Thursday, 4 July 2013


On the weekend I visited a Metricon display home. It was forty five square feet of unsustainable living. FORTY FIVE SQUARE!

Why is this unsustainable?

Because it's 45 square feet of unsustainable and unethically sourced building materials which will require 45 square feet of heating, cooling and cleaning. Metricon builds many of these homes a year with the average size being 40 square, with on average only 2 adults and possibly 2 children living in each house. Why have houses grown so much? The average home used to be 18 to 26 square and now it is 40 square!

After I tweeted my dismay at the size of this home, Metricon replied that their homes have a 6 star rating due to the use of '...LED lights, insulation, minimal waste in build etc' and while those are good things they're certainly not enough to class Metricon homes as sustainable structures.

Metricon should reduce the size of their homes in order to lessen the need for heating and cooling and to reduce the need for non-biodegradable or un-recyclable waste and unsustainable building materials.

They should change the colour of their roofs to a lighter shade in order to reflect heat in summer.

They should demand sustainable orientation on building blocks for all their homes. (Which would inspire a change in building regulations throughout Australia!). Bedrooms should be on the south side and living areas on the North side. Houses with an east West orientation have better passive solar. House materials should be chosen to enhance warmth in winter and coolness in summer. 

Imagine if on a chilly winters day you didn't have to use the heating because the afternoon sun warmed your sitting area and ktichen. Imagine if on a hot 40C day with the sun beating down your house stayed a cool 23C without turning on the air conditioner! This would mean lower bills, better lifestyle and a healthier environment for all of us 

Idea for passive solar sun room

Metricon should within their costs offer water tanks, solar panels, domestic wind turbines, composting systems, alternative toilet systems and solar hot water services including evacuated tubes. 

This is how solar panels work

 New designs for domestic wind turbines
This is the Helical 'Wind waddler'. Great name!

Wind flower turbines in the USA

And as far as water collection is concerned, why waste it?

Underground water tanks

Metricon should  offer designs for recycled water for gardens and separate tanks for toilets as we are told there in the future there will be ongoing water shortages.

Things such as air flow throughout the house for cooling and the sealing of drafts to keep the extremes of temperature out should be automatically included in every house. The fridge in the glamorous Metricon kitchen was inside a cupboard. Fridges are the biggest energy users in most homes. They create a lot of heat which can make a fridge work harder and use more energy. Fridges are better placed outside a cupboard or enclosed area so the air around them can stay cool and the fridge will use less energy.

An example of a beautiful sustainable home. 

Compost bins and recycling bins should be large and rubbish bins small.
 Espalier fruit tress, wall gardens and vegetable patches with the provision of worm farms and compost heaps are very doable within Metricon garden plans.

AND if they say these things are too expensive or that it's too hard to change government regulations, that's what they said about smoke detectors before they became compulsory and now every house has smoke detectors and the risk of fire has diminished dramatically. According to Fire and Rescue NSW smoke alarms have reduced deaths by 50% in the USA where they have been compulsory for 20 years. Seat belts were another life saving introduction. Both industry and big business fought these regulations but now it is universally accepted that both these changes have saved lives.

Sustainable building practices save money, help to fight climate change and prevent pollution which means they also save lives.

The mortgage belts in our cities and towns are growing astronomically and there is some indication that the desire for larger homes is creating a worrying increase in financial stress.

Some say that glossy magazines such as 'Home Beautiful' encourage people to live beyond their means and Metricon, which is in the end a company focused on making lots of money, is feeding this. Consumers are living unsustainably in every way.

However what Metricon and Home Beautiful are not realizing is that there is huge potential to grow this market. While it is still a specialist area that only environmentally aware home buyers pursue,  Metricon and Home Beautiful could be leading the way for the financially, environmentally and ethically sustainable homes and products market which is the fastest growing market in the world. 

In the not too distant future building legislation both in Australia and around the world will demand that the building industry use only sustainable designs and ethically sourced materials. Now many are prepared to pay the expensive prices set by this market but when legislations change, costs will go down and this market will snowball and those companies who are not a part of it will fail.  

Sustainable home design.

Metricon and Home Beautiful and all the companies who are resisting change will be left behind if they don't act very soon. So come on Australia. You know you want to!