21 Clever sustainable design ideas to inspire your next project

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sustainable home ideas
Image credit: TS Constructions

Last year, over 13,000 scientists worldwide agreed to use the terms ‘climate crisis’ and ‘climate emergency’ to strongly convey a crucial message: climate change is the biggest environmental emergency of the millennia and it requires bold, immediate actions. This effort not only stirred up a lot of industries, it also encouraged homeowners all over the world to evaluate their current home designs and rethink ways to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle. If you are in the process of planning a new build or a renovation and you want to be a part of this green movement, consider adapting these sustainable design ideas:

sustainable home ideas
Image credit: Jack Lovel

Choose a safe place to build your house

Try to avoid building your home in dangerous and environmentally sensitive areas. If you have plans of building in these areas (i.e. you own the land within a flood zone or bushfire zone and you plan to develop it), make sure that your structure is designed to withstand the hazard. To get the best outcome, work with building designers and construction professionals with experience in working on similar projects. 

What if you’re developing or renovating in the city?

Choose to build or purchase a property to renovate near public transportation and infrastructures such as schools, supermarkets, offices, and hospitals. Living in a home that’s within walking distance to everything significantly reduces your impact to the environment.  

Image credit: RAArchitects

Rethink the size of the house

Australians dream of owning and living huge, spacious houses but building and living in a smaller home is more eco-conscious decision for the following reasons: 

  • Building a smaller house requires fewer building materials than building a larger house. The material intensity of a smaller house is lower too!.
  • Running a smaller house is cheaper as it consumes less power for heating and cooling. 

Building and living in a smaller house is one of the biggest ways to reduce your carbon footprint, but ensure that your home still provides what you and your family needs. Reassess your needs as you rethink the size of the house you plan to build to avoid going overboard. For best results, work with a building designer in the process. 

Get a free, non-obligation quote here.

sustainable home ideas
Image credit: Michael Nicholson Photography

Orient the house properly

It is important to orient the house towards the right direction for capturing sunlight to heat and brighten your home naturally. When done properly, your home will be able to harness the power of the sun in all seasons and you will drastically reduce the costs of running your home.  

Geography is a factor in house orientation. If you’re living in the southern part of the country, orient your house to get as much natural lighting. If you are living in the northern part of the country, orient your house to reduce radiant heat. 

For best results, work with a building designer who practices passive design principles in their projects. These professionals understand the movement of the sun throughout the seasons, and they set your windows in the right places so it captures as much daylight, especially during the cooler months.  

Plan your home’s layout 

Get your home’s layout right so that it requires minimal heating or cooling. Situate the living rooms on the northern part of the house and near the windows and openings. Put the bedrooms next to each other to save money on air conditioning. Apart from building designers, you’re also going to need the help of Thermal Performance Assessors to get this right.

Thermal Performance Assessors can help you determine how each room in your house performs in extreme hot and cold seasons, then provide suggestions on how to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

Image credit: David Campbell

Use local building materials to build your house

Research about the area where you plan to build to find out what building materials are available for you. Inform your designer and builder about your decision to use only local building products on your project. Ask them about their recommended local material suppliers or about other locally-made products sold by local businesses. 

Purchasing local building materials is a greener choice than buying materials overseas or across the country. Less shipping time drastically lowers carbon footprint. 

Use recycled building materials when possible

If you are renovating or knocking down the original house to rebuild, consider reusing some of the materials from the old house and using recycled building materials as well. 

Here are some of the sustainable materials you can use to build your new home: 

  • Eco-friendly countertop brands
  • Steel products made from recycled metal
  • Reclaimed bricks, stone, and pavers
  • Reclaimed timber
  • Uncracked roof shingles

You can reuse and recycle so much more, especially when your builders carefully demolish the original house. Recycling also diminishes waste produced during construction.

Be on the lookout for green building materials sold in your area as well. These are more accessible to buyers nowadays.

sustainable home ideas
Image credit: Anderson Architecture

Insulate your home’s ceiling, walls, and underflooring 

Focus heavily on getting the insulation of your new home right. The insulation is an essential element of the building envelope, and this keeps the home interiors comfortable despite the extreme hot and cold weather prevailing outside. 

It is highly recommended to work with home insulation experts to get this job right. They will calculate how much insulation your home needs, where to put them, and which kind to install. Working with experts also assures you that you meet the minimum standards as mandated by the Building Code of Australia.  

Seal your home for energy efficiency

Air sealing your home ensures air tightness and to stop the air leaking through the small cracks and crevices of your house. This is best done during the installation of your new insulation material. The better insulated a house is, the less air conditioned air escapes, and the more energy-efficient your home becomes.

Image credits: Clare Cousins

Purchase sustainable building materials for your build

We previously wrote about the materials and finishes for building your sustainable house, and recommended the use of the following: 

  • Fibre-cement
  • Brick and masonry
  • Reclaimed timber
  • Hardwood fibreboard cladding
  • Metal
  • Stucco
  • Solar roof tiles
  • Low VOC or VOC-free paint
  • Zero VOC glue 

There are many brands and varieties of these products nowadays. Opt for and trust the durable and high-quality products.

