Sustainable Design Features

The house includes 100 features that you won’t find in your traditional house. image020This may help it be one of the most sustainable* homes in Australia today. Can you use some of these ideas to ‘green’ your home and reduce your bills?

This house was a leader for its time (2009) and is still a leader in several domains. It contains:

Energy – Electricity

1. a 11kW photovoltaic system, which can make the house carbon neutral – operationally (and ‘Impact Positive’ ‘ producing more energy than the house needs).

2. Low wattage LED lightbulbs: No wasteful halogens spot lights that spread light into corners of the house that never get used.

3. Lower wattage LCD TV, rather than a high wattage Plasma TV.

4. Virtual Power Plant (Reposit technology)

5. Standby power removed, ‘Vampire/Phantom’ loads are negated by turning appliances off at the wall (or by voice control) when not in use.

6. Energy efficient refrigerator.

7. Energy efficient washing machine.

8. An ‘evacuated tube Solar Hot Water system’. A traditional home uses 28% of its power just to heat hot water.

9. Energy efficient induction cooktop.

10. Smart House technology enabling automatic and voice control

11. High efficiency split system air conditioning, not using R410 gas, to reduce asthma in occupants.

Energy ‘ Embodied Energy and Materials

12. Use of recycled besser blocks.

13. Extensive use of recycled timber (eg. floor boards from an old barns and bridge timbers).

14. Recycled doors.

15. Use of bamboo decking from sustainably managed forests.

16. Use of a Hi-Macs benchtop (which is low-VOC, low waste and repairable, making it very long lasting).

17. Use of recycled steel (including train tracks for balcony beams, star pickets in the garden and corrugated steel sheeting in sections).

18. Use of second hand furniture, made locally and from sustainably managed and certified forests where possible.

19. Recycled spotted-gum and golden cypress timber kitchen doors.

20. Use of a second hand garage door with minor marks, but works just fine.

21. Use of only local Australian tiles, rather than imported products which harbour many more ‘transport miles’ (embodied energy).

22. Use of long lasting plastic splashbacks called Zenolite, that are 100% recyclable; rather than high embodied energy glass.

Design – Solar Passive design principles were used to guide the entire plan

23. Solar-North orientated house.

24. Maximised solar access (because with correctly sized eaves, you can make the sun work for you) i.e. elongated East-West building layout. Shading of internal areas to reduce heat gain in summer.

25. Energy efficient ceiling fans in all living areas.

26. A large central breezeway to maximise natural ventilation, removing the need to have fans on all summer and adding daylight.

27. Suspended concrete slab in the living area to provide additional thermal mass i.e. for a heat bank in winter and cooling mass in summer.

28. High transmission, Low emissivity (low-e) glazing.

29. Double Glazed UPVC low-e high performance windows in sections of the house, including all (small) west facing windows.

30. Full length curtains and blinds to manage heat and cold.

31. Design integrated to use the large tree on the site (to provide shading from the hot western afternoon sun.

32. Roof design to ensure the photovoltaic panels are at the optimal pitch (10 to 28 degrees) and solar hot water (33-38 degrees).

33. More external (deck) space than a traditional home, as this is cheaper to build and encourages more outdoor living, where the quality of the air is greater and sun provides essential vitamin D etc.

34. Covered outdoor space to ensure all year round outdoor living is possible.

35. Inclusions to ensure a 7+ Star Energy Rating (using Accurate). This the minimum rating in much of Europe and USA. Australian States only typically mandate 5 or 6 Star and the actual homes typically only reach 3-4 star in reality once built. Most older homes only rate 0 to 2 stars Australia-wide.

36. Use of bulk insulation and double-sided reinforced foil insulation to help keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter.

37. Ventilation around every side of the refrigerator to ensure it works optimally.

38. Timer on the hot water booster, which rarely needs to run.

39. Security screening to promote breezes and safety.

40. Use of clearstory windows to bring more light into the living pavilion and onto an intentional strip of concrete slab in the kitchen.

