The cost of building a home can be exhausting; legal costs, build costs as well as additional fees and charges that no one told you about.

There will be times when considering the sustainability of your investment is placed on the back burner.

However even the smallest investment in sustainability can be hugely beneficial for the environment and your wallet in the long term (if not the short term).

Here we detail the easiest ways homebuyers can build a sustainable home:

Siting and design efficiency

You can add all the solar panels you want, if your home is poorly designed the energy efficiency and long life cycle costs will be compromised.

When you are searching for the perfect site, a site with maximum northern orientation is ideal for a passive solar home.

Passive solar home design is design that takes advantage of the climate to maintain a comfortable temperature range in the home.

Passive design reduces or eliminates the need for auxiliary heating or cooling, which accounts for about 40% (or much more in some climates) of energy use in the average Australian home.

A custom-designed home that is site sensitive and suits your living requirements is better than selecting a ‘cut and paste’ home with volume builders which will not consider maximising the siting potential of the block.

Energy efficiency

If you’re unable to select a site that faces north there are still things you can do to increase your energy efficiency and reduce your energy costs.

Firstly take advantage of this sunburnt country and all that free solar energy by installing solar panels and a solar hot water system.

You can take this further by buying appliances and whitegoods with the maximum energy star rating. Finally – insulate! Proper insulation will save you up to 50% on heating and cooling costs.

The higher the energy rating, the less reliance on utilities. Besides, who doesn’t want cheaper electricity bills?

Water efficiency

Installing a water tank will reduce your reliance on the mains water and coupled with a high WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards) rated plumbing fittings will further reduce your water consumption.

When landscaping consider indigenous water saving or drought resistant plants, so that when an inevitable dry summer hits you won’t have to worry about the lack of water to sustain them.

Materials efficiency

Choose sustainable building materials with a low embodied energy such as timber.

Timber from sustainable plantations is a renewable resource which, has less environmental impact than brick or concrete, which have a high embodied energy. The embodied energy of a product is the energy required to produce a product and is measured over the products life cycle.

When installing windows purchase windows that are double glazed with a high WERS (Window Energy Rating Scheme) this means you will lose less heat from your home.

The WERS scale ranges from zero to ten stars, at Ecoliv we use five-star WERS glass because not only is the ten-star WERS glass incredibly expensive but also only appropriate for high temperature industrial settings. In other words, totally inappropriate for a residential building! By choosing the five-star rating this will give you the optimal balance of cost, thermal performance and efficiency.

Indoor environment quality

Make sure the interiors of your home are keeping you free from any nasties by using low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints.

VOC paints are not only harmful to the environment, but to humans as well. Chemicals found in VOC paints such as Formaldehyde and Benzene emits vapours that are harmful if inhaled. Paint with less than 250 grams of VOCs per litre is considered low VOC paint.

Also ensure the window placement incorporates passive internal air circulation to encourage cross flow ventilation and natural temperature control throughout the home.

Even if you are only able to implement a few of these strategies, you will be able to create a more sustainable, more environmentally friendly and above all economical first home.

Tread a little lighter on the planet and the earth (plus your wallet) will thank you in the long run.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • An interesting article, thanks for sharing.


  • What great energy hints here for a new house being built. Not that we are doing that, my kids might one day


  • We were thinking if putting in solar panels. But were advised it won’t be any cheaper doing it now than later, so we just left it for later.


  • I have solar panels and certainly recommend them.


  • My uncle is a Architect. If I build my own home later down the track I will get him to design my place to be a sustainable home.


  • thanks for sharing these tips


  • this is a great read every household needs to take this into consideration!


  • This is such a big thing in building now but easier to put it in as building rather than as an after thought


  • It’s definitely cheaper to deal with these things while building because you do save money in the long run.


  • some good advice here thanks


  • Thankyou for your article. We bought an older home 6 years ago. We’ve added solar panels, solar hot water, energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, water efficient shower heads and appliances, and our own vegetable patch. Still haven’t replaced our water tank since it was washed away in a flood, but it is on the to-do list (still have town water). Certainly food for thought if we are able to afford to design and build our own dream home.


  • A great and informative article. The secret in building is to go with a private builder, however, this is often prohibitive in cost and with bank arrangements. However, we do try our best to make inclusions/changes where possible. We built our current house just before the new energy efficiency ratings were put in place so missed out on a few of the compulsory options. We have since installed a water tank, replaced windows that now allow a flow-through of air through the house, obviously have insulation throughout, and are looking at solar panels.


  • Thanks, this is very informative.


  • Great article thanks for sharing


  • I noticed something also that is a great idea. The toilet door opens outwards. The reason is if somebody falls over or is taken ill, you are able to go in there with no risk of hitting the door against the person in there. However like all toilets there is very little space between the toilet and the side walls. If you fall sideways of the toilet you can become wedged between the toilet and the wall. Worse still your head can feel very tight between the toilet cistern and the wall. It happened to me once. It took me more than 5 minutes to wriggle free. I am surprised my watch didn’t break and make the situation more dangerous. Previously I had fallen behind the toilet door before it was altered to open outwards.

    • wow that is a really good point and sorry that you had to find out first hand

      • This really is an excellent idea. Sorry to hear about your mishap. :(


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