Global warming is the topic of the moment with much speculation as to what it is, what causes it, what damage it will cause itself and whether it even exists.
The average surface temperature of Australia has increased by 0.7 degrees over the last century. The CSIRO predicts that Australia’s annual average temperature will increase by 0.4 to 2.0 from 1990 levels by the year 2030, and one to six degrees by 2070, as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. While this might not sound like a lot, experts say that an increase of just one degree can have severe environmental and weather impacts, such as flooding and cyclones. CSIRO also predicts that sea levels will rise by between 0.09m and 0.88m by the year 2100 relative to 1990.
Perhaps the most immediate threat of climate change on property owners is the recent surge in home insurance premiums. The homes affected by this are in coastal regions where severe weather events have become more and more frequent.
Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Peter Garrett says that addressing climate change through the creation of carbon abatement plants would do wonders for economic growth.
Ideally, buildings should have a completely northern aspect but if that can’t be achieved, then the aim should be to maximise the property’s northerly exposure.
Insulation should be the most important aspect of building an eco-friendly house as it will save energy. Using materials that are high in thermal mass such as brick or sandstone will go a long way to insulate a house, because these materials take a long time to heat up or cool down as opposed to materials like timber, tin or acrylic.
Hallett believes that suburban homes will be fitted with eco-friendly features in the near future. “Water walls could be of great advantage where space required for a standard tank does not exist and we could also see water fences becoming part of the urban landscape where neighbours would be able to share the water saving potential.”
Futurist Annie Macbeth says that in years to come a house’s self efficiency will increase its price.
“Urban lifestyles are beginning to be affected by water restrictions, although the real impact has not yet been felt by most city dwellers. Properties that are water and energy conscious will have a well recognised added value,” she says.
(1) AAA shower head: $20
These shower heads will use only seven to nine litres per minute whereas a traditional shower head will use 20-30 litres. Not only is this great for the environment, but it can reduce your water bill by up to $100.
(2) Tap aerators : $5
These little wonders help to control how much water you use by mixing it with air. They can be bought at any hardware store and they simply screw onto your existing tap.
(3) Dual-flush toilets: between $200-$700
An average flush uses 11 litres of dam water as opposed to a dual-flush toilet, which uses three litres for a half flush and 4.5 litres for a full flush. Dual-flush toilets, along with washing machines and dishwashers, come with a water efficiency rating system, which is measured in stars. The more stars, the better that appliance is for the environment.
(4) Rainwater tank: from approximately $700 (government rebates available for up to $800)
Not only can water caught in a rainwater tank be used for watering the garden, it’s also possible to connect it up with the shower, toilet and your other water utilising appliances. A rainwater tank on a coastal suburb of NSW has the potential to save up to 100,000 litres of water per year.
(5) Solar panels: from $12,000 (small one or two bedroom house) – $35,000 (a large house that uses a lot of energy)
Solar panels can be installed on the roof of the building and provide energyfor lighting, electricity and heating water. Installation costs would not be cheap. However, solar panels have the potential to reduce running costs from around $100 to over $1000.
(6) Linings in the roof, floor and walls: cost varies
Insulation is the most important factor in reserving energy in a household. If a house is kept warm in winter by maintaining its heat and stays cool in summer by blocking out the heat, then there is little or no need to use energy for an air conditioner.