41. Use of louvre windows to maximise airflow and control.


42. Use of large ventilated skylights in bathrooms and corridor to remove the need for lights during sunlight hours and encourage natural ventilation.

43. Sensor lights in corridors, walk in robes and near external walkways, to improve adaptability (which is part of sustainability) i.e. ease of use, reduce energy and improve safety.

44. Low and minimised lighting to adhere to the Dark Sky Policy, which minimizes glare, light trespass and light pollution, while maintaining night-time safety/security, security. It also does not adversely impact on night-time visual amenity so the stars are very visible all night. This policy also helps to reduce light pollution which disrupts the breeding cycles of insects which are vital parts of our biosphere. This includes the use of pendant lights to ensure light is applied more directly to where it is required (e.g. bench tops and tables). Task-specific wall lights are also used instead of flood lights.

Adaptability and Accessibility

45. Extra wide 870mm doors to cater for wheelchair access.

46. Minimisation of stairs to enhance access i.e. ramps throughout and to each level.

47. Semi-recessed bathroom basin (to enable a wheelchair to get under them if required).

48. Hobless (step free) shower floors.

49. Separate and accessible Home Office.

50. Adjustable height shower heads.

51. Lever and D-shaped handles for doors, cupboards and drawers

52. Rounded corners on bench tops for safety.

53. Lever water taps, that only use cold water when in the middle position (not some hot and cold water).

54. Extra wide garage to enable battery storage.

55. 13kW battery energy storage system


56. No ‘on site council rubbish service’ which encourages all local village residents to reduce their waste. After compositing green waste on-site, residents take there waste and recycling the central ‘Reduce, Reuse Recycle’ centre which contains over 22 different reuse and recycling options including egg cartons, plastic bags, eWaste, light globes, toys, toiletries, toothbrushes, batteries, computer cables, stationary.


57. Water Efficient fittings shower heads i.e. high WELS rating

58. Water efficient tap fittings.

59. Water efficient dishwasher (as on their ‘eco’ cycle, dishwashers can use much less water compared to hand washing).

60. Water and energy efficient front-loading washing machine.

61. Water tanks with a capacity of over 50,000 litres – for all potable (drinking) water.

62. Gutterguard in all roof gutters to maximise on site water quality. Undersink filtration system.

63. Connection to the Ecovillage recycled water system, that recycles all black and grey water making the area 100% self sufficient for water.

64. Use of Best Practice Guidelines for the ‘Control of Storm Water Pollution from Building Sites’.

65. Sediment and erosion control during construction.

66. Recycled water back to the house for use in all toilets and irrigation on plants.

Air Conditioning and Air Quality

67. The house is H-Shaped enabling cross flow ventilation through every room on every side.

68. Recycling of 80%+ of all waste materials from site during and after construction.


69. Swale drainage to minimise the need for guttering and excessive water-flow control, and to control water for even garden disbursement.

70. Native species (Australian) to reduce weed species and support local wildlife eg. native birds and bees that pollinate our fruit trees.

71. Endemic species – local to the area, to ensure drought tolerance etc. Bird species have grown from 40 to over 196 counted species even though the farm has now changed to residential and mixed use purposes.

72. Food producing species (fruit trees, herbs and vegetables) to make food available at the door, to reduce transport costs and improve human health.

73. Chickens: for local organic eggs and to fertilise the gardens.

74. Minimization of continuous strip footings to reduce the geological impact on natural water movement and erosion

75. Use of only water-permeable road and pathways, to allow natural drainage to occur and avoid water build-up and hence storm-water management (road gutters).

76. No lawn to minimise water usage. Lawns are available within the community on a mass scale, which is a far more sustainable and community orientated solution.


77. Use of only low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) finishes and paints eg. Rockcote and Resene paints and renders.

78. Use of non-toxic cleaners, for dish washing, clothes washing, hand washing, body washing etc

79. No artificial sprays or herbicides on the garden to guarantee organic food production and remove the chance of runoff polluting nearby waterways and eventually oceans (where it all ends up eventually).

80. 99% reduction in the use of PVC. We preference HDPE instead for heath reasons.