Image credit: ArchiBlox

Select energy-efficient glazed doors and windows

Many Australian homes feature the use of massive windows and glass doors. These need to be energy-efficient. Opt for the double and triple glazed windows and doors, and seal the edges to avoid air leakage. Purchase high-quality doors and windows and have them install the right way. To avoid heat gain through the windows, install and use the correct form of window treatments as well.

sustainable home ideas
Image credit: Rhys Holland

Use Energy Star rated appliances

It is not enough to have a sustainable design for your home. To be fully sustainable and eco-friendly, you need to switch to more energy-efficient appliances. Look for Energy Star rated appliances! The more stars, the more energy efficient it is! 

Use LED lights all around the house

Almost all Australian homeowners want to use LED lights because these consume less power and reduce your electricity bills. LED lights also last longer than incandescent bulbs. 

Upgrade your HVAC with a smart thermostat

The heaters and air conditioners consume the biggest chunk of power in many homes nowadays. To cut costs here, upgrade your HVAC system using more energy efficient equipment and have them installed properly by HVAC specialists. To manage your indoor heating and cooling, install a smart thermostat. Using a smart thermostat learns your indoor temperature preferences and adjusts depending on the weather outside, thus reducing your energy consumption.

smart thermostat
Image credit: NEST

Water efficient tapware and fixtures

Sustainable design help save water too. It is highly recommended to use fixtures and fittings that help you achieve this goal. Look for the WELS label on toilets and other plumbing fixtures. The WELS label informs you about the water consumption or water flow figure of the item. Always opt for the dual flush toilets so you can flush water as needed. Install faucets and showerheads with low-flow water rates to avoid being wasteful.

Collect rainwater

Make use of rainwater as well! Many sustainable home designs feature roof gutters with downspouts leading to a water tank at the back of the house (or under the house). Use the rainwater you’ve collected on your gardening and landscaping needs. Use it to clean the toilet and outdoor spaces.

Image credit: The Fifth Estate

Install solar roof tiles 

Use renewable energy to run your home to drastically reduce your power bills. Installing solar panels on the roof is the most popular route for many homeowners. However, we encourage you to explore solar roof tiles as an alternative to the typical solar panels. These give your home an aesthetically pleasing roof line that also generates electricity. Add a battery to your solar power home system so you can store surplus energy and use it at night. 

Opt for a solar water heater on the roof 

A solar water heater is a device that you put on the roof to absorb the radiant energy of the sun and use it to provide your family’s daily hot water needs. This device has a built-in battery, hence it stores surplus energy for later use. It runs amidst cloudy and gloomy weather, and still provides up to 80% of a small family’s daily hot water needs for two to three days. 

This is a feature that many eco-conscious homeowners want in their homes, for this heats up their water without surging their power bills. Using a solar water heater translates into energy savings because the household doesn’t primarily rely on electric heaters. 

solar roof tiles
Image credit: Nulok Roofing

Grow a vegetable garden and cultivate local plant species

Allocate space for growing your own vegetable and fruit garden outside the house. It’s fun and healthy to grow your own food! To get the best results, choose plant species that will thrive in your area. Get recommendations and advice from local plant experts. 

If there’s not much space available, consider a vertical garden system that keeps plants alive with minimal watering and maintenance.

Image credit: Code Green Pty Ltd

Choose durable building materials

Build a home that will last for generations! Use high-quality, durable building materials. Build smart; design a home that suits its location and the climate and build it well from the ground up. Make use of construction techniques that will preserve the life of the materials used to build your home as well. 

Build a home with your family in mind

Of course, think of your family when you plan for your sustainable home! 

Do you want a healthier environment for your family? 

Is your home too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, and you want to fix that? 

Do you want to reduce the costs of running your home and practice better energy consumption?

Or, do you want to build a sustainable design for your home now because they are forecasted to cost more in the future?

The stronger your motivation, the bigger your desire to build a sustainable design for your dream home. Make it happen; build a home that makes you and your family happy.

Adapt these sustainable design ideas on your next build

Building a sustainable design for your home involves major considerations from choosing the building materials to use and adapting green designs and construction methods. May these sustainable design ideas help you build a home that is truly energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly.

To help you embark on this project, sign up to the Superdraft for free! This is a platform that helps you get in touch with a building designer near you, enabling you to get expert opinions pertinent to the home design you want to build.

Superdraft can also help you:

  • Get matched with a pro for your project through a designer match technology in our platform
  • Find free-to-access resources to help you plan your project (including thousands of design ideas in our Inspiration Gallery, trends guides, e-books, and more)
  • Manage your project from design to build through our helpful project coordination tools and features. 
  • Experience your design in a life-like 3D and play with colours and materials from the comfort of your home
  • Get free detailed quotes for your project

Register at Superdraft today to access all these perks!

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