For the Greater Good?

Posted on September 11th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Economy,Electric vehicles,Global Warming,pedal power by Julian Edgar

Here in Queensland the State Government has issued a discussion paper entitled Improving Sustainable Housing in Queensland.

The paper canvases a range of requirements the government is considering implementing for the construction of new houses and units.

I think it astonishing how little government regulation has been applied to the energy efficiency of housing. Especially in the context of the media attention given to fuel-efficient cars, there seems to have been a deathly silence on what is surely the far more important area of housing.

After all, a typical house is going to be consuming energy for something in the order of five to ten times as long as a car, and will be doing so most hours of the day and night.

The discussion paper suggests that investigation be made of:

  • Requiring all new houses and units to achieve a 5-star energy rating (on a 10 point scale!)
  • Recognition of outdoor living areas in building standards (so that verandas and similar areas are encouraged)
  • Developing a star rating for building materials
  • Preventing residential estate rules that stop certain energy-efficient approaches being taken (eg having a light coloured roof)
  • Requiring water and energy-efficient fixtures (eg toilets and lighting) in new houses
  • Phasing-out electric storage water heaters
  • Making available a ‘sustainability evaluation’ when houses or units are sold or leased (so that the buyer/renter has a better idea of what they’re getting)
  • Prevent the sale of inefficient air conditioners
  • Investigate an energy efficiency star rating on swimming pool pumps
  • Require the installation of electric solar cells on large houses (evaluated on basis of floor space)

Perhaps with the exception of the last, these all seem like no-brainers and surely would raise few concerns from the majority of people.

In fact, I’d suggest that the proposed energy ratings to be imposed on newly-constructed houses and units don’t go far enough: visit almost any display homes of major local builders and you can only be amazed at the apparent complete lack of energy consciousness being shown.

To put these proposed changes in a broader social context, the government is considering restricting certain individual freedoms for the greater good. So no, you can’t use 12 litres to flush your toilet when 5 litres will do the same job: why should everyone else pay for the infrastructure costs to allow you to do so?

The ‘for the greater good’ versus ‘individual freedom’ dilemma of course applies in all manner of social areas.

Like cars, for example…

7 Responses to 'For the Greater Good?'

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  1. Ben G said,

    on September 11th, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Human nature being what it is, it’s probably more effective to rely on people’s desire to save money than to serve the greater good. Higher fuel prices and domestic bills are focussing minds here in the UK, and will incentivise the development of more efficient technologies.

  2. doctorpat said,

    on September 11th, 2008 at 11:16 am

    To elaborate on Ben’s comments, the problem is that energy and water are underpriced.

    If water was full price, if the cost of a kilolitre was the full price of dams, pipes, processing, pumping, the price of NOT using that water for irrigation or natural flows and the cost of capital, plus a small profit, then there wouldn’t be a problem.

    Someone who used more water, would pay for the extra cost, and it would be as “antisocial” as someone using “more than their fair share of cars” or “an unreasonable amount of computer gear”.

    We don’t consider people using more of that stuff as bad, we consider it a personal choice, because it is fully priced. The reason we are weird about water and power (and fuel) is because it isn’t fully priced.

  3. Ford Man said,

    on September 11th, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    re doctorpat – Agreed.

    The total bill doesn’t even need to change. Just incorporate all the fixed monthly service charges into the per litre or per kw/h rate. Hey presto, putting effort into household efficency suddenly pays off.

  4. Oosh said,

    on September 11th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    FYI – Several of those items are already implemented in SA.

  5. Michael said,

    on September 12th, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Men can urinate in the basin and then wash their hands. This flushes and saves a lot of water.

  6. bring back the queenslander said,

    on September 12th, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Wow, I wonder if this means they will stop breeding those ridiculous McMansions with the black roofed, three phase air conned, no eaves, no yard and no brained owners

  7. sk2807 said,

    on September 13th, 2008 at 1:35 am

    I’m an Australian living in Ireland, and I am amazed by the flippant use of energy and the lack of any energy efficiencies being incorporated into housing. Solar power – nup, dual flush toilets – rare, heating on 24/7 – yes, free water – yes.

    Admittedly it rains a lot and there isn’t a heap of sunshine, but if I had a dollar for each time I have to tell the missus off for leaving taps running or opening windows every time it’s too hot inside (rather than turn the heating down), then I’d be a slightly less poor man!