Discussion of the proposed carbon tax is practically inescapable for most Australians at the moment, but the proliferation of information doesn’t mean that homeowners understand the potential impact on them! And that’s where eTool can help.
As seen recently on ABC TV’s New Inventors, eTool LCA is a free, online tool that calculates the embodied energy and carbon for building and construction projects, and it is likely to be of particular interest to those looking at building a new home.
Some housing and construction industry lobby groups claim that the carbon tax will increase the cost of an average new home by over $6,000, however according to engineer Richard Haynes, the technical development manager of ETOOL PTY LTD, the cost is likely to be much less than that.
“For someone in Australia building an average sized new home, the end cost of the proposed carbon tax may only be as low as $100,” explains Haynes. “This is due to many trade-exposed industries such as cement, steel, aluminium and glass-making qualifying for up to 94.5 percent shielding from the tax.”*
In addition, Haynes says those building homes can request a number of easy, cost-effective ways to reduce the amount of embodied carbon and energy contained within a new home. This will also reduce the financial impact.
“For example, you could specify fly-ash as a substitute for cement in concrete, which would significantly reduce the embodied carbon of a new home, without affecting its structural integrity. There are also a number of cost-effective, low-carbon building materials available on the market. By making smart choices, the proposed carbon tax could have a negligible cost impact on the construction of new homes.”
Sid Thoo, architect and managing director of eTool says that selecting low-carbon materials is just the first step in preparing for a low-carbon economy. “We should also be designing our homes so they require less energy for heating and cooling, be selecting energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and considering renewable energy alternatives. All of these steps help to reduce our energy consumption and carbon emissions, without compromising our lifestyle.”
Simple steps such as these are easy to integrate in the early design stages of a project, and will create homes that are more enjoyable to live in. As the focus on sustainability increases, these elements of design will grow in value as homebuyers increasingly recognize these as desirable design features.
Both Haynes and Thoo see the positives in the proposed carbon tax and argue that the housing and construction industry should be embracing the opportunity it presents for innovation and excellence in the design and construction of new homes.
“The transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable for all countries if we are to minimize the impact of dangerous climate change,” says Haynes. “Prospective homebuyers are becoming increasingly savvy about the design possibilities, and people want to minimize their impact on the environment. This represents a fantastic opportunity for home builders all around Australia.”
*Based on the available data, the average 3×2 brick veneer home in Australia creates around 80 metric tons of carbon due to its materials, construction, and maintenance over its entire design life. If the proposed carbon price is to be $23 per ton of carbon, this equates to only around $1,840 in additional cost for the average new home due to the carbon tax. As many trade-exposed industries such as cement, steel, aluminium and glass-making qualify for up to 94.5 percent shielding from the tax, the resulting end cost may not be as high as that. The end-cost to someone building a new home may only be around $100 for the average Australian home.