When Bank Australia customer Sonja Markovic migrated from Germany to Australia, she noticed a stark contrast in the standards of the built environments between the two countries.
Motivated by her passion for human-centric design and desire to help build healthier and more sustainable homes, Sonja teamed up with her partner, Armin Towfigh Nia, a seasoned startup veteran, and software developer expert Srikanth Kondaparthy to create Evitat. It’s an online platform that makes it easier for renovators to build better, more efficient, more impactful houses.
Think of it like a sustainable service logbook, but for your property (as opposed to your car). The platform offers a range of features designed to simplify the process of building and renovating homes while prioritising sustainability and efficiency. Through the platform, home renovators can easily evaluate and scan products and suppliers, assess new technologies and materials, and document the environmental improvements made to their properties.
“There’s increasing demand for sustainable homes on the buyer side, but little visibility of those features,” Sonja says. “I still come across properties online where you can clearly see, in the photo, there’s a heat pump. Which is great, but it’s not mentioned anywhere! Because real estate agents don’t see the value of this stuff, contrary to the buyer side who want to know what has been improved and how it impacts running costs.”
The problem of housing
The built environment contributes about 40% of our total carbon emissions. That includes office buildings and commercial infrastructure, but also houses. Millions and millions of houses.
The problem is, at least here in Australia, sustainable construction and measuring a home’s carbon footprint is still an emerging thing, and it’s misunderstood by a lot of people. Builders included. That means the bulk of our homes aren’t doing a great job, climate-wise: they’re big, hot, inefficient, leaky, expensive to run, and damaging to the environment.
“We should have stylish homes, but also homes that actually function,” Sonja says. “In Australia, we’ve got about eight million houses, and most of them work very poorly, compared to other developed countries. They’re terrible in terms of thermal performance.”
So what’s the opportunity?
Renovations are more than just cosmetic upgrades or investments in your home's value. They can fundamentally make it a better, comfortable, and climate-resilient place to live.
This leads to good health outcomes – poorly insulated homes, for example, can exacerbate asthma, pulmonary issues and infection – and also better environmental outcomes, for everybody.
And the beauty of empowering renovators? It’s scalable. Anyone can jump on Evitat to find ethical, environmentally-friendly building materials, set home improvement goals to have better conversations with architects or builders, or store order records to inform finance, insurance or future buyers.
This encourages demand on the consumer side, which is vital for systemic change. It means people can ask informed questions of their builder, and promotes greater transparency around sourcing materials.
“We currently import about 60% of our standard building materials from a single sourced country,” says Sonja. “That leaves the industry vulnerable against supply issues. Instead, we can diversify material solutions with low-carbon, bio-materials – think of wood fibre insulation, wall systems made of agricultural byproducts, prefabricated thermally high performing building modules and other solutions. One of our suppliers offers a mineral coating that acts as a thermal barrier, so you can insulate tricky spaces in small urban houses without taking up too much space.”
“As climate change gets worse, I think people will really start appreciating if a home is updated sustainably, including health aspects and low-energy bills,” she adds.
Building a business ecosystem
By unlocking the demand side of construction – educating renovators and making it easier and cheaper to build good houses – Sonja hopes to create a wider, more resilient business ecosystem. A place where renovators, builders, architects, suppliers, manufacturers (and yep, even banks) can support each other and help decarbonise our existing eight million homes.
“The houses we build, the money we make, the way we invest it: we want to make sure they’re all going in the right direction,” Sonja says. “We’re trying to create a collaborative ecosystem of like-minded businesses, to really feed that transparency back to residential owners. I think now more than ever, the industry is ripe for a re-think.”
Thinking of jumping into home renovation yourself? Check out Evitat for some sustainable material suggestions, and a community of like-minded homeowners. And when you’re ready to build, Bank Australia’s Clean Energy Home Loans offer great discounts for homes that achieve a 7+ star NatHERS rating.