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Buying off the plan

Close-up of a hand holding a pen over a drawing of a house

Being unable to physically see an apartment or house prior to buying can make it hard to get a sense key elements such as light and ventilation. Buyers are urged to beware of greenwashing, where builders make misleading or exaggerated claims about the environmental benefits of these homes.

Sustainable developments are increasing in popularity, with people recognising the value, both financial and environmental, of choosing well-designed, resource efficient homes and apartments. Taking a careful look at the plans and layout of an off the plan apartment, together with asking your builder key questions, can help ensure that you purchase what you think you are purchasing.

Questions to ask your builder or developer

Energy efficiency and lighting

Does the property have adequate access to sunlight?

Are the living areas facing north? Is there any overshadowing?

What NatHERs star rating is the property?

Does the property have energy efficient lighting and lighting controls?

Ensure living areas, including kitchen and bedrooms, do not require any artificial lighting throughout the day.

Does the property have energy efficient heating and cooling appliances?

Are there fans for example? Is there sufficient shading from the summer sun? Are there external fixed and/or flexible shading devices?

Does the property provide onsite renewable energy generation?

Such as solar panels or solar hot water systems?

Transport

Does the property have adequate bike parking, and is it near amenities and public transport?

For residential developments, is there at least one secure bicycle parking space per dwelling and one visitor bicycle parking space per four dwellings?

Does the property have a green travel plan (such as Met tickets) as part of the body corporation fee?

This could include public transport passes, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and share car membership.

Ventilation and air quality

Does the property have natural ventilation?

Is the basement carpark naturally ventilated?

Is carbon monoxide monitoring used to control the speed and operation of ventilation fans? 

Does the property allow you to dry washing outdoor (in a courtyard for example)?

External drying spaces give the occupant the opportunity to use sun and wind to dry clothes rather than electrical appliances. Apartment buildings could provide retractable drying racks on individual balconies or a common clothes line on the building's roof terrace.

Does the property have low volatile organic compounds?

Many materials used in the fit-out and construction of homes and commercial buildings contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which pose serious health risks to building occupants. Alternative low/no VOC products are available including: paints, coatings, sealants, carpets and pressed wood products (for example, cabinetry and furniture).

Waste and recycling

Is there onsite management of food waste and garden waste?

Does the property provide recycling facilities that are at least as convenient for building occupants as general household waste facilities?

Water and vegetation

Does the property have water efficiency labelling and standards (WELS) rated fittings within one star of best available?

Does the property have a rainwater tank, sized to capture the vast majority of otherwise discharged rainwater, and plumbed to a consistent year round water use, such as toilet flushing?

Does the property have low water-consuming plants?

Is there a green wall, living wall or vertical garden or roof?

Does the property use non-potable (not of drinking quality) water to supply any irrigation systems?

Does the apartment block have seperate water meters in individual dwellings and non-residential areas within the same development?

Does the property cover as much area as possible with vegetation to maximise thermal benefits?

For green roofs, maximise the planting area for greatest stormwater benefits.

Windows and insulation

What type of window frames and glazing treatments have been used?

And what is the specfied U-value of the windows?

What are the R values for the ceiling, wall and floor insulation?


Smart Blocks logoSmart Blocks online toolkit

Smart Blocks is a national program to help improve the energy efficiency of apartment buildings. The Smart Blocks online toolkit can help you identify what improvements can be made to a building.

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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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