Demand for green construction practices has spiked over the past few years. Consumers and building owners alike want the benefits of more eco-friendly structures — like lower energy use, reduced emissions, and savings on power and heating.
The trend toward green buildings has been global. Some countries, however, are seeing more growth in demand than others.
Australia has been one of the biggest success stories. Recently, the country’s green building sector has become one of the world leaders in eco-friendly construction.
This is how the green building boom developed in Australia — and the likely implications on the construction industry.
How Green Building Practices Became Big in Australia
In general, experts see the change in practices as being driven by growing demand for green buildings from both consumers and businesses. Other factors that are likely driving the trend include increased interest in sustainable business practices, as well as “occupant health and well-being,” according to a 2018 report from Dodge Analytics.
Some of the growing demand for green buildings may also be a knock-on effect from the country’s robust and growing renewable energy sector. Australia is the world leader in new renewable energy construction by a good margin. The nation installed 16 gigawatts of wind and solar — around 220 watts per person — between 2018 and 2020 alone.
The runner-up was Germany, which added around 80 watts per person in the same period. Other world leaders lagged even further behind — with the U.S. adding less than 50 watts per person, and the EU overall adding about 40.
Which Green Building Features Are Consumers Demanding?
Construction companies wanting to construct new green buildings — or retrofit existing ones — have a wide range of options when it comes to reducing energy consumption.
Major additions will have the biggest impact on a building’s sustainability and energy consumption.
A home solar array, coupled with the right storage, could make a home almost totally independent from the local grid. Geothermal HVAC systems, which use pipes routed through the Earth to regulate building temperature, can add significant value to a home while reducing long-term heating and cooling costs.
Australia is an excellent location for solar energy, with much of the country having high levels of potential photovoltaic output. Potential for geothermal is similarly good here, according to research from the Australian government.
Not every green building change necessarily has to be a major addition. Smaller sustainable tweaks to building practices are also becoming a more standard design consideration. For example, many builders are pushing potential homeowners to consider the benefits of slight adjustments. These are things like more energy-efficient window placements or concrete floors that can absorb thermal energy from sunlight, reducing heating costs in winter.
Together, these changes can have a significant impact on a building’s efficiency and energy consumption.
These adjustments typically also don’t require the major upfront investment that solar panels, turbines or geothermal pumps may require.
How the Green Building Boom May Develop in Australia
Over the next decade, the green building boom is likely to continue. Consumer demand for sustainable practices in construction and other industries has only grown in the past few years. At the same time, Australia is on track to continue leading the world in new renewable development.
The growing demand for green buildings could be a major opportunity for those in the construction industry. Eco-friendly and renewable technology — like solar arrays and geothermal pumps — can add major value to a new structure. Green construction could become a valuable niche for the construction industry in the near future.
By Emily Folk, author of Earth.org