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Beyond six star design

18 June 2018

The ‘green’ building revolution is well and truly under way in Australia as construction costs and energy prices continue to increase.

As a result, many home owners are looking to go beyond the mandatory requirements of the six-star energy efficiency standard of the National Construction Code (NCC).

Most designs will specify the appropriate materials and technologies to achieve the Standard but the key to making it happen is the builder and their knowledge. The level of detail and technologies will determine how far the efficiencies can go to create a comfortable and low cost home.

With many builders and architects skilled in designing higher rated homes, it is becoming easier for home owners to maximise energy efficiency.

“Most home owners are aware of what it is to have an energy efficient home but don’t really understand the repercussions of the decisions they make. For example, asking for an energy efficient home that has a lot of glass and high ceilings in a cool climate reduces the efficiency,” says Maxa Design co-director Sven Maxa.

“Equally, the orientation of the house on the block can make the difference on how much solar gain is achieved. It important the builder is mindful of those conflicts and knows how to maximise the best possible results with what you have.”

While some people might be concerned that having a high star rating means having to incorporate modern architecture into the design, Sven says ultimately it’s just about the right arrangement of rooms, placement of windows and insulation.

“What makes a home more liveable is working with your climate, ensuring cross air flow for ventilation and using non-toxic materials, such as low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paints and furnishings, which are known to off-gas. Visual connection with the surrounding landscape can also help with the wellbeing of the resident and the comfort of the home.”

It is therefore important that the builder understands the house design and how the construction process needs to unfold. The builder should also know the product specifications and any alternatives so that if a product needs to be substituted with another brand, the final outcome will be the same.

Ultimately, what makes a high star rated home effective is how comfortable it is, with light, ventilation and thermal comfort determining its liveability. For those seeking more sustainable options, then add-ons such as water tanks, water recycling and renewable energy are worth considering.

 

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As the editor of BUILD I have a keen interest in sustainable housing and new technologies.

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