Ever wondered why your energy bills are so high even though you do your best to be efficient? The truth is, the problem likely started way before you moved in. As an architect or building designer, the decisions you make have a huge impact on how much energy a household consumes for years to come. It's time to take responsibility and take action.

When you're designing spaces where people will live and work, you're shaping how they interact with energy every single day. The materials you choose, the way you lay out rooms, how much natural light gets in - it all adds up to a building that's either efficient or wasteful. Yet too often efficiency takes a back seat to aesthetics or upfront costs.

It's easy to pass the buck to homeowners and facility managers, but you have the power to build a better future. By optimising designs for energy savings, you can significantly reduce carbon footprints and lower costs for the people who will inhabit your buildings.

Thermal construction at its finest. Cool in summer and perfect for its climate zone.
Photo by Markus Wagner / Unsplash

The Impact of House Design on Energy Use

The design of a house has an enormous impact on how much energy the occupants use. As architects and building designers, it's time to step up and take responsibility for energy efficiency. The decisions you make regarding layout, materials, and components can reduce energy usage by up to 70% compared to a typical home.

Firstly, maximise natural light. Use large windows and skylights, and open-plan designs. This cuts down on artificial lighting needs and provides free solar heating. Carefully orienting living spaces to face the winter sun is ideal for many climates.

Secondly, improve insulation. Add weatherstripping around doors and windows, upgrade to double-glazed panes, and use roof and wall insulation. These upgrades dramatically improve the energy efficiency of heating and cooling.

Also, consider renewable energy sources. Installing solar panels or a geothermal heat pump can provide a house with its own sustainable power and temperature control. Speaking of which, an energy efficient HVAC system and hot water heater should be top priorities. Look for the highest efficiency ratings possible.

In addition, choose Energy Star certified appliances which consume significantly less energy than standard models. Induction stovetops are another excellent choice over gas or electric ranges.

By designing houses with energy efficiency in mind from the ground up, architects and building designers can make a huge difference. Small changes add up to big energy savings for homeowners and a smaller environmental footprint overall. Our planet will thank you for it.

white and brown wooden house
Photo by Trinity Nguyen / Unsplash

Where Are We Going Wrong With House Design in Australia?

When it comes to home design in Australia, we've been getting it wrong in some major ways. The truth is, the way we construct and layout our houses directly contributes to high energy usage and costs.

Poor insulation and ventilation

Far too many Aussie homes are poorly insulated, leading to higher costs for heating and cooling. Proper insulation, double-glazed windows and strategic ventilation can make a huge difference. Homeowners, don't just go for the cheapest option - invest in quality insulation for walls and ceilings. It'll save you money in the long run.

Inefficient layouts

The typical box-style home with rooms spread far apart is highly inefficient. Open-plan designs, internal courtyards and carefully positioned windows allow for natural temperature regulation and airflow. Grouping living spaces together and minimising hallways reduces the amount of space that needs heating or cooling.

Lack of renewable energy

Despite Australia's abundance of sunlight, the vast majority of homes don't have solar panels. Solar energy and solar hot water systems can generate most or all of a household's electricity and heating needs. Geothermal heating is another underutilised renewable option architects should consider incorporating into their designs.

Overall, home design has significant room for improvement when it comes to energy efficiency in Australia. But the good news is, we have the technology and know-how to build houses that are much kinder to the environment and our wallets. Architects and builders, it's time to step up and make energy-smart design a priority.

person in blue pants sitting on brown wooden floor, most likely itchy as all buggery :-)
Photo by Erik Mclean / Unsplash

Simple Design Changes That Save Household Energy

As architects and building designers, you have significant influence over a household’s energy usage through the choices you make. By incorporating a few simple energy-efficient designs, you can help homeowners cut costs and waste.

Increase Insulation

Adding extra insulation, especially in the ceiling and external walls, can improve a home’s energy efficiency by up to 20%. Recommend that clients add weatherstripping around doors and windows to reduce drafts. These small steps make a big difference in regulating indoor temperatures.

