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What Can We Do - Energy Efficiency for Builders

Energy efficiency Fact Sheet for Builders and Developers

An ever increasing number of new homes are being built with energy and water efficiency measures incorporated into the design.

Homes that are 'energy smart' operate efficiently, are more comfortable to live in, and have less impact on the environment.

Homes that are not energy smart produce more greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to global warming and hasten its harmful affect on the planet and the way we live. Taking action now will minimise the consequences of global warming.

An energy smart home uses the best combination of building orientation, wall and ceiling insulation, efficient heating, cooling, hot water, lighting and appliances to reduce household energy consumption.

Although including energy and water efficiency when you design a new home or plan renovations will cost a little more initially, these costs will be recouped in energy savings.

Principles of Energy Smart House Design I Orientation I Window Size and Placement I Window Protection I Building Materials I Insulation I Draught-proofing and Weather-sealing I Hot Water Systems I Lighting I Landscaping I Further Information I Acknowledgments

Principles of Energy Smart House Design

You can incorporate energy efficiency into a new home or renovation design by applying these energy saving measures:


The position and orientation of the house is crucial to energy efficiency because of the need for solar panel access. Facing the length of the house true north maximises the benefits of both the winter and summer sun.

Placing living areas such as the family room, kitchen, lounge and dining area to the north takes advantage of the winter sun and reduces the energy required for heating and lighting. Bedrooms and service rooms (laundry, bathrooms and garages) can then be located on the east, west or south sides of the home.

Unlike new homes, the siting options and space available can be limited when doing renovations. Though direct access to the north is not always possible, clever design can compensate for a poorly oriented building – such as a long east-west extension with north facing windows.

Window Size and Placement

Compared to other building elements, windows provide little insulation which means they can allow significant heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. The right size windows, in the right places, are vital:

  • North-facing windows should be incorporated into the house as much as possible.
  • West-facing windows and glass doors should be minimised to reduce over-heating in summer.
  • East-facing windows can provide early morning sun in winter, but can over-heat the home in summer if not properly protected, so keep them small.
  • South-facing windows should also be kept reasonably small, as this side of the home receives no direct sun in winter.

Finally, remember that cross ventilation from cool summer breezes can be achieved by well-positioned opened windows!

Window Protection

More than 25 per cent of the heat in a home can be lost through windows during winter. Heat loss can be minimised by:

  • Close fitting blinds
  • Thick floor-length drapes with pelmets
  • Double-glazing windows

Heat gain during summer can be reduced by:

  • Using vertical shading devices such as external blinds or shutters for north, east and west-facing windows
  • Shading north-facing windows by suitably designed eaves or pergolas which block out the summer sun yet still provide access for winter sun

Building Materials

Heavy-weight building materials such as concrete slab floors and internal masonry walls help stabilise internal temperatures in rooms with a north-facing window by providing thermal mass to absorb heat in winter. Consider using heavy-weight materials wherever possible.

Lightweight materials such as timber floors and weatherboard walls provide little mass for heat storage. Brick veneer walls store heat poorly, as the wall insulation prevents the transfer of heat into the home.


Ceilings, walls and raised floors should be insulated. 'Sarking' in the roof will minimise summer heat gains.

Draughtproofing and Weathersealing

Unwanted air leaks and draughts account for up to 25 per cent of heat loss from a home in winter. To reduce draughts:

  • Fit draught-proofing strips and weather-sealing tape to external doors and windows.
  • Fit fireplaces with a chimney damper in the throat of the chimney.
  • Install exhaust fans with louvres which close when the unit is switched off.
  • Seal existing wall and/or ceiling vents with an appropriate filler.
  • Avoid vented, recessed downlights.

Hot Water Systems

These simple measures can reduce your hot water bills substantially:

  • Install an energy efficient hot water system as near as possible to the kitchen, bathroom and laundry.
  • Insulate hot water pipes.
  • Consider installing a solar or heat pump hot water system.
  • Use AAA rated shower heads.


  • Make good use of natural light, particularly from north-facing windows. Paint your walls and ceilings in light colours.
  • Use energy efficient fluorescent lights in living areas.
  • Avoid large banks of recessed lights (or downlights).
  • Install separate switches for each light.


Deciduous trees on the north side of the home allow the entry of sunlight in winter and provide shade in summer.

Further Information

Energy Smart Information Centre (ESIC)
1300 138 638
The ESIC can provide more information, advice and contact details for designers of energy efficient homes.


The above information was provided by Energy Smart Information Centre (ESIC).

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