What is sustainable design?

We’ve seen a rise in sustainable design, or at least the term ‘sustainable design’ being thrown around a lot. But for all the hype about it, what does it actually mean for those people looking to design a sustainable home?

Sustainable design goes beyond just environmental design, also incorporating social and economic sustainability as part of the process. It can be applied to all kinds of objects and services, however we’re here to talk houses.

So if you’re looking for a sustainable home design, what should you be considering?

Passive homes

A relatively new buzz word, passive homes are designed to take advantage of the climate to help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, with a goal to reduce or eliminate the need for a heating or cooling unit. It’s achieved through thoughtful process into the orientation of your home, installing adjustable shading and insulation, as well as choosing the right building materials for the climate you live in. For those living in older homes, you can even eliminate much of the cool air in your home by sealing up any air leaks to help trap warmth in Winter. Heating and cooling units account for up to 40% of Australian energy bills, so looking for alternatives is a great way to not only be environmentally friendly, but also save money.


One of the best ways to reduce your energy bills, as well as your carbon footprint, is to install energy efficient heating and cooling and one of the best options available right now is solar heating or wind generators. The initial outlay can be expensive, although rebates and other incentives may offset much of this cost, and they pay themselves off relatively quickly due to their low running costs. Choosing smart appliances and energy-efficient lighting with high energy ratings also helps reduce your energy bill and carbon footprint – so consider more than just price when purchasing that new fridge, because lower energy ratings can end up costing you more in the long run.


It’s no secret that Australia has a massive water problem. Droughts are rife most Summers and even occasional Winters, so it’s important that we work together to ensure the longevity of our drinkable water supply. You might think you can’t make much of an impact on your own, but there are several steps homes can take to help improve water sustainability through two major steps:

1.Reducing the quantity of water we consume
2.Improving water quality by managing stormwater and wastewater

Neither of these things involves drinking less water, but rather managing the other uses of water in the house. Turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, taking shorter showers and installing water-efficient showerheads, toilets and taps are all ways you can reduce your water use inside. Heading outside, choosing indigenous plants, mulching and using water efficient irrigation systems, as well as considering the installation of a rainwater tank can help reduce your footprint. You can also consider re-routing your wastewater (often called grey water) to the garden and even your toilet, as long as low sodium and low phosphorus detergents are used in the grey water.

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