Recognising both the recent surge in interest in low carbon refurbishments of residential buildings and the diversity of emergent terminology and perspectives, the authors set out definitions for key terms and frame a discussion of the phenomenon of refurbishments. The paper focuses on owner-occupied detached homes that dominate Australia’s existing residential building stock.
In the context of both international and Australian conditions and initiatives, a review-based account is presented of factors that are (a) exogenous to the refurbishing household including technical, regulatory, economic and social factors, and (b) endogenous to the household, including social practices, goals, attitudes and behaviours. A set of intentional ‘enabling’ factors designed to facilitate the decision-making process and actions is considered. These include financial incentives, information tools, professional knowledge, voluntary labels as well as individual householder practices. Rebates, low interest loans and feed-in tariffs are proven incentives for retrofit actions. The capability of building professional and technical solutions may facilitate the execution of the homeowners’ objectives. Trigger events, which may precipitate the decision toward comprehensive refurbishments, are identified. These may be the ‘necessary’ renovation of the home, a change in ownership, an energy audit or advice from a building professional.
The paper also reviews specific householder perspectives of living in ‘near zero energy or carbon’ homes. The neighbourhood and the functional aspects of the home are considered alongside energy efficiency. Conclusions are drawn in the context of decision-making processes, progress of low carbon residential refurbishments, and their future prospects.
In contrast to strategies only targeting the individual homeowner, a wide range of measures designed in unison and across traditional policy and disciplinary domains is more likely to promote the desired uptake of low carbon refurbishments.
A comprehensive strategic framework which incorporates both a view of the ‘house’ as a technological and material entity, and of the ‘home’ as a social and cultural site of domestic practice, is needed to accelerate the uptake of low carbon refurbishments in Australia.