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CSIRO to the rescue on Liveability program

CSIRO has swooped in to acquire the Centre for Liveability Real Estate and its Banksia-award-winning Liveability framework from LJ Hooker, after the program was wound back following a company restructure.

The program – which aims to improve the buying, selling and renting of residential property through real estate agent training and a checklist of common sustainability features – initially aimed to be replicated across multiple agencies, however after LJ Hooker split ways with Liveability creator Cecille Weldon in December last year, the program appeared to stall. LJ Hooker at the time declined to comment on whether it would extend the program to competitors, though assured The Fifth Estate it remained committed to Liveability.

Now that CSIRO has intervened to acquire the intellectual property, the initial plan to spread the program nationally and over multiple agencies can forge ahead unimpeded.

Anthony Wright, research lead, building simulation and communication at CSIRO, told The Fifth Estate that having an owner that was “not in a competitive position” would help with the plan to roll out the program nationally.

Just how the program will function under CSIRO is yet to be announced, however, with Wright saying there would be further information released in the coming weeks. What is important, he says, is to let the industry know the program is ready for resurrection.

“There’s movement afoot,” he says.

Cecille Weldon with her Banksia award for the Liveability program.

Cecille Weldon with her Banksia award for the Liveability program.

Cecille Weldon seems to be central to the program’s progression. Wright says she was involved in the discussion between LJ Hooker and CSIRO during the acquisition talks, and is described as a “research partner” in a CSIRO media release.

The program complements CSIRO’s other work in residential energy efficiency, Wright says, including its Chenath software engine, which underlies the NatHERS rating tool. He says CSIRO has a very strong understanding of how the new housing market works in terms of sustainability performance – such as through the six-star standard – though there was a lack of understanding of the existing housing market.

The program looks to be an important acquisition to progress sustainability in the built environment because, as we’ve reported many times before, real estate agents are seen as a major barrier to the uptake of sustainability in the existing housing market.

Wright says the Liveability program is an attractive proposition because it was collaboratively developed with industry and has “a lot of buy-in and support”.

CSIRO research director Dr Stephen White thinks the framework and checklist – which aims to put sustainability, comfort and running costs at the forefront of housing decision-making – could be a “step-change” for the real estate industry.

“CSIRO is at the forefront of research into our impact on the planet and what we can do to live more sustainably. Through Liveability, it’s possible to identify the best ways to be eco-friendly and be comfortable in our homes,” White says.

“The framework is aspirational and positive, targeting the desirable features of a house that a buyer or seller can transparently seek out, have a conversation about, and ultimately place value on.”

The Real Estate Institute of NSW has already signed on as the first Real Estate Institute partner of Liveability, and will offer the training to its members over the coming months.

“We are proud that our industry has provided such a significant contribution to enhancing the customer experience for buyers and tenants,” its chief executive Tim McKibbin said.

The next step for CSIRO will be to relaunch the Centre for Liveability Real Estate and its Liveability website, and to develop the program for a national roll out.

“From there, the existing framework will be extended to include online training and exclusive membership services to be provided directly to real estate agents,” a CSIRO statement said.

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