Two recent surveys by CSR have provoked some very strong feedback on the building performance of Australian homes and just how much home buyers need to improve their knowledge of the key issues.
A 2014 CSR survey on the comfort level of Australian homes was conducted with more than 120 former North American and European residents now living in Australia – and the results weren’t pretty to read.
Remarkably, even though most survey respondents were comparing their Australian abodes to colder climates in northern Europe, Canada and the USA, more than 75% nonetheless said their Australian homes were colder in winter.
The expats were also overwhelmingly critical of the general comfort-levels of Australian homes, with 70% saying overseas houses had a higher quality level of comfort in terms of sound control, temperature and air flow than those built in Australia.
The overall results said more than half of expats believe the building performance of Australian homes is worse than the ones they lived in overseas.
At least the general appearance of Australian homes was viewed positively, with 45% saying Australian homes had a better look and style and 25% of respondents indicating that Australian homes are at least as visually appealing as overseas homes. Australian homes were favoured for their access to natural light - an important and appealing feature of local design.
“Our research suggests while Australian homes are hitting the mark when it comes to visual design, homes in North America and Europe are better performing in elements of comfort and energy efficiency,” Mr Clarke said.
On a more personal level, three quarters of the expats thought their Australian-born friends did not have a good understanding of building performance issues, raising concerns over a general lack of understanding of building performance issues in Australia, and how they might be improved.
Seventy four per cent of the expats indicated their Australian homes had less insulation than those in other countries. Many also highlighted that double-glazing which helps manage heat entering and leaving the home was almost standard in Europe.
According to CSR Building Scientist Jesse Clarke, the ‘clear’ sentiments expressed by the expats are strongly indicative of the necessity for Australians to improve their building knowledge.
“While Australia experiences temperature extremes each year, there are many construction techniques and products available to improve the thermal comfort levels of Australian homes,” Mr Clarke said.
Another 2014 survey for CSR was conducted by Lonergan Research asking 126 Australian (non-first) time buyers visiting three Sydney display villages, (1) what problems they may have had with their previous homes; and (2) how much, if at all, they would be prepared to pay for such upgrades.
Ten percent of respondents found their previous home to be too hot or cold: with women more likely than men to have experienced a home that is too hot or cold; while younger respondents were more likely to have experienced a home to be expensive to operate and maintain.
In an indication that homebuyers aren’t necessarily fully aware of the enormous potential offered by improvements in healthy design and building practices, many respondents (69%) reported no negative experience or features of an unhealthy or uncomfortable home in any of the properties they have owned previously.
All respondents indicated they would pay extra to improve key features such as natural light and improved energy efficiency in their home.
The survey result for builders was certainly educative for the industry with a large majority (79%) saying they would consider a builder more favourably if they discussed issues regarding the health and comfort of a home at the design stage.
Both surveys indicate the undeniable gap Australian home buyers’ and home owners’ understanding of key building performance issues – and therefore the many substantive home improvements they may be missing out on.
“The rising cost of living and an increasing tendency towards green living may be the catalyst Australians need to improve building knowledge and unlock the answers to more efficient, comfortable and environmentally-friendly homes in Australia,” CSR’s Jesse Clarke said.
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