Hills to Headland - Sustainable Housing Strategies

Hills to Headland - Sustainable Housing Strategies

September 5th, 2016

We were pleased to write an Article on Sustainable Housing for the Spring Edition of the Gold Coast Hills to Headlands newsletter.

See their website for more information, or read on below


What does sustainability mean for our homes, and in our climate?


The Gold Coast climate varies from the beaches, through to the cooler ‘Hills’ part of ‘Hills to Headlands’.

Get to know your area

Your home can be tailored to suit your site better if you understand it better.

Build your home to fit you

Australia averages the largest new homes in the world.  Why?

This doesn’t have to mean you need a tiny home.  Just consider carefully how large it needs to be.  List sustainability amongst the other constraints in your design.  Prioritise.

A home which fits you well means you are only using the resources you need.  Leave the rest for the future.  You then only need heat to and cool and clean and maintain those smaller spaces.

Pavillion 'Co-house' Design PTMA Architects http://bit.ly/2bGINHu

Plan for the future

Make best use of your whole site – not just the piece you build on.

This might include:

  • A garden courtyard.
  • A future pavilion: should you ever have those extra kids, or for a future buyer.

Just don’t build it until you know you need it.

Design Principles: Passive and Active Systems

The principles of passive solar design should inform the design.  For example:

  • Face your home north.
  • Shade summer sun but allow winter sun in.
  • Anchor the temperature of your house, using thermal mass.

Fancy words meaning heavy things: concrete or tile floor, brick walls etc.

  • Cross ventilation. Lots of openings to each room.
  • Insulate thoroughly.

Currumbin Highlands EcoVillage Home PTMA Architecture http://bit.ly/2b9L63C

There are also ways to improve existing homes:

  • Insulate thoroughly. Most old homes weren’t.
  • Retrofit seals to windows and doors.
  • Heavy curtains on pelmets: like pulling a blanket over your home as the sun sets in winter.
  • Planting: Landscape can add value, and make a home more comfortable. Trees to block summer sun. Deciduous to let the winter sun in. Plant a raised vegie garden. Start near the kitchen if you can, and grow the size of the garden to match your enthusiasm. Native gardens encourage local wildlife.
  • Compost.
  • Rainwater tanks.

Inner City Townhouse Design Renovation PTMA Architecture http://bit.ly/2bMiH8S

Active design systems work more efficiently and cost less if employed into well designed passive homes, because they need to do less work.

  • Photovoltaics (PVs)
  • Batteries to back the PV’s up. There are batteries available on the market now, including Tesla’s Powerwall, as well as local Australian products. Do your research on batteries before installing. The size and cost will vary significantly depending on what you want to achieve. There are limitations on what is allowed under legislation. Your supplier/installer should be able to confirm this in more detail.
  • Solar hot water: Still the most efficient way to go!
  • Open plan living can be great: Allow space to be divided with stacking internal doors eg. so you can control the temperature, sound and privacy to some degree to ‘rooms’.
  • Heating and cooling: If you need it, should then work more efficiently using a smaller system.
  • Install ceiling fans: They work in summer, and on low speeds can help your heaters to work more effectively in winter.
  • Hydronic Heating: You could run hot water pipes through your concrete slab, to keep warm. It can be subtle, and efficient with low running costs as it is not wasting heat. It warms the lowest surface in the house, which is also the one you are walking on. If your feet are warm, you feel warmer.
  • Smart wired systems: are able to automate many house functions to run them more efficiently – blinds, lights, heating, cooling (and music, the pool and so on). It can also be a very expensive way to annoy your friends with lighting settings.  You have been warned.

Refer to www.yourhome.gov.au if you would like more info. No, really. The government spent a bit of time and your tax dollars on it to encourage better design, so you can ask better questions of your team. Take advantage of it.

Keep an eye out for Sustainable House Day on September 11th when homes around Australia are opened up to view for people interested in sustainability.  If you have a home or lifestyle which strives towards sustainability, be part of the conversation: consider opening your own home! Visit their website at www.sustainablehouseday.com

We’d be happy to discuss further to help you fill in some of the missing pieces above.  You can contact us via our website at www.ptma.com.au and check out the links page for more info for more sustainable housing strategies.



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We are proud in 2022 to have opened this home for Gold Coast Open House, and Sustainable House Day. This movie is now updated for 2023.

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This modern home design is currently under construction in Coorparoo. The core concept for this project: is the resurrection and transformation of a dilapidated timber church, into the core of a modern family home.

Slide 1

This modern home design functions as a co-house for 2 families or separate groups. It is being built slowly, evolving with the needs and budgets of the occupants over time.

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