Many Perth houses are not energy efficient and building regulations don't encourage home builders to change, says a researcher from The University of Western Australia.
In a survey of 400 Perth metropolitan homes, Masters of Environmental Design researcher Dirima Cuthbert found Perth "project" home designs had changed little in 200 years except to abandon traditional features that made them more energy efficient.
Energy-saving verandahs, deep eaves and high ceilings had all but disappeared in new housing developments. In their place, massively bigger floor spaces, dark roofs, low ceilings and double-brick walls had made air conditioning a necessity.
And as people spent less time at home while at work or play, the efficiencies of being able to open windows had been replaced by the energy consumption of an average two-hour return trip to work for many people who had built homes in new outlying suburbs.
In comparing cars to houses, Ms Cuthbert said small cars had become an acceptable status symbol - but small homes had not.
"If people chose their houses like they choose their cars, we might see project homes - which now represent 80 per cent of new houses being built in Perth - develop new ways of reducing energy consumption."
However, Ms Cuthbert said current Australian building codes, which included setbacks from the street and neighbours, consistency in the streetscape appearance and building type, restricted the ability of house designers to reduce energy consumption.
Preliminary survey results suggested the answer was not encouraging people to "do the right thing" and reduce energy consumption for the sake of climate change but changing people's desires and production behaviours to replace their "4WD" home with a trendy five-door hatch.
Dirima Cuthbert (UWA Faculty of Architecture Landscape/Visual Arts (+61 4) 09 178 797
and the School of Social and Cultural Studies)
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783