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Buying sustainable developments

By George Hadgelias

“Green” is definitely a buzzword in the property realm, with more and more developers across the country using sustainability and energy efficiency to sell houses and apartments. But what should buyers look for?

Romilly Madew, chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia, says while states and territories have different ratings and rules, the Green Star rating is one of the best ways to understand how environmentally friendly a property is.

What is sustainable development?

Put simply, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Green Star is Australia’s only national and voluntary rating system for buildings and communities. It assesses the sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings, fit-outs and communities and awards star ratings.

“With more than 1750 Green Star projects around Australia, the market leaders all pursue Green Star ratings for their projects because they understand the value of this third party tick of approval,” Madew says.

She says 42,000 people live in Green Star-rated apartments and 420,000 are choosing Green Star communities.

Madew explains what buyers should look for in a sustainable development or property.

Passive design

Passive design is key, as it ensures a property will maintain a comfortable temperature, Madew says.

“Passive design considers seven key principles; orientation, spatial zoning, thermal mass, ventilation, insulation, shading and glazing,” she says.

“We know that Australia’s climate can be diverse and often unpredictable, so opting for a house that has used passive design will save you from using the air-conditioning or heater. This can save you up to 40% on energy bills.”


The building materials used to construct a home matter too, Madew says. Green properties make use of sustainably sourced materials, with a longer life cycle.

“You’ll find these materials are more robust and will stand the test of time, while reducing your home’s carbon footprint.

“It’s also important to consider whether paints or carpets used are low or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds), as these can have negative impacts on health and the environment,” she says.

Water use & re-use

“Australia is prone to droughts and dry spells, so it can be useful to capture rainwater and make the most of it,” Madew says.

“Depending on your home’s needs, you can install a system to water your garden or drink straight from the tap, they simply require different levels of treatment. Plus, did you know that some local governments will offer a rebate for installing a rainwater system?”

The players

The builder or developer in charge is an important consideration, Madew says. This is because buyers should be able to access all the information they need about their green home – from the products and materials used to build it – to what happens to construction waste once it’s complete.

“You can consult with the builder/developer regularly to gain a better insight into how sustainable your home or development is,” she says.

Energy efficient fixtures and fittings

Buyers should ask if the fixtures and fittings are energy efficient, Madew advises.

“LED bulbs, for example, have revolutionised energy efficient lighting, while water-saving showerheads and toilets can reduce your usage by up to 25%,” she says.

Madew says while ‘big picture’ issues like orientation can enhance its comfort, using a washing machine with a poor energy efficiency rating will end up costing your hip pocket and the environment.

“In 2017, the US reported that as a nation it’s spending 56% less on energy since the introduction of energy efficient appliances.”

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