Building an Energy-Efficient House

Energy-efficient home designs have become increasingly popular over the years as people and governments become more aware of the impact their homes have on the environment. Energy-efficient building practices are often mandatory under specific laws and regulations in Australia, making it necessary to build homes that meet the necessary standards and requirements.

These national standards for energy-efficient house designs mean every new home is equipped with a cost-effective and sustainable solution for a range of common household requirements like heating and cooling your home. 

So what does it take to build an eco-friendly home?

BASIX Certification

Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) requirements, which the NSW Government introduced in 2004 to encourage sustainable residential development, is the minimum standard for sustainable planning measures across all new residential dwellings and renovations in NSW (over $50,000). The rules also apply to swimming pools of 40,000 litres or more.

BASIX certification accomplishes three critical tasks:

  • More resilient and sustainable housing options.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions and water use in new and refurbished dwellings.
  • Decreases living expenses by using less water and electricity.

The objective of BASIX is to lessen our dependency on non-renewable resources, which has resulted in a 40% reduction in water usage and up to 25% less greenhouse gas emissions.

BASIX certification encompasses three primary areas:

  • Energy
      • Every new home built in NSW must meet a 50% reduction in energy usage target, depending on the type of home you are building and your Energy Target Zone.
  • Water
      • Depending on the Water Target Zone, your water reduction target can range from 40% to 0%. Water usage includes landscaping, fitting and fixtures, alternative water sources, pools and outdoor spas.
  • Thermal Comfort
    • These standards specify the level of comfort that occupants can expect without heating and cooling systems. The goal is to reduce glasshouse gas emissions from artificial heating and cooling by designing efficient buildings and using appropriate construction materials.

These environmental effects provide long-term financial savings for the homeowner and are an essential contribution to the long-term viability of our community.

BASIX Changes

The Minister for Planning and Housing announced updates to BASIX energy use and thermal performance standards on August 29, 2022, which will take effect on October 1, 2023, under the consolidated State Environmental Planning Policy (Sustainable Buildings) 2022. Inside the changes are plans for the NSW Government to achieve net zero by 2050, a national program that aims to achieve zero energy and carbon-ready buildings alongside other states’ energy efficiency provisions which will be included in the National Construction Code (NCC) 2022.

According to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, BASIX has already stopped 12.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas from going into our air in the past 17 years. BASIX hopes to drive down emissions further with these updated standards, saving another 150,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas annually. That’s equivalent to 31 wind turbines running for a year, which is enough electricity to power 27,000 homes yearly. 

In a nutshell, these new standards mean saving as much as $980 a year on energy bills, a cooler and warmer home during summer and winter, and fewer carbon emissions overall. 

Since 2004, it is estimated that over 500,000 BASIX-compliant dwellings have saved 12.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and 340 billion litres of drinking water.

Energy-Efficient House Designs

Any energy-efficient design considers three main factors: orientation, insulation, and ventilation. These factors are known as passive design and work in harmony with the environment and climate to maintain a comfortable temperature inside your home. According to Your Home, an independent guide to energy-efficient house design, “a passively designed home can deliver a lifetime of thermal comfort, low energy bills, and low greenhouse gas emissions.”


The orientation of your home can significantly impact its energy efficiency. Ideally, your home should be oriented to take advantage of natural light and warmth or, conversely, shade and cooling breezes. 

For example, north-facing windows will receive the most sunlight in the southern hemisphere, while south-facing windows will receive the most sunlight in the northern hemisphere. The orientation of your home can reduce the need for artificial lighting and heating. 

Your Home advises that good orientation can significantly improve comfort and reduce heating and cooling needs. However, with our hot Aussie summers, too much sunlight could be an overheating home. 

Determining the best orientation for your home is done about its climate zone. The climate zone will then decide whether or not you need passive heating or cooling.

Passive Heating and Cooling

  • Passive heating orientation maximises northern exposure of walls and windows while minimising east and west exposure to avoid overheating in the summer.
  • Passive cooling orientation minimises sun access with adequate shading (particularly to the east and west) and maximises access to cooling breezes.
  • Winter orientation maximises northern exposure of walls and windows while blocking sun access with proper eaves and other shadings in summer.


