Incentivising green: Green home finance

The rapid acceleration of the global divestment movement has shown how willing people are to support ethical financial products and institutions, including by moving their savings or switching superannuation funds.

But when it comes to housing finance, householders appear less keen to pursue the options on offer – from government incentives to enterprising banks providing discounted finance for green upgrades. We look at what’s on offer, and why take up has been low.

Depending on where you live, state government incentives may be an attractive option to make your house more energy-efficient. Government schemes cover activities such as: draught-proofing external doors and windows; upgrades to space heating and cooling; installing energy-efficient lighting; replacing inefficient fittings; and installing insulation and solar.

Financing options

With or without government help, there will still be a portion of costs needing to be covered.

If you can’t or do not want to finance these energy upgrades upfront, there are a range of options available – the pros and cons of which you should weigh up to make a decision right for your circumstances.

Personal loans

There are myriad attractive personal loan options available, and while green personal loans exist, they are atypical and generally must be used to finance sustainable home upgrades or energy-efficient cars. Green loans are an option with institutions such as First Option Credit Union, Community First Credit Union, Bendigo Bank and Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank, which provide discounts on standard loan rates to fund home improvements.

The repayments can be offset by potentially cheaper energy bills, and can be spread over a long period, typically from one to 10 years.

Home loans

If you’re considering an expensive investment like solar panels or battery storage, or an extensive retrofit, and don’t have the upfront capital available, refinancing or redrawing from your mortgage (if you have one) may be an attractive option.

In Australia, there are only a few such examples of green home loans, including from Bendigo Bank and Hunter United.

Bendigo Bank’s Generation Green home loan was Australia’s first and has been around since 2002, according to Joshua Pell, who is in charge of the bank’s environment and sustainability agenda. The loan provides a discount on the standard terms, and also removes many of the upfront and ongoing fees. “The Generation Green loan was established for people looking to reduce their impact,” he said. “Reducing our impact on the environment and helping others do the same is part of the bank’s commitment to building sustainable and prosperous communities.”

To qualify for the loan involves complying with minimum required environmental standards, as well as installing a selection of upgrades.

While Joshua sees the market for sustainable homes getting larger, uptake of green-focused finance has not been high, and for some banks it has been much lower than expected. In fact, for Bank Australia (formerly bankmecu), it was partly why they decided to discontinue their goGreen home loan option in August 2015, which was available for those wanting to buy or build a home rated 7 NatHERS stars or more.

For the 2011-12 period, Bank Australia saw just seven of these home loans approved. According to Martyn Norman, head of lending at the bank, there was not a strong take-up of the product, though the organisation also wanted to simplify its offerings, following its brand change.

“We have sustainability features built into all our loans,” Martyn says. “All home loan customers can apply for Bank Australia’s eco-repayment pause (a three-month break in repayments) for environmental upgrades to their homes.”

Developing the market

In a 2013 report, Joan Ko, senior sustainability consultant at Arup, investigated why there was a lack of consumer appetite for existing green financial incentives. “We thought it might be because the money wasn’t available,” she said. “But even if money is made available, uptake is still very low.”

Case studies from the US could be instructive for effective ways to incentivise consumers, Joan says.

A program in Portland allowed other renovations to occur at the same time energy efficiency and sustainability upgrades were being made. So, you could get your LED lights and insulation, but also, say, get a marble benchtop for the kitchen or timber floorboards. Due to this flexibility, take-up was much higher than for a similar program available in San Francisco. “In the end what we concluded was that the funding of energy efficiency with other renovations and upgrades can be a hook into the Australian market,” Joan says. However, the research found other consumer barriers including paperwork, a distrust of promised financial savings, and the lack of market awareness.

Bundling loans and de-risking private investment could be the key to achieving scale, particularly if government provided security or credit worthiness for retrofit loans. Joan believes this could be achieved through existing options, including loan loss reserve funds – which are available in case of defaults and which help reduce interest rates – and repayment charges through councils, which occurs for commercial buildings (and residential in some councils) under Environmental Upgrade Agreements.

