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Build for energy efficiency

Bi-fold doors at the back of a house, opening onto a paved patio

Using good design principles can save energy, water and money, while creating a more enjoyable and comfortable home. All new homes, home renovations, alterations and additions need to comply with the 6-star standard in the National Construction Code. Go up just one star, however, and you will reduce your heating and cooling energy needs – and your energy bills – by 30 per cent.

Key principles of energy efficient building design

Block orientation

When choosing a block for your home, make sure it will allow you to place the living areas where you spend the most time on the north side of the house. This will take advantage of the winter sun, keeping these rooms warm, light and bright. Avoid or minimise windows facing west or east and make sure they are well shaded for summer, and minimise south facing windows as these don't get any winter sun. Ask your architect or designer for advice about taking advantage of natural light.

Building materials

Does your builder:

  • buy local materials to reduce carbon footprint
  • select materials that don't have toxic elements and can be recycled and reused
  • source timber from sustainable plantations and buy local materials to reduce carbon footprint.

Insulation

Insulating your existing ceiling, walls and floors during your building can save you up to 45 per cent on the cost of running your home. Insulation is a one-time cost that will last the lifetime of your house, provided it is installed correctly. Add as much insulation as possible and make sure that it is correctly installed without gaps or being compressed.

Zoning and efficient heating and cooling

Designing zones in your home will allow you to efficiently heat and efficiently cool rooms individually. Doors are a great way to zone areas of your home, for example between corridors and bedrooms or living areas. This way you don't need to spend money heating or cooling rooms that you are not using. Sliding doors will be less effective as they have large gaps in the recess, which allow the air to flow freely. Choose the most energy efficient heating system and energy efficient cooling system to save energy and significantly reduce your energy bills.

Window frames, glazing and shading

Smarter window design and external shading can make your home bright and comfortable all year round. Double glazing, which has become less expensive, will reduce heat losses from your home, and reduce heat gain through your windows in summer. Energy efficient windows can reduce heat losses through the window by up to 50 per cent compared to a single glazed window.

Draught proofing your home

Up to 25 per cent of winter heat loss from existing houses is caused by air leakage (also known as draughts). Make sure external doors and window closures are properly weather sealed, and use self-closing extraction fans and approved covers over any downlights. Wall penetrations should also be sealed during construction. Draught proof your home to save energy and money.

Ventilation

Sealing your home to reduce draughts means you need to provide adequate ventilation when and where necessary such as in the kitchen, bathroom, toilet and laundry. Exhaust fans and windows that can open are a good option, or if the house is very well sealed you might consider a heat recovery ventilation system. These systems provide a steady flow of fresh air but greatly reduce the need to heat or cool it each time.

Efficient lighting

Smarter lighting design and taking advantage of natural light will save you money on your ongoing energy bills. Check with your electrician to make sure the lights and any covers comply with Australian electrical safety requirements.

Energy efficient appliances

When choosing fridges, televisions, washing machines, dishwashers and so on, choose energy efficient appliances with the highest energy star ratings. Even if you pay a little more for these appliances they will save you money over time.

Water

Save water by considering water recycling systems and choosing water saving fittings and appliances. Keep kitchens and wet areas easily updateable to allow for design, usage and technology changes.

Solar power and solar hot water systems

Installing a solar PV system will allow you to generate renewable energy and reduce your electricity bills. A solar hot water system might be more expensive to buy and install, but the running costs will be significantly lower.

Waste minimisation

Over 75 per cent of construction waste is clean, excavated material, such as concrete, bricks and timber which can often be recycled. Ask your builder about waste minimisation strategy and documentation.


Useful information and resources

  • Master Builders Association of Victoria has been delivering the Green Living program to the building industry for the past 10 years. This program aims to improve the skills of builders, enabling them to build houses that are comfortable and healthy for their clients with minimal impact on the environment.
  • Design for Place offers sustainable, energy-efficient housing designs free to download. The architect-designed suite of plans are a significant resource for anyone planning a new home.

Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard

Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard

A Scorecard energy efficiency assessment will help you identify where your home is using the most energy, give it a Scorecard energy efficiency star rating, and suggest ways to make it more comfortable and more energy efficient to run. Whether you're selling, buying, renovating, looking to cut power bills or feel more comfortable in your home, Scorecard can help.

Visit the Scorecard website


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Ratings, codes and standards

Learn about the National Construction Code and the regulations, codes and standards that will help you improve your sustainability.

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The right advice

Working with the right people is crucial to a successful building project. Make energy efficiency a priority when you choose your architect, building designer and other professionals.

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Building or renovating?

If you're building a home or undertaking a renovation, you might like to refer to our list of questions to ask your builder, architect or installer.

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