Insulation is another crucial factor in energy-efficient home design, acting as a heat flow barrier. Proper insulation can help to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer, reducing the need for heating and cooling. Home builders can add insulation to walls, floors, and roofs for maximum energy efficiency. Insulation can also help with weatherproofing and soundproofing.

Urban Heat Island Effect

Although black and other dark-coloured roofs may appear cool, they increase the heat your home captures. Dark roofs, combined with decreased green space and increased hard surfaces (roads, footpaths etc.), can elevate average temperatures in urban areas by 1 to 13 degrees Celsius.

Cool roofs employ highly reflecting materials to limit light absorption, keeping homes cooler in the summer. As part of its environmental planning standards, the NSW State government is banning dark roofs outright. According to University of New South Wales studies, lighter roofs could reduce ambient temperatures in Sydney by up to 2.4 degrees Celsius.


Proper ventilation is essential for maintaining good indoor air quality and reducing the need for artificial cooling. You can incorporate natural ventilation into your home design by including operable windows and skylights, which allow for natural airflow, reducing the need for air conditioning.

Airtightness is another aspect of ventilation intended to avoid “the unintended introduction of outdoor air into a building or the loss of air to the outside (for example, through poorly sealed glazing or building envelope).” 

Your Home states that “improving airtightness can improve the thermal performance of your home by reducing the influx of cold air in winter and hot air in summer.” Condensation is also considered under ventilation, as excess moisture can affect your home’s ventilation and airtightness.

Although current Australian standards do not consider airtightness for new buildings or renovations, homes are assessed using Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) software to meet national performance requirements under the NCC.

Understanding the Importance of Eco-Friendly Materials

When building an eco-friendly home, choosing suitable materials is crucial. Eco-friendly materials have a minimal environmental impact during production, use, and disposal. Some eco-friendly materials include bamboo, recycled glass, and natural wool insulation. In contrast, non-eco-friendly materials, such as PVC, synthetic carpets, and formaldehyde-based insulation, can harm the environment and human health. 


Energy-efficient windows are designed to keep the heat in during winter and out during summer. They are typically made with multiple panes of glass, low-emissivity coatings, and insulating frames. You can reduce heat loss and gain by installing energy-efficient windows, making your home more comfortable and energy-efficient.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

When selecting appliances for your new home, choosing energy-efficient models is crucial. Look for devices with the ENERGY STAR label, indicating they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines.

For example, space heaters have a typically poor energy star rating. On average, space heaters consume 1,500 watts of electricity, costing roughly 15 cents per hour.

Energy Star Rating Label

Any appliance sold in Australia is given an Energy Star Rating Label between 1 and 6 to inform consumers about how efficient the appliance is. Devices that exceed these efficiency ratings have the Super Efficiency Rating, with a ‘coronet’ of extra stars, extending the scale to 10. These are the energy-efficient appliances you should purchase for your home.

While rating scales are regularly modified, the most critical information on energy star rating labels is the predicted annual electricity usage in kWh per year. Energy consumption is the most trustworthy statistic for comparing old and new equipment, especially when assessing energy expenditures.

Another label to remember is zone-based energy efficiency labelling, which considers where you live in Australia. Regardless of technology, the Zoned Energy Rating Label (ZERL) appears on all water heating and space conditioning appliances.

Energy Rating Calculator

To help Aussies save on their energy bills, the government has the Energy Rating Calculator to compare the complete range of appliances and their energy usage.

What uses the most power?

  • Heating and Cooling account for 40 to 45% of household energy use.
  • Hot Water accounts for around 23% of total residential energy use.
  • Lighting accounts for around 7% of total household energy consumption.
  • Appliances and Technology account for around 25% of residential energy consumption.

A properly insulated home will reduce your reliance on heating and cooling, significantly reducing your power bill.

Moreover, home appliances and technology consume an average of 25% of household energy. While we highly recommend upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances, boosting technology isn’t always in the budget.

