State of the Environment Report 2007 

Snapshot: Saving energy and money in Public Housing

About a third of the ACT’s usage of fossil fuel energy relates to our households: much of our water use too. So, to help achieve a more sustainable future, there’s nothing better than starting at home. The ACT Government is doing this.

The 2005-2006 ACT Budget allocated $1M to reducing water and energy consumption (and hence greenhouse gas emissions) in public housing. The program covered energy performance, tenant need, value for money and reduced operational costs to tenants and Housing ACT. The initiatives included ducted gas heating and solar hot water systems in 37 properties; 50,000 energy efficient light globes for Housing ACT tenants - 4 per household; water restricting valves in 1,850 properties; and a pamphlet to tenants with hints on reducing energy and water usage. The direct sustainability benefit was decreased usage of water and electricity, cutting tenants’ costs and improving their household environment - a win-win combination.

But, this was only step one. Housing ACT will continue efficiency improvements to its properties, implementing a Government program of $20M over 10 years. The focus will be on beneficial building improvements including those with low maintenance needs like insulation, or new cistern valves, and also those with higher capital and maintenance costs such as improved hot water and heating systems. Renewable energy technologies such as photo-voltaic cells will be considered, particularly for multi-unit complexes.

Housing ACT’s steps to save water and energy could be taken by all homebuilders and occupants (see also the snapshot on the WEST program). Better technology helps, and better new home design, but individual will is also required: we can all do our bit!

One housing-energy issue to think about is air-conditioning, a growing source of energy use. Some of the rise stems from changing attitudes to reasonable comfort, combined with reduced capital costs for equipment. There is little or no need for AC with good design, or good upgrades. Growing use of air-conditioning in housing is also linked with a growth in complaints about noise from AC units - a lose-lose situation! 

living sustainably

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