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Sustainability was in the spotlight at HIA’s first GreenSmart Symposium, with members also enjoying a face-to-face HIA Australian GreenSmart Awards evening for the first time in years.

Laura Valic


Presented in a new format for HIA members to experience and enjoy, the 2022 HIA Australian GreenSmart Awards and Symposium invited likeminded builders, designers and manufacturers from around the country to meet together in Canberra last September.

From the conversations, laughs and networking (plus post-event feedback!), it’s safe to say the combined half-day conference, housing tour and awards evening was an all-round success.

Attendees were greeted by the day’s MC, James O’Loghlin (comedian and former presenter of the ABC’s The New Inventors), whose energy and humour kept the audience engaged, and the speakers on track, throughout the jam-packed morning. Under the microscope was the future of sustainable building in Australia – the regulations, the environmentally savvy consumers, the new building products and the techniques that challenge the norms of conventional construction.

Keynote speaker and futurist, Mark McCrindle
Presenters Joe and Merylese Mercieca from Blue Eco Homes

HIA Managing Director Graham Wolfe opened the speaker line-up by acknowledging the success of the GreenSmart scheme as an industry-leading program since 2000. ‘There have been more than 6000 HIA GreenSmart Professionals trained across Australia, GreenSmart Display Villages built, with one soon to open here in Canberra, and countless houses accredited with the program,’ he says. ‘It started with an aspirational goal of encouraging our industry to go beyond standard regulatory practice…and in 2022 it is still achieving that.’

Case in point, the audience heard from two award-winning HIA GreenSmart Professionals, Ovens and King Builders from Victoria and Blue Eco Homes from NSW – members who have both built bold, technically difficult Passive House projects showcasing what can be realised in sustainable housing. Their presentations explaining the complexities, problem solving and learnings, and the overall successful outcomes they achieved, impressed and inspired the room. 

Further inspiring and provoking thought from symposium guests was keynote speaker and futurist, Mark McCrindle, who spoke about the characteristics of the emerging generations Z (the oldest hitting home buying age now) and Alpha (many yet to be born). According to Mark, they will greatly influence the social and political landscape of tomorrow. ‘Understanding these emerging generations and the trends influencing them [allows us] to prepare for what’s next…and where the future is going,’ he says. 

Mark believes some patterns are already developing. In terms of where builders might increasingly construct homes to cater to these cohorts, our 2021 census data revealed an ongoing urban sprawl from our major city centres (Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania in particular), in addition to a rapid rise in our regional populations.

Laminex members
Delegates visited Canberra’s newest ‘green’ suburb, Whitlam

‘Four of the top 10 fastest growing LGAs were outside the capital cities,’ he says, adding that regional growth is being influenced by young people looking for affordability and liveability. Today, Mark says, these aspirational home buyers are geographically less restricted on where they can live. The option of moving and taking a city job with them, thanks to flexible working from home arrangements, has given regional towns an edge they typically lacked. 

Of the global trends impacting us today – from digital technology and robotics to climate change – environmental considerations are increasingly influencing our decision-making. Mark says our attitudes towards reducing waste, buying locally or choosing products with a low environmental impact, as well as focusing on values and investing money ethically, is ‘the realm in which the emerging generations are being shaped’ and is a mindset that will undoubtedly affect their housing decisions. 

Speaking also to this shift in public thinking, Jenny McAllister, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy, acknowledged that climate change issues were front of mind for many voters in the 2022 Federal Election. ‘It was a big part of the national conversation, and our sense is that we have been elected with a mandate to act,’ she says. ‘You will have seen in the first 100 days of the Albanese Government quite a lot of concrete action to get us on our pathway.’ 

Jenny McAllister, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy
Chatham homes members

While the assistant minister claimed the building industry ‘is not an industry we want to disrupt but is one we hope can adapt to new opportunities’, the audience was highly aware that the regulatory environment for building is changing.

To bring the audience up to speed on incoming changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) was Simon Croft, HIA Executive Director – Building Policy and Services. In particular, he zeroed in on the hotly debated NCC 2022 energy efficiency changes and discussed the new standards being adopted in different states and territories.

Despite the rainy weather, conference attendees braved the elements and next headed off on a bus tour to visit Canberra’s newest and evolving ‘green’ suburb, Whitlam. Here, they were invited by the Suburban Land Agency (SLA) to take a sneak peek of the impressive display village ahead of its public opening. A partnership between SLA and HIA will see the smart, sustainable suburb take shape according to GreenSmart principles, with an Innovation Precinct prominently displaying sustainable design benefits to future homeowners. 

Delegates were encouraged to meander through this interesting space, designed as three carbon-positive terrace homes (built also to certified Livable Housing guidelines), and take note of the materials, products, multi-generational living arrangements and climate-wise landscaping. Carefully thought- through details and inclusions – and at times surprising ones! – ensured everyone took home some takeaways with them.

Edward Robert Builders with Light House Architecture & Science
The housing tour got a close-up view of the Whitlam display village

With the tour’s conclusion, nerves were beginning to stretch as members anticipated the commencement of the final portion of the day. Held at The Marion, an exclusive waterfront function centre overlooking Lake Burley Griffin, the 2022 HIA Australian GreenSmart Awards got under way.

Guests happily mingled together before sitting down over dinner to learn the winners and finalists (presented in the preceding pages). With many expressing a wish to repeat the experience again next year, watch this space and don’t miss your opportunity to attend such a dynamic event on the HIA calendar when registrations open in 2023!

Dr Shaila Divakarla (left) and Cathy Inglis, Brickworks General Manager - Technical & Innovation


The option of moving and taking a city job with them, thanks to flexible working from home arrangements, has given regional towns an edge 

Nominations open soon

Nominations open for the 2023 HIA Australian GreenSmart Awards on 1 February 2023. HIA thanks NatHERS (major sponsor), The Australian Reinforcing Company, COLORBOND steel, Dulux, HIA Insurance Services, Toyota, Vantage Windows and Doors by AWS, ACT Suburban Land Agency, Bondor Metecno and Miele for their sponsorship support of the 2022 HIA Australian GreenSmart Awards and Symposium. 

Published on 30 November 2022

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