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The challenge

Should you renovate or rebuild?

Out of date, too small, impractical, cold in winter and hot in summer — there are many reasons people might to want to change their homes, but should you renovate or rebuild?

CSIRO's answer to this question is: it depends!

Suburban Australian street

We all want to move towards creating homes that are more sustainable and energy efficient because we will save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the long term — but how can we find out more?

Our response

Social science for sustainability

Australians love a 'home reno' show, and television can reach a wide audience to help people make important decisions. With this in mind, CSIRO advised the producers on the design of 'Renovate or Rebuild', a TV series showing ways to make changes for more energy efficient and comfortable homes.

CSIRO provided guidance to the show’s producer, The Blue Tribe Company and North Light Productions, in the development of 'Renovate or Rebuild', first to evaluate the pilot episode, and then to design and evaluate the first series. We helped them figure out the depth of sustainability information appropriate for the series and recommended behavioural science strategies to maximise the impact of the messages.

8-star zero emissions demonstration house ©  CSIRO, Keirissa Lawson

We also worked with the NSW Office of Energy and Climate Change, the  Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, Sustainability Victoria and the Reliable, Affordable, Clean Energy (RACE for 2030) Cooperative Research Centre to translate good science into actions that households can take to help save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve comfort and liveability of our homes.

Tips focused on:

  • designing for location
  • considering house orientation and internal flow
  • using appropriate building materials
  • selecting energy-efficient appliances, such as for heating and cooling.

Afterwards, Dr Danie Nilsson, behavioural scientist and postdoctoral research fellow, led a team to evaluate the impact of 'Renovate or Rebuild' through targeted surveys. The team measured self-reported interest and engagement in the show, how it was received, and whether it influenced viewers' desire and behaviour towards residential energy efficiency.

The results

Lifestyle television showing the way

Our analysis found that 'Renovate or Rebuild' was well received as a 'reno show' with a focus on energy efficiency and sustainability. Viewers seem to want even more detailed information on building processes, more about affordable and relatable options, and more detailed cost-benefit analysis in the show.

The show was also successful in reinforcing the explanation of the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS)  and the benefits of a high energy star rating.

Of those who watched the show, a higher proportion reported 'a home energy star rating above the minimum standards for Australia' as a 'must have feature' afterwards, compared with before they watched. And as people watched more content, their desire for home energy star ratings above the minimum standard also increased.

This suggests that watching 'Renovate or Rebuild' is likely to have a positive influence such that some viewers might be more likely to seek an energy star rating above the minimum standards when choosing a new home to live in.

Seeking out sustainable products

People who watched the show were more likely than non-viewers to tell us afterwards that they intended to seek out information, and buy and install featured products.

Viewers were also more likely than non-viewers to say that they had (in the previous 2 months) obtained quotes for solar panels and/or battery storage, been intending to buy solar panels for current or future properties, or were buying or intending to buy uPVC windows or insulation.

Driving the sustainable housing market through television

Our conclusion: 'Renovate or Rebuild' has the potential to positively drive and expand the sustainable housing market across Australia by increasing viewers' desire for more sustainability-related house designs, features, products and services.

CSIRO's social scientists are also involved in other projects to encourage good decisions around housing and homes:

  • helping consumers understand energy ratings for appliances and housing
  • analysing how people talk about residential sustainability on social media for better communication
  • identifying drivers and barriers to uptake of residential solar panels and battery storage systems
  • developing ways to improve consumer engagement in the Victorian retail energy market.

Research on the impact of the 'Renovate or Rebuild' television show was funded by the Reliable Affordable Clean Energy for 2030 Cooperative Research Centre (RACE for 2030 CRC).

Find out more about how your organisation can work with CSIRO

There are many ways we can support your business to drive innovation forward, from funding and programs to IP and Commercialisation expertise, to facility and lab use.

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