How to change Australia’s ‘cold building’ problem

When Klaar’s founder, Seb first arrived in Sydney a decade ago, he was shocked. It was August, and despite it being winter, the days were warm and sun-filled, unlike the weather in his native Amsterdam. But the Australian winter nights were as cold inside the house as outside.
Houses in Northern Europe are not like that. That’s a good thing, because if they were, many more people would die from the cold. Despite, or because of, the bitter-cold winters, most housing is designed to allow people to live comfortably indoors in just a t-shirt.

No laughing matter

As an architectural engineer well-versed in Northern European building design, Seb wondered why Australians were living like this, in a country which otherwise seemed to value quality of life.
Whether you were born Australian, or later became one, like Seb, chances are you’ve suffered through a winter that required as many layers indoors as you’d wear outdoors.
It’s no laughing matter, since research has found Australians are more likely to die from the cold than Swedes — a shocking 7 per cent of deaths in Australia were from the cold.
It’s something that disproportionally affects disadvantaged communities, according to Lyrian Daniel, a researcher who studies Australia’s “cold house” phenomenon. Her research outlines some of the ways governments could start tackling this.

How to make our buildings cold free

In the meantime, construction companies can take the lead. There are several ways that Australian buildings can be better built and adapted for both the cold and heat.
These technologies have been tried and tested elsewhere, such as in Seb’s second home city Amsterdam, a leader in sustainable building.

Taking the lead

We know there are many challenges to making Australian buildings more comfortable to live in. On a government level, observers have pointed out that Australian building codes need to be improved and made clearer, while costs for electricity and gas rise exorbitantly.
But despite the policy challenges, what’s clear is that developers and builders can take up leadership on this issue, and start building better housing, for everybody.

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