International examples

Internationally, there are some success stories, most prominent of which is the German state-owned development bank KfW, whose Energy-Efficient Refurbishment program offers grants of up to €30,000 (AU48,000) or discounted loans of up to €100,000 (AU$160,000) for people investing to make an older residential building more energy-efficient or those purchasing a newly refurbished home.

The program, according to the 2013 Arup report, has proved popular in the German housing market, and at that time had seen more that €40 billion (AU$64 billion) committed. Along with tight regulations, the program has helped Germany to have some of the most efficient residential housing stock in the world.

The Arup report found that public sector involvement was key to a successful home financing project. However, proper design is also critical. A case in point is the UK’s troubled and now discontinued Green Deals program. Officially launched in 2013, the program provided loans for energy saving measures that would lead to reduced energy costs for homeowners. The loan was paid back through energy bills and was attached to the property, rather than an individual. However, an upfront assessment cost of up to £150 and relatively high interest rates meant that only four green deals had gone ahead by June that year, though 38,259 Green Deal assessments had been completed.

In 2014, the government launched the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, which offered cashback of up to £4000 for home energy efficiency upgrades, which saw a dramatic increase in popularity. This was scrapped following the 2015 re-election of the Conservative government in 2015, with UK energy secretary Amber Rudd citing poor take-up and workmanship. Just £114 million (AU$233m) of the £540m dedicated (AU$1104m) had been utilised.

Solar financing

Other financing methods are available to fund solar panel installation, including payment plans through installers and power purchase agreements or solar leasing. But what’s suitable depends on your circumstances.

Nigel Morris, chief executive of RoofJuice Australia, previously Sungevity, whose background goes right back to Australia’s early days in the rooftop solar industry, says finding definitive answers on finance options for solar is like asking how long is a piece of string. You can offer to pay cash (which is the cheapest because it does not have an interest component), you can pay over a term typically five to seven years, or you can lease. Leasing can appeal because it takes out the headache of maintaining or repairing the panels or inverters if something goes wrong. Responsibility for maintenance is with the company installing the system.

Some companies offer an interest-free period, but Nigel warns it would be a mistake to take this at face value. “Everyone gets hung up on the interest rate but there is so much more to it than the interest rate,” he says. “There is the term of the agreement – you can have a high interest rate but a short term and be better off.”

The alternative is a low interest rate and a long term, which could mean significantly higher overall costs. “For instance the lowest interest you can have is a housing loan. It’s the cheapest money you can get, at four to five per cent. But if you’re paying it back over 20 years, when you add up the cumulative interest it means it’s the highest cost.”

The personal loan comes in handy if you have some ‘head room’ or equity in your home loan, because you’ve paid off a significant part of it – in which case, the bank can’t object to what you spend your equity on.

What doesn’t exist, he stresses, is the idea of ‘no interest’. If a product is offered with no interest, you can be assured the interest is built into the cost somewhere, he says. Cheap finance could be attached to an inflated system cost, or the deal could come with exorbitant monthly fees or establishment costs. It’s also possible to get personal tax deductions through depreciation, he says, depending on how the deal is structured. “There are so many different finance products out there. Macquarie Bank has four or five different products,” he says.

A power purchase agreement or PPA is effectively a solar deal stretched over the longer term, around 10 to 20 years. You’re charged for the energy generated by the system, which is likely set at a rate much lower than grid energy.

The payments you make should be lower than the savings you make on your energy bills, meaning you come out on top. It also means the customer doesn’t have to worry about maintaining the product if things go wrong.

“If the system doesn’t work they don’t get charged. Customers love that and some are happy to pay a premium for it.” And there may be an option to get ownership of the product at the end of the deal. However, as you’re charged for the energy generated by the panels, you could be charged whether you’re using that energy or not. Beware, jetsetters!

So what’s best?

It can be hard to a clear picture of the offerings between products. “I’ve tried on many occasions to get the financial products guys to spell out the pros and cons. But I never got an answer,” Nigel says. “They don’t necessarily want to be stacked up against each other; they want to keep their cards close to their chest so competitors don’t see what they do.”

