Byera Hadley Report on Zero Emissions

Caroline has finished her report on the Architecture of (Net) Zero Emissions Housing.

Caroline was delighted to be awarded one of the 2009 Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarships to consider the architecture of (net) zero emissions housing. Her key motivation was to develop a broad understanding of the regulatory, technical and design aspects such architecture occurring in various parts of the world, and see if they might be appropriate for Australia.

Broadly speaking, net zero emissions housing aims to result in net zero energy consumption and net zero carbon emissions annually. The definitions mainly vary around the boundaries of what is included in the calculations.

Can and should Australia look towards the idea of net zero emissions housing? And if so, what are the major issues particular to Australia that should be considered? The places and people she visited were chosen for reasons of excellence in their own right and relevance to Australia with regards to climate and culture.

During Caroline's research it was pointed out that she should change the title of her research to the Architecture of Net Zero Emissions Housing. This focuses on the outcome of annual energy use, recognising that most houses are part of larger systems to which they sometimes contribute, and at other times take from. She became convinced that achieving net zero emissions over the year is a more sustainable and achievable objective in the urban world in which most of us live.

Even while undertaking the research, the situations in various countries were changing and will continue to adapt to their diverse environmental, economic and political situations. There are also many countries that she was not able to visit in the time she had. Her report is therefore not a complete compendium on the subject, but does give a strong flavour of what is happening in a number of key areas in the world, relevant to Australia.

As a result of her research, Caroline has been convinced that Australia is very well placed to be able to achieve net zero emissions for its housing.

Caroline believes this will be essential in the provision of affordable, comfortable housing in a low carbon future; a well trained workforce with exportable skills; a building industry able to compete in a global economy; and the development of effective renewable energy systems.

She believes that we will need to regulate to achieve net zero emissions housing. This regulation will need to be carefully designed to anticipate and deal with the many complexities that surround this issue.

The overarching framework for regulation should be designed to equitably account for the collective impact of the emissions over the life of a building, including those resulting from operational and embodied energy. The issue of household transport energy is one being discussed in car-reliant America, and seems relevant (and difficult!) here in Australia.

In order to achieve net zero emissions, renewable energy needs to be provided for the energy use that cannot be avoided. Caroline believes this should be required to be provided on-site or near-site, as the costs for doing this will help prioritise energy efficient construction. Regulations need to encourage and enable the successful installation of renewable energy options in these locations, with more work to be done on assisting in the provision of collective solutions.

It is critical that the solutions for zero emissions are applicable at all levels of the housing supply chain - most particularly for those on lower incomes. When considering what "affordable" means, we need to consider all the costs that contribute to the weekly bills - mortgage / rent; energy; water; transport; and food. This is particularly relevant to the development of more compact urban planning to support this direction.

The ability to operate a house with net zero emissions is ultimately down to the people who occupy them. People need to choose to live in more efficient houses and be willing and able to operate them in their most optimal way. Architects need to design and develop desirable homes, that are spatially and thermally efficient, and that are intuitive and clear in their operation. Good design seems to be the most important investment to be made in order to create a sustainable future, and enabling this needs to be embedded in all regulation to do with the built environment.

The outcomes of the research and discussions with key individuals raised a number of ideas that have prompted Caroline to think about and refine how we practice architecture - both regarding how we work and how we design. This is an important work in progress that she hopes to continue to develop over the coming years.

1 comment for “Byera Hadley Report on Zero Emissions”

Bill Bunting
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 9:55:47 AM

Congratulations Caroline on completing this important work.

Regulation is the key to making progress for domestic buildings. Architects design for specific clients but it is the project housing industry that provides the main body of new housing. Their position is that they provide what the customers want If there is a need to provide something that is different then it must be regulated. Without the regualtion then they will continue to supply the biggest/cheapest formula. Caroline might have some perspectives to share on the current oscillating political environment and the probability for uptake of new regulations promoting sustainability.

Architecture is very much the leading edge for new design, but at the same time it is the trailing edge of community building. Therefore, while it is a forward step to have new sustainable building regualtions, this does little for the existing stock of thermally and energy inefficient buildings already in place. The governments stalled stimulus home insulation scheme was an opportunity lost due to political conflict, so the only hope for improving old stock housing will be with a renovation regulation standard.

For the part of my business, my business partner and myself, we have taken the view to provide energy related products that oversupply for the present day needs. We have a few products aimed at both new constructions as well as old, domestic and commercial. The most significant is a Solar PV system that we have branded BestSol. This is a single module that will provide 10Kw of electricity with a nominal yield of 19200 kwhrs per year for Sydney's insolation. This system additionally will provide up to 10Kw of heating and or cooling, so we describe the combined system as 10KwPlus. We evaluate the system as providing sufficent energy for all household needs for a family of 4 plus the charging of 2 electric vehicles.

The second product is an affordable powered sliding door operator (this will also work for a single fold bifold, single sided or double sided door). This is a minimal visual impact fully automatic system that will whisk the door out of the way of any approaching moving person, pet or object, and close it behind them by a selectable variable set of methods. This design when not powered provides no opening or closing resistance and can be operated as a normal sliding door. It can also be locked within the mechanism. Furthermore the door can be operated remotely by an energy/building management system to aid air mass flow management, security, and fire control.

The third is a design for a very different style of roof line solar energy collectors/radiators for space and water heating/cooling.

We have a neighbouring business that is developing a modular architectural clip on system for both new and old buildings.And I have another who prototyping innovative modular permanent material water storage systems for the full spectrum of water needs, ie grey water, gardening water, fire fighting reserve, and drinking water.

Architecture is an innovation forefront, and product providers must strive to keep up to pace. We aim to do just that, leading into this ever changing world.

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