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2021 Greensmart Professional of the Year

Meet Janine Strachan, 2021 HIA GreenSmart Professional of the Year. We find out why she is passionate about sustainable housing and what makes the GreenSmart program vital to our industry.
Janine Strachan is a sustainable design expert and tiny house guru. Not only the director of Green Design Solutions and Tiny House Solutions, but president of the Australian Tiny House Association and teacher of Sustainable Design at RMIT.

Janine became an HIA GreenSmart Professional in 2005 and is the winner of the 2021 HIA GreenSmart Professional of the Year Award. We asked Janine for her advice on sustainable practices in the industry.

Fifteen minutes with Janine

When and where did you find your passion for sustainability?

'Back in the mid-1980s, I worked outdoors as a whitewater rafting guide across Australia’s east coast. I just loved being in the environment, but I was concerned when I heard about rivers being dammed for irrigation, and I guess that was when my passion was ignited. That led me to a degree in environmental management and work in many diverse environmental areas. I now run my own business and teach around 240 students each year at RMIT. I've been lucky to work in diverse areas within the industry.'

What shifts have you seen in this time in response to embracing sustainable practices from both builders and consumers?

'Honestly, I would like to have seen more, but there's been a real shift, particularly after the droughts and bushfires we have experienced over the last few years. But we need more education and understanding of a sustainably designed home's true and lasting benefits. That is what is great about the GreenSmart program, it gives the skills and confidence to builders to say when they see a plan, yes, I can build that, but if we make these green changes, the initial investment will benefit you in the long term. I do think we are starting to see a bigger percentage of informed consumers who want a sustainable and passive designed home.'

The building and construction industry is responsible for around 40 per cent of the waste created in Australia. You have worked on waste reduction programs – what advice can you offer builders in reducing waste created during a build?

'Builders can do many things to reduce the waste created during a project. I would say accurate estimating and ordering first and foremost. Design for efficiency, make simple changes like choosing a ceiling height that allows the common sizes for plasterboard to eliminate offcuts. Good management practices – material handling on the site, making sure they are appropriately stored and not exposed to the elements to avoid being damaged. If you have excess materials, the product stewardship can help with this. This is where certain suppliers will take back extra materials and build recyclability into their manufacturing amongst other initiatives. Beyond that, recycling your waste products is the key. Separate your waste and recycle what you can.'

What sustainable materials should builders and consumers consider?

'Builders should help consumers select materials with lower environmental impact. Consider the low hanging fruit, such as higher levels of insulation in the ceiling or the walls. Prefabricated materials are an excellent option and help to minimise onsite waste. Many integrated systems provide a thermal barrier, where the insulation is sandwiched between the interior and exterior cladding layer. Green concrete is another great choice and this is beneficial when incorporated as an exposed concrete floor to absorb, store and re-radiate heat. Select materials designed to be recoverable and reusable at the end of life, should the home be remodelled and the use of materials that have low volatile organic compounds to increase healthier homes for occupants.'

Why are the GreenSmart Training and Accreditation Program so important to the industry?

'GreenSmart is so diverse - connecting builders to industry leaders and partners and providing training, not to mention the awards that recognise the strides we are making in this area. It's such an important program and has been around for so long. I remember when it started, it was really innovative for its time because there was nothing like it across Australia. It remains essential for the building industry and the future of sustainable housing.'

Read Janine's full story in the next edition of HOUSING Magazine, out February 2022. To enter our 2022 HIA GreenSmart Awards, visit www.hia.com.au/awards-and-events/awards/greensmart-awards

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