So do your research, and choose the option that suits your personal circumstances.

Need for change

One thing is clear. Governments in Australia need to step in to raise the bar on residential housing sustainability and promote the benefits of efficient homes. In January 2016, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council put out a call for a nationally consistent framework for residential ratings, which it says would help to improve the sustainability of new and existing homes. It recommends a three-pronged approach involving minimum regulatory performance standards in new buildings; benchmarks for market comparison of best practice sustainability performance; and communication messages explaining the value of sustainability features to renovators and homebuyers.

“The industry is clear,” ASBEC president Ken Maher said. “We need governments to work with us to implement a nationally harmonised sustainability ratings framework for houses.”

For consumers, a nationally consistent framework promises to be a big help, which along with clearly communicated information on sustainability measures could help drive real and accessible incentives to go green in the home.

The ATA’s energy analyst Andrew Reddaway has looked into the best options for solar finance for ReNew magazine 131. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has also compiled a solar finance guide listing the pros and cons of available options.

Cameron Jewell is deputy editor of The Fifth Estate, an online newspaper focused on sustainability in the built environment. He is also a Masters of City Planning student at UNSW.

State-Based Schemes

SA

South Australia’s Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme stands out as a generous program that allows householders to benefit from energy efficiency upgrades at no cost or at a discount from participating energy retailers. Lucky Adelaide city residents can also take advantage of the Adelaide City Council’s Sustainable City Incentives Scheme.

VIC

Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) scheme involves accredited businesses creating certificates, each representing one tonne of carbon abatement, when they help a householder make selected energy efficiency improvements to their premises. The money the business makes from selling its certificates can go towards a discount on the product installed. This discount is known as an Energy Saver Incentive.

NSW

Under the similar NSW Energy Savings Scheme, householders can get access to subsidised home efficiency upgrades including appliance sales and removals, and retrofitting activities.

ACT

The ACT government’s Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme compels electricity retailers to work with homes to reduce energy use. Households can directly participate in the EEIS by booking a free Energy Saving House Call.

Many local councils also offer generous schemes to encourage energy- efficient upgrades, some which benefit low-income households.

Businesses – as well as households in some councils – may also be able to access loans for green building upgrades through an Environmental Upgrade Agreement, making repayments through council rates.

This article was written in collaboration with the Fifth Estate. An extended version of the story is available at www.fifthestate.com.au

Photo: Beth and Neville, here with children Theo, Nioka and maisie (left to right), built their energy-efficient rammed earth house in Muckleford, Victoria with Bank Australia’s now defunct goGreen Home Loan. Image courtesy of Bank Australia.

Native resilience: Inverawe gardens

But the spectacular view was enough to convince the couple it had potential. “We thought it was a remarkable part of Tasmania and deserved decent stewardship,” Bill says. And so the couple ditched their plans for a quiet 2 acre retirement block and instead threw themselves into transforming the site into the native garden showcase it is today. They named it Inverawe in a nod to Margaret’s Scottish heritage.

Despite the sheer size of Inverawe, Margaret and Bill do most of the work themselves (though they rarely have a day off), with only a little help mowing and gardening in peak times. This is possible, Bill says, due to the nature of the native plants used — all 8500 of them are water- wise, require little to no fertiliser and are low maintenance.

The garden’s growth has involved a lot of trial and error, especially in plant selection. They have developed what they call a ‘list of heroes’ – the definite survivors. These include paper daisies, wattles, melaleucas and bottle brushes. The couple grow many locally endemic species, but don’t rely on these exclusively. “Those native to Tasmania are not necessarily the most eye-catching so we have to have a range,” says Bill. “We try to show people what you can do with native gardening to get them excited and then they can seek out their own varieties,” Bill says.

masked_owl

The garden has a range of habitats, including a remnant dry sclerophyll forest, which has been supplemented to overcome weed infestation. There is also a rainforest section that features the Tasmanian Huon pine and the endangered Wollemi pine and Bunya pine, of the ancient Araucariaceae family.

