Smart Home Design
Passive design principles are an inexpensive way to get the most out of natural energy sources, do a lot for our environment, and ultimately will save you money.

Smart Design

A well designed home is naturally warmer in winter, cooler in summer, and has abundant natural light. It follows the principles of 'passive design' to minimise the need for mechanical heating and cooling. It's a healthy, comfortable place to live and is less expensive to run because it uses less energy, water and other resources.

More than 40 million tonnes of harmful greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the electricity consumption of Australia's six million homes every year - that's about a quarter of the total greenhouse gas produced by using electricity and gas.

Some States now require the performance of all new homes to be certified in terms of thermal comfort and energy, water, landscape and stormwater. New homes are being designed and built to use 40% less drinking-quality water and produce 25% less greenhouse gas emissions than existing similar homes.

If you are renovating or building or buying a home, you have an opportunity to save money by making it as comfortable and energy efficient as possible. Just choose the best combination of orientation, wall and ceiling insulation, efficient heating, cooling, hot water, lighting and appliances to reduce household energy consumption.

Smart Home Design

Passive design

Windows and walls
The amount of heat entering a home can be affected by the orientation of the windows and walls. The size, type and placement of windows should be guided by (seasonal) climate, desired views, shading by vegetation, terrain or other buildings, as well as the building codes.

Interior layout
Align living and outdoor areas to the north or east to maximize cooling breezes in summer and sun in winter.

Consider achieving good cross-ventilation with natural breezes with your layout of rooms, doorways and windows.

Moderate the interior temperature by shading the exterior walls and windows with plants and trees.

Good insulation may be the single most effective way to improve the temperature comfort of your home without artificial heating.

Building Materials
Concrete and brick absorb and retain heat which is released when the air becomes cooler.

Water Heating
Hot water is a main energy consumer so consider how you will heat your water and what you can do to reduce your consumption. There are guides elsewhere on this site.

Choose your light fittings according to what you want the light to do and always consider low energy fluorescent options.

Buying off the plan

If you are considering buying a new home off the plan, you have every right to ask the builder or the company to customise the design to suit your needs.

If the home is not already built, ask an experienced architect or professional designer to suggest ways of improving the standard design and to negotiate any price variations with the builder.

Some low-cost adjustments to the plan can include:
  • Changing the orientation or location of the dwelling on the land to take advantage of north sun, breezes or privacy;
  • Changing window sizes or adding windows for cross-ventilation;
  • Adding extra insulation;
  • Extending the eaves for wider shading;
  • And achieving comfort advantages by mirroring or flipping the plan.

The Australian Government ( provides useful passive design information as well as fact sheets and Your Home Technical Manual - Design for Lifestyle and the Future.