An article caught my attention while I was going through various online information feeds. The combination of the terms “CSIRO” and “real estate” in the title piqued my interest. Apparently, the CSIRO purchased a business called the Centre for Liveability Real Estate™ in 2016. I wanted to find out more about this intriguing concept. What is livable real estate? Why is the CSIRO involved?
What is liveability?
The Centre for Liveability Real Estate ™ is a website developed within the Hooker Corporation after they identified buyer confusion about the meaning of the term “sustainable home”. Designers and builders included sustainability features like thermal mass and eaves in new homes. However, many real estate agents and buyers did not appreciate the importance of these features. There was no way of easily comparing the comfort and low operating costs of a sustainable home with traditional designs.
Replacing “sustainability” with “liveability” reduces the confusion. Sustainability is something that designers and builders discuss in excruciating detail. Buyers are interested in things that help them judge the experience of living in a house. A logical framework defining the key items which make a home liveable helps buyers ask good questions. “How liveable is this house compared to the last one we inspected?” “Will this house be comfortable in summer and winter?” “Does this house cost less to heat or cool?”
The CSIRO saw the potential in this idea. Over time, liveability could be a driving force for improving the housing standard in Australia. Informed buyers seek out liveable homes so these features become desirable in new house designs. The results of CSIRO research into sustainable living principles could be included in future updates of the program to keep it current.
What is a home’s liveability?
The Centre for Liveability Real Estate™ use a list of features to review a home’s liveability. The 17 Things™ cover a broad range of sustainable principles, from construction methods to suggestions about what low energy devices to use in the home. I was pleased to see our design ticked all the boxes.
- Climate Zone – Design according to the climate. Melbourne is a Heating Climate so keeping the house warm in winter is important.
- Live Locally – easy access to cafes, markets, cultural events, green spaces, etc.
- Orientation – living spaces face north to take advantage of warmth from the winter sun.
- Cross-ventilation – natural cooling flow of air through the house after a hot summer day.
- Zoning – doors close off sections to reduce the space for heating or cooling.
- Insulation – Walls, floors and ceiling to keep the warmth in or the heat out.
- Thermal mass – construction materials designed to store warmth in winter and coolness in summer.
- Double glazed windows.
- Shading – prevent the summer sun from entering the home.
- Efficient heating and cooling devices.
- Energy efficient lighting.
- Efficient hot water system.
- Solar power system.
- Low water garden – use native plants to create a lush, attractive garden.
- Water efficiency devices.
- Rainwater tank – Collect rainwater to use for the toilets and laundry.
- Home energy rating – NatHERS Star rating to demonstrate the likely heating and cooling energy demand to keep the house comfortable all year.
The website contains another category to capture ideas which don’t fit into the list. An example is designing the home using the Livable Housing Australia guidelines so features such as wider corridors means it is suitable for young and old. Another idea is using eco-friendly products in the construction.
Who judges a home’s liveability?
Suitably trained real estate agents are qualified to carry out a home’s appraisal based on the 17 Things™. A standard checklist ensures the agent looks for the desired features. Note that the audit does not produce a rating or score. In each category, the home either meets requirements or does not.
Sellers display the Liveability Features™ logo if the home meets a minimum of 6 essential features on the list of 17.
What are the benefits for buyers?
Most buyers probably want to purchase a dwelling that is comfortable to live in and doesn’t cost a lot to heat or cool. If this information was readily available, at least they could take it into account along with specific personal requirements.
Putting the Liveability Features™ logo on the advertisement for a new or established home is the starting point for a constructive conversation between the agent and potential buyers. Knowledgeable buyers want to know what the features are and can immediately appreciate the benefits. For less well informed buyers, the agent can explain reasons why the house is more liveable. This might be a transformative experience for these buyers as they begin to look at potential purchases differently.
What are the benefits for real estate agents?
Representing a passionate, green home builder (like us) can be difficult if an agent doesn’t understand or appreciate why the owner keeps going on about the home’s sustainability features. What’s the big deal?
All going well, there will be more buyers wanting homes with sustainability features and builders prepared to construct them. A real estate agent familiar with the Liveability Features™ is in the best position to market these homes. From our perspective, such an agent would be a godsend. Here is someone who gets it! They know why we are doing this and appreciate the importance of the green features. This is an agent who can talk to a buyer about the benefits of our homes compared to a standard design.
Luckily, the CSIRO provides training courses for agents who are interested in gaining the necessary skills to audit homes for liveability.
Of course, I hope suitably trained agents would market our homes in a way that attracted buyers from across Melbourne. Perhaps they’re looking for sustainable housing and can’t find anything suitable near where they currently live. We want to ensure people from outside our nearby suburbs know what we are offering.
What are the benefits for house designers?
Any designer interested in finding out more about sustainable homes can use the website as a starting point for further investigation.
There is also a section with links to stories about completed projects. Sometimes all we need is inspiration from finished homes.
I really, really hope this idea is taking off in the real estate business.
It’s an elegant response to the need for informed purchasers driving an improvement in housing design.