As well as supporting rare plant species, the garden plays an important role in attracting wildlife. Its many quiet enclaves are popular with birdwatchers, with over 90 species of birds spotted on the grounds. “The birds figure you’re harmless and ignore your presence. It’s just magic,” says Bill.

The garden merges effortlessly into the wider landscape, offering a range of scenic walks that make the most of the beautiful surrounds. One of Bill’s favourites is an early morning climb up Rabbit Hill to watch the sunrise over nearby Mount Louis.

Bill’s interest in cultivating nature grew early, when as a child he followed his father around the garden, and these days he has a relaxed approach. “I tell people that mulch, lots of it, is the answer to almost any gardening problem,” he laughs. The couple run gardening workshops periodically and share tips with their followers on Facebook.

Just 15 minutes out of Hobart, Inverawe is open to the public seven days a week between September and May, and by appointment the rest of the year. Tours can also be arranged.

orange_daisy

Saving seed

There are over 1700 gene banks in the world but they are vulnerable to natural disaster, war and people accidentally unplugging the freezer! In the 1990s, Afghnai seed banks were looted. In 2003, a seed vault in Iraq was destroyed. The Phillipine gene bank flooded in 2006 and burned down in 2012. Egypt's seed bank was ransacked by looters in 2011. Image courtesy of Global Crop Diversity Trust.

There are over 1700 gene banks in the world but they are vulnerable to natural disaster, war and people accidentally unplugging the freezer! In the 1990s, Afghani seed banks were looted. In 2003, a seed vault in Iraq was destroyed. The Phillipine gene bank flooded in 2006 and burned down in 2012. Egypt’s seed bank was ransacked by looters in 2011. Image courtesy of Global Crop Diversity Trust.

The Svalbard global seed bank, on a remote island halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, contains the seeds of nearly 4,000 plant species. The vault, deep in the permafrost, is designed to protect the genetic heritage of more than 860,000 seed samples from sea-level rise, earthquakes and extremes of temperature. In order for plant scientists and farmers to breed and grow food they need access to genetic diversity. The Svalbard Vault is the most diverse collection of food crop seeds in existence. During the war in Syria, scientists from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Area (ICARDA) smuggled seed out of Aleppo in batches. Those seeds ended up in the Svalbard Vault. ICARDA have since recovered the seed from Svalbard to grow anew.

For many, seed saving is considered a life and death issue. Famously, in World War II, during the siege of Leningrad, Russian botanists hiding in the basement of the Pavlovsk Experimental seed vault starved to death rather than consume the seeds they were protecting from the German army.

Seeds you can save

Until recently, the act of saving seed or other reproductive material (for example tubers) was widely practiced. Seed saving preserves cultural identity, and promotes self-reliance and food sovereignty. Keeping seed from one year to the next saves money, and trading seed is a meaningful exchange.

There are different types of seeds. Clive from The Diggers Club explains, “Open pollinated, what we’d call heirloom seeds if they are more than 50 years old, are true to type.” True to type means that the offspring will have the same characteristics as the parent. The other type of seed is hybrid. Most seed companies concentrate on breeding hybrids, and hybrids are not suitable for seed saving because they are prone to inbreeding or are sterile. “The first hybrid seed was hybrid corn in the 1920s but it didn’t take over because in those days all farmers collected their own seed.”

Plant breeding has been practiced throughout the ages, for example potatoes, native to Peru, now grow in six continents. But over the past two decades, seed companies have introduced intellectual property rights into the mix. Farmers sign patents and licensing agreements agreeing to no longer save seed, but purchase new seed with each season. Clive is concerned about seed companies having ownership of “the life force of our food plants.” “Patents and hybrids are the same threat to our seed supply. There is some concern that by and large big companies like Monsanto that do a lot of breeding and create hybrids will be able to get access to seeds in the Vault, patent them and take over ownership.”

Clive says, “As we’re going into mono-cultures most of our biodiversity is disappearing. In terms of genetics, supermarket tomatoes are only two or three plants when there are at least 3,000 or 4,000 different types of tomatoes.” Monocultures are wide open to disease and pests. “It happened with the potato in Ireland and corn in the US,” warns Clive, “The tomato in Australian supermarkets is based on a genetic strain selected in Holland! It has a very narrow gene base.”