Choose Energy Efficient Appliances and Lighting

Suggest that clients invest in Energy Star rated appliances and LED lightbulbs which consume less energy than standard devices. Things like programmable thermostats, tankless water heaters, and dual-flush toilets can also help decrease utility bills over the long run.

Increase Natural Light

Designing homes with large windows, skylights, and open floor plans allows more natural light to enter the space, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day. This simple philosophy, known as passive solar design, harnesses the sun’s energy for free lighting and heating.

Improve Ventilation

Proper ventilation, including exhaust fans and heat recovery ventilators, improves indoor air quality and reduces heating/cooling costs. Make sure any ventilation system is properly sealed and insulated to prevent energy waste.

By championing these types of eco-friendly and cost-effective designs, you can play an important role in building a sustainable future. Homeowners will also appreciate the savings on their energy bills thanks to your thoughtful planning and recommendations. Together, we can all do our part to reduce residential energy consumption and make a difference.

Building an Energy Efficient House From the Ground Up

Building an energy efficient home requires considering how all the parts work together from the beginning. As an architect, you have the power to make choices that significantly impact a household’s energy use for years to come.

Designing for efficiency

When designing a home, keep energy efficiency in mind from the ground up. Place windows to maximise natural light and warmth from the sun. Use overhangs and awnings for shade in hot climates. Choose building materials and insulation with the local climate in mind. Well-insulated walls and attics can reduce heating/cooling needs by up to 50 percent.

Consider how the layout impacts energy use. An open-concept home with fewer interior walls allows for better circulation of heat and natural light. Place living spaces together and less used rooms like laundries along exterior walls. Zone spaces for different heating/cooling needs. Instal energy efficient fixtures and appliances, especially for major energy users like HVAC systems, water heaters, refrigerators, and lighting.

Renewable energy options

Incorporate renewable energy sources where possible. Solar panels on roofs or nearby can generate electricity for the home. Instal solar water heaters for domestic hot water. Wind turbines take advantage of wind energy. Geothermal heat pumps tap into the constant temperature of the earth for heating and cooling.

Building for the future

As the effects of climate change intensify, household energy efficiency and sustainability will become increasingly important. Architects must recognise their role in designing homes and buildings that have a minimal environmental impact. By educating clients and working together from the first sketches to final walk-through, architects can build comfortable, high-performance homes that save energy, money and the planet.

The choices made today will shape how people live for generations to come. Build wisely.

A Call to Action for Architects and Designers

It’s time for architects and building designers to step up and take responsibility for energy efficiency. The choices you make have a huge impact on how much power households consume. By designing smarter buildings, you can significantly reduce energy usage and lower costs for homeowners.

Consider the materials and insulation you specify. Choosing sustainable, eco-friendly materials that provide better insulation can improve a building’s energy efficiency by up to 20% or more. Double-pane windows, additional insulation, and radiant barriers are simple solutions that make a big difference.

Re-examine floorplans and layouts. The way spaces connect and interact directly impacts how much energy is needed for heating and cooling. Open-concept designs may be trendy but often require more energy to maintain a comfortable temperature. Consider instead separate, well-insulated rooms that can be heated or cooled individually based on use.

Mechanical systems also play a key role. High-efficiency HVAC systems, LED lighting, and Energy Star certified appliances can significantly reduce energy consumption. Smart thermostats and timers give homeowners more control over usage. Recommend these energy-saving options to your clients whenever possible.

As architects and designers, you have the power to build a sustainable future. By making energy efficiency a priority in your work, you'll help create homes and buildings that save money, reduce environmental impact, and support a greener way of living for all. The choices are yours to make - now is the time to take action by designing spaces that don’t just look good but do good. Our planet will thank you for it.


The choices made at the design stage have ramifications that last for decades and impact thousands of people. It's time for the industry to step up and make energy efficiency and sustainability a higher priority. You have the power to build a better future, one eco-friendly building at a time.