View of building with vertical gardens and blue skies with light clouds

Connections made toward circular economy housing future

Representatives from a range of sectors from across the country met in Sydney and virtually on Thursday 9th May for the AHURI one day conference Circular economy housing, to explore what it will take for the Australian housing sector to make the shift toward reducing the significant carbon emissions generated throughout the life-cycle of Australian homes. 

10 May 2024

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A highly engaged audience included a strong show from the social housing sector, keen to grapple with how circular and lower embodied carbon approaches could be incorporated in the build of the next generation of legacy social housing builds in the coming decade.

Speakers included leaders in circular economy and built environment policy, as well as industry advisors, and leaders in construction and building materials. The day was completed with an international perspective showcasing innovative work in Denmark and Europe to deliver housing solutions using circular construction practices. 

Key insights centred on the role of measurement and setting industry targets; and the change in mindset required to move from the current paradigm of short term ownership models, with disposable, depreciable assets toward planning for longevity, valuing resources more wholistically, reframing models of delivery and ‘bringing care to the table’ when considering the end of a building’s life. 

Discussions throughout the program considered the challenges and scale of change required, the current fragmentation and dispersion of policymaking responsibilities in Australia, and the cultural shift and knowledge gaps to be addressed for home owners and consumers.

Panel members observed that doubling the life of an Australian home would halve the construction related carbon emissions of those homes, and offered approaches to home design and construction that can create lower embodied carbon homes with longer life spans and flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of the occupants of the future.

Speakers also shared frustrations with the pace of change in Australian building codes and standards, and the low expectations Australians have of their homes compared to other countries. They also discussed current barriers to the development of innovative lower embodied carbon building products. They offered industry-led solutions as proof concepts for solutions that do not need to add to construction costs, and urged better policymaking in order to level the playing field in the direction of better practice and innovation.

The conference program was informed by the AHURI Research Inquiry: Informing a strategy for circular economy housing in Australia

“The value of circular economy approaches in residential housing is an emerging issue in Australia. Like the AHURI Inquiry that informed it, the circular economy housing conference brought together stakeholders working in varied fields that would not normally intersect, to work toward a shared agenda of innovation in how we design, build, occupy, and repurpose our homes and the materials with which they’re built.”

Recordings of the conference sessions will be made available for purchase on the AHURI website soon.

AHURI is grateful to our speakers for sharing their expertise and insights:

  • Ann Austin, Head of Sustainability, Australia, Lendlease
  • Jorge Chapa, Chief Impact Officer, Green Building Council of Australia
  • Julia Halioua, Associate, The Footprint Company
  • Carrie Hamilton, Industry Advisor
  • Professor Ralph Horne, Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation, College of Design & Social Context, RMIT University
  • Cathy Inglis, Group CEO, Think Brick, Concrete Masonry Association & Roofing Tile Associations Australia
  • Lasse Lind, Architect & Partner, 3XN/GXN
  • Lisa McLean, CEO, Circular Australia
  • Alison Scotland, Executive Director, Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council
  • Roger Swinbourne, Founder, Positive Futures Advisory Pty Ltd
  • Tim Wheeler, Manager, Strategic Research Programs, Clean Energy Finance Corporation