Despite the rising popularity of green building in the construction and property sectors, Australian homes continue to lag in the area of sustainability retrofits.
Retrofits to shore up home efficiency have failed to gain much traction among Australian property owners while flashier renewable energy options continue to hog the spotlight due to the immediate returns on investment they provide.
While some Australian banks, such as Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and bankmecu, provide cheaper “green” loans for efforts to improve household sustainability, they have reported limited interest among borrowers.
“Interest in the product has been consistent but not as strong as other home loan products with greater discountd,” Bendigo and Adelaide Bank head of environment and sustainability Trudy Ellery told Fairfax.
Rowan Dowland, bankmecu’s general manager of development, said the bank’s sustainable loans had also failed to take off among borrowers despite providing a standard variable rate of 5.19 per cent for homes with a one-star rating above mandatory levels, compared to 5.74 per cent for other properties.
For the period from 2011 – 2012 the bank provided only seven sustainable loans, worth around $1.9 million in total.
According to Joan Ko, senior sustainability consultant at Arup, even surging energy costs in Australia – which have seen power prices double in recent years in many parts of the country – have failed to prompt property owners to view green building retrofits with greater enthusiasm.
“Bills have been going up but they remain a small proportion of spending,” she said. “When it becomes large enough to worry about, they run out of money.”
Householders continue to display a preference for the installation of solar photovoltaic panels because the economic benefits they provide are immediate, in the form of surplus energy which can be sent to the grid.
Ko points out that while efficiency retrofits, such as the installation of better insulation or double glazing, often provide greater economic benefits, consumers fail to notice them as they do not provide a revenue stream, and are obscured on utility bills by rising power prices.