only comes from electricity. We know this can be done. There are a growing number of amazing houses and apartments in Canberra already demonstrating what can be done with good design and attention to detail. This just needs to become a widespread practice.

Some will say that this is too costly and something only the wealthy will be able to afford. But many countries have minimum standards much higher than those in Australia. Academic research has estimated that minimum standards for houses in other countries with similar climates to Australia are at least 40 per cent more energy efficient. We can and must do better.

Environmental sustainability also extends to the materials we use for houses. Once a house takes little energy to run, the energy embodied in the building itself really starts to matter. There has been a lot going on in this space in the past year or so as new building products and materials—such as lower carbon concrete, green steel and so forth—start to come onto the market. Commercial buildings in Australia will soon have a rating tool to voluntarily report on their embodied carbon. Much is happening in this space, and it is happening fast.

The ACT government’s goals in this area are unashamedly ambitious. The long lifetime of houses and apartments means that it is vitally important to set standards that will ensure that we produce residential buildings that are fit for purpose. We can and must do better, because current and future owners of these buildings are depending on us to get this right.

I thank Ms Clay for this important motion.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (5.28): I would like to thank my colleague Ms Clay for presenting this motion today. Should the Leader of the Opposition not learn enough about climate action on her trip, I would encourage her to take Ms Clay out for lunch upon her return. I have certainly learned a lot under her tutelage.


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