9 September 2019

Clean, green and thrifty: Canberra's inspirational homes to open up for Sustainable House Day

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Beach House

The Canberra Beach House in Wright is one of 11 Canberra homes on display. Photos: Supplied.

If you’re reeling from bill shock after a Canberra winter then next Sunday’s Sustainable House Day should provide plenty of tips on how to slash those energy costs and live in a healthier and more comfortable home.

Eleven Canberra-area homes showcasing the design features for low-cost living will open their doors to the public on 15 September as part of a national event that gives people a rare view into exceptional homes designed, built or renovated with healthy and environmental living in mind.

You will be able to speak to and learn from homeowners who are reaping the benefits of making the shift to sustainable living.

Organiser Renew, a not-for-profit organisation that provides independent advice on sustainable living, says there a key trends this year, including all-electric properties, net-zero energy homes, the Passive House movement, adding an electric vehicle into the home energy mix and earth building construction.

It says this year a majority of houses have either migrated off gas to be all-electric, or are being built without gas in the first place. Ten of the 11 homes opening in the Canberra-area are all-electric, including Canberra Beach House at Wright.

They’re switching off the mains gas, using heat pumps, reverse cycle air conditioning and induction cooktops, powered by rooftop solar, as a way to reduce energy bills as well as their carbon footprints. Renew’s research shows this is the best approach to save money, as well as the environment.

The Mill House is Coombs an 8 Star home.

Many homes are net-zero energy, meaning they produce more energy than they consume leaving some homeowners with no or negative energy bills, including Econ Houz 9 Stars Net Zero Affordable Passive House in Crace. Many houses are also exceeding the 6 Star minimum, including The Mill House in Coombs, which is 8 Stars.

There are record number of certified (or almost certified) Passive House (Passivhaus) houses, including Queanbeyan Passive House – Retrofit 1900(ish) Heritage Cottage. Passive Houses are the gold standard of well-sealed, efficient houses that maintain a constant temperature throughout the year.

A number of households are adding an electric vehicle into the mix and are able to produce a good portion of the energy they need for both their household energy and transport energy with their rooftop solar, including O’Connor Dual Occupancy.

Queanbeyan Passive House.

Earth building construction, including hemp, rammed earth and strawbale, is featuring prominently this year, including including the beautiful Waramanga Rammed Earth house.

“Everyone wants a home that is well-designed, healthy, and runs efficiently in an age of high energy bills,” said Donna Luckman, CEO, Renew.

“Sustainable House Day allows Australians to see real homes that have achieved this, and get unbiased advice on how to make their homes more comfortable and cheaper to run.”

Waramanga Rammed Earth House.

Held annually since 2001, the event was taken over by Renew four years ago and has since doubled in size.

Ms Luckman said there was now more diverse range of properties on display.

“It’s not a fringe thing any more. We’re getting more volume builders opening up as well as apartments,” she said.

The Blue House in O’Connor.

Many had seen cost as a barrier to building a sustainable house but Ms Luckman said it was really all about good design, “so you don’t have to pay extra for the bells and whistles”, and the quality of the build.

She said costs could be recovered quickly through lower energy bills.

Entry to homes is free, with some homes requesting a gold coin donation and a few homes conducting ticketed tours.

A full list of homes opening on Sustainable House Day 2019 and registration is available at sustainablehouseday.com.

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