Saving your own seed

There’s never been a better time to save seed from your backyard. According to The Seed Saver’s Handbook, “To save good seeds you need only follow what the plants do naturally. But you do have to start with an original and viable seed stock.” This can be done by selecting plants that show desirable traits such as seeds from the most flavoursome, productive and healthy tomato bush, or select plants that exhibit good drought tolerance. If plants don’t look too flash, you can take measures to prevent them for pollinating. But remember, a healthy degree of genetic variability is important for plant health. A good way to ensure genetic variation is to plant some seeds of the original variety in with newly selected seeds.

Some people save seed to preserve heirloom traits. This is harder than saving seed for favourable traits because when you save seed to preserve genetic heritage you need to ensure your plants don’t crossbreed with neighbouring varieties or change as they adapt to local conditions. Seeds saved from plants that have been cross pollinated by other varieties do not reproduce true to type. “If you’re growing a crop in your backyard, let’s say it’s a cauliflower,and your neighbour is growing a cauliflower, if you collect the seed it will be a cross – it won’t be true to type.” Most vegetables must be kept isolated from similar varieties during flowering to avoid cross-pollination. This requires a little bit of planning at the outset.

Getting started with seed saving

Something to keep in mind is that collecting seeds from too few parent plants can damage the genetic base through inbreeding. Clive advises that the easiest plants to start with are tomatoes. “When the fruit gets soft, separate out seeds from pulp. Dry the seeds on tissue paper. Keep them cool and dry. Keep the humidity down.” Seeds need to be stored properly in a consistent, cool temperature. (High humidity can damage seeds). A good filing system and expiration dates come in handy too.

MORE INFO:

Seedsavers Exchange

Australian Seed Bank Partnership

Video of Vandana Shiva about seedsaving

Seeds of Freedom

Arche Noah

Article in The New Yorker about the quest for a global seed bank

Urban Farming Tasmania

Costing comfort

Ask anyone living in an energy-efficient home what they like about it and you’ll hear “We love that is so comfortable”, “It’s cheap to run”, or “We get great satisfaction knowing that we’re reducing our impact on the environment.” Yet go to an open inspection or pick up the real estate listings and you may not find a mention of these factors, or the features that enable them.

The thing is, those who have experienced a comfortable, high- performing home wouldn’t want to be in anything less. And with energy costs increasing, demand for these houses is growing. While we have quite a way to go in terms of valuing comfortable homes properly, there is evidence that the consumer market is changing.

According to the Centre for Liveability Real Estate (CLRE), agents are reporting a trend in buyers and renters requesting power bills at the point of sale or lease. Head of the CLRE Cecille Weldon says this represents an important shift in the perceived value of a property. “This is an indication that people are interested in more than the number of bedrooms and bathrooms; they want evidence of a home’s impact and comfort,” she says. However, she notes that power bills are not a reliable indication of the running cost potential of a home, showing only how the previous person lived in it.

The difficulty for purchasers has been in finding the information they need, and for sellers, working out the best way to make this information available.

In the UK, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has been a mandatory requirement at point of sale or lease of residential property since 2007. Houses are given a rating from A, for most efficient, to G, for least efficient. A 2013 government report found homes in the highest brackets, (A and B), are obtaining, on average, a 14 per cent higher market price than those with lower ratings.

In the USA, research by the UNC Environmental Finance Center found price premiums of high performance houses are between 3 and 10 per cent, where an independent ‘green’ certificate is available, and that on average they sold 30 per cent faster.

Solar PV is perhaps the most readily identifiable green feature, at least from the outside, and one which many people believe adds value to their home. However, there are many more features that could add value and comfort. Image by Rae Marie Trenoworth

Solar PV is perhaps the most readily identifiable green feature, at least from the outside, and one which many people believe adds value to their home.
However, there are many more features that could add value and comfort. Image by Rae Marie Trenoworth

By comparison Australia has had a lack of research on the relationship between energy-efficient design and house prices; there is no nationally consistent rating standard or valuation method for green home features and limited knowledge in the real estate industry on the topic. As a result, the housing market hasn’t actively recognised and rewarded sustainability features and lower operating costs in residential property. It’s difficult for appraisers and estate agents to put a price on sustainability features, as value is dependent on the market and is often subjective, and there’s still a lack of nationally relevant data.

