RMIT leads national research initiative to change the way Australians build houses

By Lucy Jones  April 27th, 2021

The project will look at benefits of implementing circularity across the built environment.

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A new research project led by Melbourne's RMIT university is set to transform the nation's homes. Coordinated by RMIT's Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, the project will establish an evidence base and guidelines for developing circular housing.

The circular economy presents enormous social, economic and environmental opportunities for the housing sector. Each year, the construction industry sends over 20 million tonnes of waste to landfill. By reusing materials and implementing circular design principles, the industry could generate $773 billion in direct economic benefits and save 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year in Australia by 2040, according to a recent PwC Australia report.

"We'll see improved community health, social and economic equity from affordable, high-quality energy-efficient homes, while addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation," said RMIT Professor Ralphe Horne, the project's lead researcher.

"These broad community benefits will be supplemented by a radical reduction in building and renovation waste, towards more circular, resource-efficient and sustainable approaches."

The project is part of a 10-year plan to transition towards a circular economy for housing and will focus on four key areas:

  • Neighbourhood scale housing developments

  • The apartment industry

  • Large scale housing retrofits and opportunities for sustainable social housing

  • Building materials and supply chains

The research will complement work that is already being undertaken by first-movers in the built environment and resource recovery sectors such as BINGO Industries, a leading recycler of Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste. BINGO has developed infrastructure to sort and recover construction waste and transform it into new products that can be inputted back into the system.

Horne emphasises that collaboration with industry, government and community will be crucial to the success of the research project.

“For the last few decades, Australian housing has been shifting towards a more sustainable footing,” he said.

“However, it is hard to change processes and practices within this competitive and cost-driven industry without concerted, sustained and joined-up collaboration across policy and regulation, construction, design and broader society."

The RMIT research team will work with the University of South Australia, University of New South Wales, University of Wollongong and The University of Adelaide to generate insights and recommendations.

"Through this inquiry, we will deliver a co-ordinated analysis to inform cutting-edge practice and policy innovation."

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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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