81. No use of CCA treated timber which contains arsenic and still exists in ‘coppers logs’ in some children’s playgrounds.

82. Use of non-toxic timber finishes that are water based and don’t leach toxins into the local water supply.

83. Adequately illuminated and ventilated bathrooms and bedrooms to remove the ability of toxic mould to breed.


84. The Ecovillage has laid its own fibre-optic network underground to ensure it can provide all homes with high-speed voice (phone) and data (internet) services. This includes most homes just sharing just one TV Antenna at the community centre, via the underground (signal) network. The ‘Ecovillage Communications Network’ provides the opportunity for people to work from home and within the community, saving transport costs and time.

85. The Ecovillage at Currumbin has developed its own custom community portal, that allows internal dialogue daily via email groups, of which there are over 40 optional sub-groups to participate in. It is also the communities primary Community Facility booking system and file storage system (>2000 files).

86. Data and coax points in every room to allow for independence and higher speed connections.

87. ‘Star wiring’ in sections of the house to future proof it. ie; CAT UTP Cable to all rooms for internet and VOIP phone connections.


88. Within walking distance of 400 neighbours and friends, and the $4M community centre.

89. Use of bicycles to get to local facilities.

90. Smaller EcoHamlet roads to reduce speeds and hard (hot) impermeable surfaces which large roads inherently bring.


91. Use of a Variable Speed Drive (VSD) water pump, which are much more efficient compared to a standard single-speed straight line pump.  Almost 10% of the worlds energy is used by pumps, and most of those are inefficient.

92. Operable ventilation in clearstory windows to evacuate hot summer air.

93. Use of a digital (internal and external) weather monitor to ensure human error does not affect heating and cooling set temperatures.

94. Composting of all food scraps to reduce waste and enhance compost quality which is used to enhance food production.

95. Use of reusable bags and boxes for shopping and storage. Avoidance of non-recyclable packaging.

96. Residents give preference to purchasing locally produced produce.

97. Minimise purchase of meat products and only from organic, local, free-range, humanely raised animals.

98. Inclusion of a revolutionary innovative end-user touch-screen interface, which shows how the house is using water, electricity and gas (and temperature) in real time. This raises awareness of occupants and helps them to manage and reduce their utility consumption.


99. Built in the Ecovillage at Currumbin, to enhance sustainability on a local and more global scale. The Community ensures common facilities are shared which reduced embodied energy, greenhouse gases and maintenance costs eg; no individual swimming pools are permitted, everyone uses the beautiful community pool. The house also includes an intentional 15m2 of office space for local sustainable business.

100. Respect for the traditional owners of the land, the Kombumerri at the opening of our community meetings and through naming of our Ecohamlets.

101. No artificial fencing to remove barriers between neighbours, encouraging tolerance, and encourage natural soft planting/hedges.

Even with all these features the house it not perfect, but given the scope and limits, it can demonstrate that ‘anything is possible’.

Note that each house has different characteristics (climate, land conditions and occupant needs to fulfill) so each subsequent home can be based on the same principles but should not attempt to copy or include specific or prescriptive solutions just for the sake of it. The solution needs to be holistic, integrated and flexible and matched with the climate (and future climate projections, which show temperatures locally are likely to rise on average by 4 degrees by 2090 which will cause mass global disruption without immediate carbon emission reduction.

*Sustainability Theory 101*

1.    To be truly sustainable, a house would need to be more like an igloo, cow-hide tent or cave ‘ to be 100% recyclable, non-toxic, carbon neutral and match the earth’s live carrying capacity. Modern day humans have not got there yet and are still in fact doing more polluting that improvement to the environment.

2.  Note also that the embodied energy in our homes today, far exceeds the use we get out of them, making them still  damaging to the environment. This is because of the steel, aluminium, concrete, plastics and other human made products that require significant amounts of energy in production.

3. Truly carbon neutral homes produce more renewable energy than they use, at a point in time, and produce more energy than went into making the home as well. That is, operational energy and embodied component energy.

Copyright Ecomplish Sustainabiltiy- for additional advice contact us.

Queensland Australia