However, this is slowly changing. The only currently available Australian study, the 2008 Energy Efficiency Rating and House Price report, based on the ACT due to its mandatory disclosure for EER at the point of sale/rent found that as the energy performance rating of a house improves, its market value could increase by an average of three to five per cent for each Star rating it increases by.

PRD Nationwide has also been researching the economic benefit of home sustainability features for some time, in conjunction with Queensland University of Technology, and funded by the Australian Research Council. While the full report isn’t yet available, researcher on the project Dr Diaswati Mardiasmo says that there is evidence people will pay a premium for well-designed homes.

In Western Australia, Green Gurus, supported by the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP) and the brainchild of Chiara Pacifici has been educating the real estate sector on the benefits of home sustainability features, and how this relates to consumer demand and value since 2010. Her pioneering work in partnership with the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia has helped to ignite a demand for greater understanding of sustainability within the industry.

Another leading agent for change has been CLRE’s Liveability Real Estate Framework, developed to up-skill agents to “support and drive a new value proposition” in the residential property marketing industry. Agents are trained to identify 17 additional ‘liveability’ features which offer the potential for reduced running costs and improved comfort when used correctly.

The framework was developed within LJ Hooker, with Your Home author, the late Dr Chris Reardon, a consultant on the training program, and is now open to all residential real estate companies.

“One of the real barriers to achieving more truly representative value for these properties is a lack of clear understanding for consumers, sales agents and property managers as to what the green features of a property really are and what benefits they deliver,” Cecille explains. “While most people are familiar with solar PV and rainwater tanks, and think these add value, there are far more property features to showcase when marketing a property which deliver health, efficiency, comfort and connection to community.”

A realestate.com.au survey earlier this year demonstrated this mismatch between perceived value and the reality of the market; it found that 85 per cent of homeowners believed solar panels increased the value of a property and that PV was the top green feature to increase a home’s value. Other items that respondents thought increased a house’s value included solar hot water systems (79%), energy efficient appliances (78%), water tanks (70%) and water saving fixtures (49%).

Cecille suggests sellers and buyers should be wary of manufacturers’ claims that one particular feature will enhance the value of your property by a specific dollar amount. “No two houses are ever really the same and buyers’ perceived value of a property may not be linked to the feature we assume,” she says.

Some research has focused more on quantifying the desire for a revolution in the housing industry rather than on specific value. The What Perth Wants report found 89 per cent would like to see “More eco-friendly buildings that generate their own power, collect rainwater and use less energy”.

There is clearly an appetite for more energy-efficient housing, and an associated perceived value. The real challenge is in standardising that value and making it easier for buyers and sellers to identify and understand it. The role of independent ratings in identifying and valuing green homes both here and internationally suggests we need an accessible, nationally consistent, comprehensive and mandatory approach. While in the commercial sector, the mandatory NABERS rating system has been effective in driving value for better performing properties, it is a different scenario in the residential sector where systems vary state by state [Ed note: see more on Australia’s home energy rating systems in Sanctuary 21 and Sanctuary 28].

A real and consistent rise in the value of green homes requires systemic change that includes buyers, sellers, renters and the real estate industry, says Cecille. “If we really want to see a shift in the value of sustainable homes, we have to do it consistently, responsibly and realise that it takes time,” she says. “Then we can safeguard against greenwashing and arrive at a true reflection of what these homes deliver.”

It’s also worth remembering that green homes are not a fad or a temporary trend; they are the future of real estate and tomorrow’s market. We should be creating homes now that hold value well into the future.

double_glazed

Double-glazed windows are one identifiable green feature that could be considered valuable by speculative buyers and renters, and which could help improve comfort and reduce bills. However, homeowners should be wary of manufacturer’s claims that their home value could increase by a specific amount with the installation of one product, says Cecille Weldon, head of the Centre for Liveability Real Estate. Image courtesy of Miglas.