Switching appliances and technology off at the power point when not being used can help reduce your power consumption. USB wall chargers are a common culprit, consuming about 0.26W every hour. 


Energy-efficient lighting can help to reduce your energy consumption and lower your energy bills. LED bulbs are a popular choice for energy-efficient lighting, as they use less energy (10W versus 60W for an incandescent bulb) and last longer.

When comparing the energy efficiency of light fixtures for your home, use lumens rather than watts. Lumens are units of measurement for the quantity of light generated by a light bulb, often known as brightness. On the other hand, Watts are the units of measurement for the energy required to power something.

Windows and Glazing

Window treatments or glazing will impact heat transfer from outside to inside your home. Blinds and curtains can provide some window insulation, but double or triple-glazed windows and window films improve homes’ energy efficiency. 

Using Renewable Energy

Solar panels are a popular choice for renewable energy in homes. They convert sunlight into electricity, which you can use to power your home. Installing solar panels can reduce your reliance on grid electricity and lower energy bills. 

Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Reducing your carbon footprint is another essential aspect of building an eco-friendly home. Here’s a roundup of tips to help you reduce your home’s carbon footprint:

  1. Installing a solar panel system is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Not only will it reduce your dependence on non-renewable energy sources, but it can also save you money on your energy bills in the long run.
  2. Energy-efficient appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers can significantly reduce energy consumption and save money.
  3. Composting your food waste is an effective way to reduce the amount of waste you produce and reduce your carbon footprint. It also provides a source of nutrient-rich soil for your garden.
  4. Using low-flow showerheads and faucets can significantly reduce your water consumption and save you money on your water bill.
  5. Installing a rainwater harvesting system can help you collect and reuse rainwater for watering your garden or flushing your toilets, significantly reducing your dependence on municipal water supplies and your water bill.
  6. Landscaping and gardening using native plants that require less water and less maintenance, using organic gardening practices that do not rely on pesticides and herbicides, which can harm the environment.
  7. The location of your home determines how far you need to travel. Choosing an area close to public transportation and amenities like grocery stores, schools, and parks will reduce your need for driving.
  8. Use cold water when practical to avoid the additional power costs of heating water.

Better Built Energy Efficient Homes

Better Built Homes has been working on smaller, more solar-passive designs over the last few months to meet the ever-changing climate and BASIX Requirements. To ensure our modern home designs comply with energy-efficient standards, we source materials from companies that commit to the sustainability of their industries. As a whole, BBH works closely with our clients to understand their needs to ensure we are eco-friendly while maintaining their needs and budget.

Our building process considers passive design factors – Location, Size, and Orientation – to ensure you can naturally heat and cool the home’s common areas while having ample space for Solar Panels.  We do detailed drawings with accurate purchasing estimations to minimise waste and overspending on all builds.

We offer high-level inclusions on all BBH designs, like a 2.0kw Solar Power System, giving our homes a gold standard rating of R2 and R4.1 as informed by BASIC Requirements. Other builders only offer R1 and R3, which never meets the requirements.  

Building an energy-efficient home is a wise and responsible decision that benefits the environment and provides long-term cost savings. By using eco-friendly materials and implementing tips to reduce your carbon footprint, you can significantly reduce your environmental impact and create a comfortable, sustainable home for you and your family.

Better Built Homes can help you bring your energy-efficient house design to life. Discover why we’ve been the Best House Builder in Sydney & NSW for three years – value for money, flexible house designs, genuine personal service, and a house that will last a lifetime. 

Visit one of our display centres to asses our craftmanship. Then once you’re ready to commit, contact us to begin building an energy-efficient home!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an eco-friendly home?

An eco-friendly home is designed to have a minimal environmental impact while providing a comfortable and healthy living space for its occupants.

Why is building an eco-friendly home important?

Building an eco-friendly home is essential because it reduces the home’s carbon footprint and promotes sustainable living.

What are the best building materials for an eco-friendly home?

The best building materials for an eco-friendly home, such as reclaimed wood, recycled steel, and bamboo, are sustainable, non-toxic, and have a low carbon footprint.

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