In an era of rising energy costs, sustainable homes are no longer simply a matter of ethical choice.
They are fast becoming a sound investment in the pursuit of year-round comfort, lower running costs and resale premiums.
Six-star energy efficiency standards in new homes have undoubtedly raised the bar, but the most effective approach in building a sustainable home is a holistic, 360-degree approach.
Jenny Edwards is a director of Light House Architecture and Science (formerly Jigsaw Housing) whose new homes aspire to a minimum of eight stars.
The difference two stars makes is dramatic. An eight-star home requires 50 per cent less energy to heat and cool than its six-star counterpart.
The Light House approach to building combines architectural design and scientific testing in the pursuit of energy efficient homes that feel spacious, are comfortable year-round and “function beautifully”.
Edwards is a champion of sustainable design and wants to dispel a key myth about energy efficient building.
“There’s a belief that it’s more expensive. In many ways, the opposite is true,” she says.
“A sustainable home begins with the right orientation on the block to take advantage of the light and winter warmth. The design reinforces that and the building techniques maximise the energy efficiency and comfort of the home.
“Finished building costs are around $3000 per square metre, comparable to products offered by many builders,” she says.
Light House designs range between 150-180 square metres which reduces the cost of the build and additional running costs in heating and cooling.
The other two fundamentals in sustainable building design are insulation and the minimisation of air leakage.
Insulation is fitted under the slab and around the edges, in the walls and roof space.
“A thoroughly insulated home will keep you cosy in winter and cool in summer,” Edwards says.
“Double glazing is another must, as is air leakage testing.”
Edwards says windows are, essentially, big holes in insulated walls and can greatly compromise a home’s thermal performance as can the wrong choice of frames.
At the end of every build, Light House scientists test the energy efficiency of their homes using thermal imaging and fan depressurisation to ensure the building envelope is thoroughly insulated and properly sealed for optimum performance.
“It’s very important to us that we are translating our thermally optimised designs into high performance homes,” Edwards says.
“But it’s equally important they are a pleasure to live in.”
Managing director of the Blackett Property Group, David Howarth, says sustainable home building has moved from the fringe and more toward the mainstream.
“Rising energy costs have definitely prompted people to rethink how their homes are built when they think about ongoing running expenses,” he says.
“They’re doing their arithmetic and working out the payback time on investments into sustainable building. Five years is often the target.”
Blackett has just completed a dual occupancy in Gilmore Crescent Garran where both homes achieved an eight-star EER.
Luton Properties’ head of sales, Craig Sheargold, says there has definitely been an increase in buyer awareness concerning energy ratings.
“Established homes with solar panels and double glazing are certainly more appealing to a broader base of buyers,” he says
“There is no doubt a premium is being placed on properties that offer sustainable living benefits.”
Kerrie Moore and daughters Audrey, right, and Sophie inside their sustainable home.
Kerrie Moore and Gerard Frawley endured 10 freezing winters and an equal number of sweltering summers in an old Narrabundah govie before they decided on a sustainable building future.
“It was one of those ’50s monocrete homes that either chilled you to the bone or baked you,” Gerard says.
The couple debated a number of options before they decided to remain on their Captain Cook Crescent block and build a home that would be comfortable all year-round.
Their search for the right team to achieve the goal brought them to Jigsaw Housing, now Light House Architecture and Science.
“We learned that a sustainable home is not necessarily an expensive one,” Gerard says.
“Much of the secret is in the orientation on the block and the final design, along with the selection of building materials.”
Gerard and Kerrie and their two children now live in a light-filled, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home that wraps around a central courtyard, allowing winter sunshine to penetrate both the living and sleeping wings.
“The internal temperature is much more stable and there’s been a noticeable drop in electricity bills,” Gerard says.
Stylish and sustainable
22 Jindabyne Street, Duffy
Auction on Saturday, April 29, at 11am, onsite
Inspect on Saturday, from 11.30am-noon; Wednesday, April 26, 5pm-5.30pm; Saturday, April 29, 10.30am-11am
Tim and Justine Burke, Luton Properties Weston Creek, 0411 878 587 or 0411 481 096
A solar passive design that enhances energy efficiency makes this Duffy home both comfortable to live in and economical to run.
Built in 2004 on a 757-square metre block, the two-storey home is close to local shops, schools and Mount Stromlo.
Apart from its impressive credentials in delivering a sustainable performance, it also boasts a family-welcoming five bedrooms and two bathrooms.
This spacious, light-filled home incorporates the best features of open plan living with two big living areas highlighted by polished concrete floors and double glazing throughout.
The hub of the home is a sleek kitchen with plenty of preparation areas and a stone-topped island bench.
There are two bedrooms on the ground level with the master enjoying walk-in robes and an en suite. Upstairs are three further bedrooms with one opening onto a balcony that’s just the spot for a morning cuppa or evening sundowner.
Established, easy-care gardens surround the home and the wrap-around terrace provides options for outdoor entertaining.
Added to the 219 square metres of living space is a double automatic garage with internal access.