After watching what could only be the 1,000,000th repeat of Roland Emmerich’s ‘Independence Day’ it got me thinking about our little planet and the possibility of having to live in bunkers to escape evil alien spawns. Not really, but it did get me thinking about what future we are leaving our children and our children’s children. Not wanting to get all ‘tree hugging’ on you, but the world is changing and how we live has changed dramatically.
It is hard to escape the media, or at least what they want us to see, and you would need to be living in an underground bunker to not be aware of what we are watching. It may not be aliens (but to some the financial markets may as well be) but watching their crippling demise worldwide, some of us feel about as useful as those American civilians running for their life from said aliens. Not only has the financial markets taken a sharp dive, but we must also contend with the ice melting at faster rates than ever before – in hindsight, maybe ‘2012’ was a better movie analogy.
So it would be assumed then that the Gillard governments ‘Carbon Tax’ would be a great way for Australia to start minimizing our impact on the globe. Great in theory, not so much in practice. The problem with this tax is that it doesn’t actually do anything for the planet, and does even less for the Australian economy. Whilst I don’t want to get into a political debate, Direct Action does seem the best option to tackle this world wide dilemma as the Carbon Tax purely discourages Australians and the rest of the world from buying Australian Made. Remember the big ‘Australian Made’ campaign not too long ago – keep Australian jobs in Australia? Well it is still around (I did a Google search, and they still have a website), but unfortunately the very institution that set it up is the very institution forcing us to go overseas!
When it comes to the manufacturing industry – building products specifically – you can’t get much cheaper than Asian imports (Chinese specifically), which is fantastic for the Chinese economy and even better for your back pocket, but (and there is always a ‘but’) not so great for the long term future of your house or commercial project. The age old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ still holds its weight in this example, and believe me, we have seen it time and time again. When purchasing from abroad for cheaper products, and problems happen (to which I can almost guarantee they will), the company will either no longer exist or the product is not manufactured anymore and defect upon defect is seen. However, to actually find a company that is Australian owned and manufactured in the building game is also a rarity as local prices and consumer demand for cheaper prices (and as such reduction in quality) has forced these players out of the game. So not only has the Carbon Tax discouraged international business for Australia but has also discouraged local business for Australia, at the cost of quality….so what is the solution?
With the upcoming election next year how about our Pollies come up with a grant that not only helps the planet and the economy but also benefits the people they represent. Why not instead of the first home buyers grant (which is abolished anyway), we look at ways to incentivise those building a home or commercial project that is energy efficient? A grant that brings benefit to those building with the lowest embodied energy content in the house structure. So this would mean that bricks and steel frames are out, glass must be minimal as it is all made with energy (molton silica), timber frames are in as they are locked up carbon and modified concrete will also be ok.
Another option would be to build underground – not sure how feasible that will be, but will save energy. Or perhaps we should change our desire to live in 200+ square meter homes that are currently the average size being built, and live in tiny houses of 60 to 70 square meters? Again, saves some energy there too.
Or perhaps we look at what the rest of the world (Europe and America in particular) have been doing for decades and in so saving a lot of energy, through insulating surfaces. Insulating surfaces (ie Base Board cladding saves more energy loss (multiple times over in fact) than it costs in energy to manufacture. The locked in carbon from a Base Board cladding system is sustainable for around 60-100 years, and with payback currently at 7 years it is a 9 to 10 fold reduction in energy waste (not to mention the savings on heating and cooling bills – impressive would be an understatement). Providing this type of incentive would require Australian manufacturers to provide quality and accredited systems with guarantees that can be produced for verification (along with the Architects/Building Designer plans) of energy saving structure and design. This would keep our economy strong by keeping Australian accredited manufacturers first in line for buying decision and guarantee quality as well as providing guaranteed longevity to the home owner and/or developer, not to mention actually providing a positive solution for our planet and its longevity.
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