Is the Federal Budget serious about the Built Environment?

The Australian Institute of Architects, representing over 14,500 members worldwide, is dedicated to showcasing the importance of architecture and advocating for sustainable, high-quality design practices across Australia. Following the release of the Australian Government’s latest Budget, the Institute has reviewed how well the Budget aligns with the key priorities outlined in our pre-budget submission.

Summary of Key Points:

  • Low carbon buildings: Budget lacks sufficient investment in low carbon building materials, research, and local manufacturing.
  • Climate resilience data: Insufficient funding for enhancing national datasets critical for climate resilience.
  • Housing: Positive steps in social and Indigenous housing, but more is needed for sustainable and resilient housing supply.
  • Architect workforce: Need for increased investment in training for circular economy and diversity initiatives.
  • Accessibility: Budget commitments on accessibility in public buildings need to be expanded for universal design.

The Institute acknowledges the budget’s broader measures aimed at economic growth, infrastructure investment, and cost-of-living adjustments, which indirectly impact the architectural profession and the built environment. However, a more direct engagement with the sector is crucial for harnessing its full potential in contributing to a sustainable and economically robust future.

“The Institute is pleased to see some critical issues from our pre-budget submission being addressed. However, significant gaps remain in several areas requiring further attention and investment. We will continue to collaborate with the government to advocate for a built environment that champions sustainability, inclusivity, and resilience,” says National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, Jane Cassidy FRAIA.

Detailed response

Designing and delivering low carbon buildings

The Budget’s pledge to enhance the clean energy workforce is a significant step towards sustainable practices. However, it falls short in providing robust investment in low-carbon building materials, research, development, and local manufacturing capabilities. The absence of guidelines for the adaptive reuse and retrofitting of existing buildings is particularly concerning.

“The Institute agrees with the Treasurer that there is a golden opportunity to decarbonise and move towards a circular economy. Yet, vital investments in low carbon solutions and practical guidelines for existing infrastructures are missing,” says Ms Cassidy.

The Institute calls on energy ministers, building ministers and planning ministers to urgently agree to a new national policy for the built environment that: supersedes the trajectory for low carbon buildings; expands the scope of the 2025 National Construction Code; and commits to:

All new buildings and major renovations will have net zero operational carbon emissions by 2030:

  • All existing buildings having net zero operational carbon emissions by 2040.
  • Nationally consistent methodology for mandatory embodied emissions measurement and reporting in state and territory legislation by 2025.
  • All new buildings have a 40% reduction in embodied carbon by 2030.
  • All new buildings and major renovations have net zero embodied carbon by 2040.

To support international efforts to maintain global temperatures at 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels, the Institute supports:

  • The elimination of the use of natural gas in all new buildings from 2025.
  • The retrofitting of all existing buildings to only use clean energy by 2040.
  • The rapid decarbonisation of Australia’s electricity grids and rapid uptake in on-site generation of renewable energy.

Critical data for climate change adaptation

The Institute welcomes continued support for the Australian Climate Service. Nevertheless, the budget does not meet the requested $50 million necessary to enhance national datasets and maps for climate resilience. This funding is essential for designing buildings capable of withstanding the impacts of climate change.

“As the Treasurer stated, rapid change is necessary; we cannot wait,” says Ms Cassidy. “This transformation for architects in the built environment is centred on a shift toward a zero-carbon, circular economy future. It unfolds against the backdrop of inflation, housing affordability and intergenerational equity challenges, global supply chain disruption and a revolution in the way organisations are structured and how people work. It is critical that with manifest climate change and extreme weather patterns, that our cities and communities are adequately climate resilient.”

Housing as a priority

The Institute appreciates the budget’s provisions for social housing and initiatives for Indigenous housing in remote communities. However, more must be done to increase housing supply that is climate resilient, energy efficient, and durable.

“As an industry and as a nation, we must adapt swiftly to deliver timely, affordable, resilient, and sustainable housing to meet the needs of the community and the planet,” says Ms Cassidy

“Every Australian deserves a home that is safe, comfortable, and enhances their quality of life. Architects are key to making this a reality. Inclusive, sustainable, and affordable housing is not just a dream, but a feasible reality with architects leading the design and construction of our homes. The housing crisis is not just a problem to solve, but an opportunity to build better communities. Architects are at the heart of this transformation,” says Ms Cassidy.

Projects like Nightingale Housing demonstrate how architects are uniquely positioned to improve the housing landscape in Australia by delivering innovative, sustainable, and affordable housing options.

Ensuring a diverse and experienced architect workforce by 2030

While the Budget addresses some aspects of workforce diversity and inclusion with support for diversity in STEM fields, it lacks rapid investment in training for the circular economy, which is essential for builders and consultant teams.

“Rapid investment in training for the circular economy is essential, and we would like that addressed,” says Ms Cassidy.

Making public buildings accessible for people with disabilities

Accessibility goes beyond mere compliance with standards; it involves creating environments that are usable and welcoming for everyone, regardless of physical ability. This requires a holistic approach that incorporates universal design principles at the core of all public infrastructure projects. Such an approach ensures that buildings are not just accessible, but also functional and comfortable for individuals with diverse needs.

“Accessibility in public buildings is not just about meeting basic standards. It’s about ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can participate fully in public life. We need comprehensive measures that integrate universal design principles to truly make our public spaces inclusive,” says Ms Cassidy

The Institute calls for a significant increase in funding and strategic planning to incorporate these principles in all future public infrastructure projects. By doing so, Australia can lead by example in creating a built environment that supports and empowers all members of society.

For further information please contact:

James Kennedy
Head of Communications
Australian Institute of Architects | M: 0433 936 527

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