ADDING VALUE

So how do you add value to your home while improving its environmental impact?

– First, check your existing home for any sustainability features that may not be immediately obvious (on top of the ones you know about), such as zoned living spaces, summer shading and cross ventilation.

– Then consider working with a sustainable designer, sustainability advisor, builder or architect to add more features that suit your needs and wants as you renovate, ensuring to keep any installer receipts or certificates for any future sale or rental of your home.

– Recognise that one feature doesn’t necessarily equate to a set value increase; buying a home always has an element of perceived value which is often emotional and hard to quantify.

– Be mindful not to over-customise if you plan on selling, as you can narrow your market considerably.

– If you’re building or buying a new home then aim for a high Star-rated one, and make sure you understand how to use your new home effectively to realise its potential.

– Ensure or even demand your sales agent or property manager understands the related features and benefits of your home and knows how to promote them effectively.

– When looking for a home, ask for the Star rating and what energy-efficient features it has. This sends a clear signal to the real estate and building industry that these factors matter.

– If you are looking for an agent well-versed on home sustainability, consider a trained Liveability agent www.liveability.com.au, via Green Gurus in WA, SHAARE www.shaare.com.au or someone from the Green Moves Affiliated Agents listings www.greenmoves.com.au.

Danielle King is a sustainability advisor and educator focused on the built environment. She is the founder and director of Green Moves Australia, a company that provides a range of independent sustainability and education services. Danielle works closely with various government and industry bodies, developers and private clients to increase sustainability and energy efficiency in the built environment.

Nightingale back on track

Undeterred by its recent setback and buoyed by a swell of community support, the firm has lodged a new planning application for Nightingale with Moreland City Council. A planning application was submitted for the progressive development in Brunswick, in November 2014. Moreland City Council received 177 letters of support and 3 objections for the proposal. The council approved the first stage of the project; in February 2015, the Moreland City Council Urban Planning Committee voted unanimously to grant a planning permit to Nightingale Florence Street.

Late last year the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) overturned Moreland City Council’s approval. The proposed Nightingale project, adjacent to a train station and bike path, was designed with no car parking spaces, to break away from car-centric culture and to allow the cost of car spaces to be redirected towards social and environmental elements such as the rooftop garden.

Moreland council’s approval for the project was overturned by VCAT in October 2015 after a neighbouring property developer lodged an objection based on the lack of car spaces. Victorian planning laws require one and two bedroom apartments to have at least one car space allocated to them. Councils can waive this requirement, which is what Moreland did in the case of Nightingale and previously, The Commons.

Breathe Architecture’s webpage reads, “This is incredibly disappointing for the Nightingale purchasers, the Nightingale team and the entire Nightingale Model. Contracts of sale for all 20 apartments were signed, a builder had been appointed, and it was full steam ahead for a December 2016 completion date.”

Three days after VCAT overturned the council’s planning permission, Breathe Architecture lodged a new planning application with Moreland City Council with one change to the design; the addition of 3 car spaces accessed off the rear lane. The Nightingale project is expected to be delayed for between 6 and 12 months. Jeremy McCloud, architect at Breathe Architecture, says, ‘We wait anxiously for the City of Moreland to once again support Nightingale and her 32 residents.’
Read more about urban eco developments here>

Sanctuary 34 out now

This issue of Sanctuary we take a look at green home financing, tiny project homes, open-source house plans, earthbuilding, a community garden inspired house, a Passivhaus designed warehouse renovation, saving seed and more. And as always we feature a wide range of innovative sustainable products and design tips for your home.

We welcome your feedback. Perhaps there’s something else you would you like to see in Sanctuary? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or email.

We also have a new prize! All readers and subscribers (current on April 29 2016) will go into the draw to win a home battery storage system from Enphase.

Sanctuary – The best green shelter magazine available anywhere,
Lloyd Alter, Treehugger

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