Why building experts want this popular home design banned across Australia

A home design trend that has grown in popularity in recent years is facing calls for it to be banned because it increases the heat of the house, the area and power bills. 

Dark, often black, coloured roofs have increased across Australian cities after regularly featuring on television shows such as The Block and in design catalogues. 

Sam Austin, who was awarded NSW’s Young Planner of the Year, said poor design choices made while constructing developments meant residents were now living on dangerous urban heat islands where temperatures were higher than in nearby areas. 

In parts of western Sydney temperatures were 10C to 12C hotter than the rest of Sydney in summer, he said, with dark roofs which absorb heat partly to blame. 

Mr Austin, in a video posted to social media, said ‘these brand-new, identical houses being built across the country’ were a mistake. 

A home design trend that has grown in popularity in recent years is facing calls for it to be banned because it increases the heat of the house, the area and power bills. A female architect is pictured

A home design trend that has grown in popularity in recent years is facing calls for it to be banned because it increases the heat of the house, the area and power bills. A female architect is pictured 

‘Most of these homes have black roofs and a tiny yard with no space for a tree,’ he said.

He said black roofs were purely a ‘decorative choice’ but were in fact at least six degrees hotter than a white roof. 

The planner is far from alone in pointing out the cost to the power bills and the environment of the trend for black roofs on houses.

One state taking the problem very seriously is South Australia, where dark roofs have been banned in all future homes in the Playford Alive urban renewal project in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

When it is completed, the $1billion project in Munno Para will house around 40,000 people. 

Nick Champion, SA’s Housing and Urban Development Minister, said most of the homes built here so far have dark-coloured roofs, but dark roofs will be banned from all future stages of the project. 

‘Encouraging the use of light-coloured roofs in home designs helps to reduce temperature fluctuations in the home – lowering electricity bills and minimising the environmental footprint associated with traditional building practices,’ he said. 

Mr Champion said it was vital to implement these changes now, to lessen any potential effects from urban heat islands. 

A report by Seed Consulting, found homes in Adelaide’s northern suburbs with light-coloured roofs were 4.3 degrees cooler on an average day than those with dark roofs.

Janine Strachan, chief executive of the Insulation Council of Australia and New Zealand, welcomed the South Australian government’s move.

‘This initiative of light-coloured roofs, when coupled together with roof blankets and ceiling insulation, will great improve the energy efficiency and comfort factor in these homes,’ she told news.com.au.

Kym Morgan of the Master Builders Association, also supports what the SA government is doing. 

Dark, often black, coloured roofs have increased across Australian cities after regularly featuring on television property shows such as The Block. An almost entirely black house is pictured

Dark, often black, coloured roofs have increased across Australian cities after regularly featuring on television property shows such as The Block. An almost entirely black house is pictured

‘Light-coloured roofing just makes sense, particularly out north where we know it gets hotter. 

‘It leads to significantly cooler homes and that ultimately means less time running air conditioners and lower energy bills. 

‘It also means cooler suburbs if consumers adopt lighter roofs en masse,’ he said.

Mr Austin said the trend for black roofs on new build houses has been around for a long time in western Sydney and the outer fringes of other cities such as Melbourne and Adelaide.

‘Fifteen or so years back, having a dark-coloured roof became really popular,’ he said.

‘They look stylish and modern, so people loved them. The problem is, that’s a 150square metre surface sitting in the sun all day attracting and absorbing huge amounts of heat … Just about every roof in western Sydney is black.’

The NSW state government had planned to update building standards to help reduce the temperature inside homes, but this has been put on hold until at least May. 

Planning Minister Paul Scully said the cost impact on new builds during a housing and cost of living crisis was behind the decision.

Speaking at the time Mr Scully announced the delay, Associate Professor Sebastian Pfautsch of Western Sydney University said it would leave people vulnerable to Australia’s ‘silent killer’.

A tradesman is pictured putting black slates on the roof of a new build housing project

A tradesman is pictured putting black slates on the roof of a new build housing project

The trend for black roofs on new build houses has been around for a long time in western Sydney and the outer fringes of other cities such as Melbourne and Adelaide

The trend for black roofs on new build houses has been around for a long time in western Sydney and the outer fringes of other cities such as Melbourne and Adelaide 

‘They’ve effectively thrown the tools they developed to combat urban overheating in the gutter,’ he told News Corp.

‘It is common knowledge that heat is the silent killer in Australia that costs more lives than those lost in all other natural disasters combined. 

‘All credible projections point towards more heat and in the recent past, western Sydney was already twice the hottest place on the planet.

‘The government is knowingly leaving the people of western Sydney vulnerable to heat,’ the professor, who has called for an ‘outright’ ban on dark roofs across Australia, said.

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