Have you been dreaming of building a new home but worried about skyrocketing energy costs down the road? As a homeowner, you should be. Energy efficiency seems to be an afterthought for most project builders, even with building codes and rating systems in place. You're paying top dollar for a brand new home, yet within a few years, you find yourself forking hundreds each month to keep the lights on and the AC running. Why are new homes still energy sieves? It's time we start scrutinising project builders and holding them accountable.

aerial photography houses
Photo by Blake Wheeler / Unsplash

New Homes Are Still Wasting Energy Due to Poor Construction

New homes continue to waste energy due to poor construction by project builders focused on profits over quality. Despite what lobby groups argue, consumers pay more in the long run for an energy-inefficient home. It's time homeowners scrutinised project builders and held them to higher standards.

Lack of Insulation

Many new homes lack proper insulation, especially in the attic and basement. This results in heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer, increasing energy usage for heating and cooling. Homeowners are stuck paying higher utility bills for the lifetime of the home.

Inferior Windows and Doors

Project builders often install cheap, inferior float glass windows and doors that leak air. This reduces the effectiveness of insulation and HVAC systems. High-performance windows and doors are available but cut into profits.

Poor Ventilation

Inadequate ventilation, like a lack of attic fans or heat recovery ventilators, reduces the efficiency of HVAC systems that must work harder. This wastes energy and decreases the lifespan of the equipment.

Shoddy Construction

Sloppy construction techniques like gaps, cracks, and air leaks in the building envelope waste energy. Proper sealing and weatherstripping are required but rarely done well by project builders focused on speed.

Homeowners should scrutinise project builders, ask questions about their construction methods and energy efficiency measures, and not settle for cheap, shoddy construction details. Demand better—you’re paying the utility bills and mortgage for years. By holding project builders accountable now, we can improve housing quality and make homes affordable for a long time.

The value for money catch-cry

No doubt, when you ask questions of your builder, they will undoubtedly reply, "You get this because it is the best value for money." says who? Value is objective. If you are reviewing material choices and your value input costs only, the cheapest option provides more tangible present value. If your value system considers input cost, maintenance and cost of ownership, then no, the most affordable choice may not offer the most significant value. Ask your builder why they choose to use the materials that they do. I guarantee they will say cost is the only driver forming their "value" catchcry. What is valuable to you as the homeowner? Would you prefer to pay now or pay later? Is this even an issue for you, or do you plan on flipping the house to someone else who can "do what they want with it" later on? Is this wasteful, or is it reasonable?

Why Aren't Project Builders Being Held Accountable for Energy-Efficient Design?

Project builders aren’t being scrutinised enough for the energy efficiency of their homes. Why is that? Part of the reason is a lack of awareness and education among home buyers. Many first-time owners don’t realise how much they’ll end up paying in utility bills for an energy sieve of a house.

Lack of Regulation

There are few regulations holding project builders accountable for sustainable construction. Energy ratings have minimum standards for compliance, and builders can get away with the bare minimum to still sell homes. Until more stringent building codes are put in place, it’s up to consumers to demand better. It's easy to dismiss the insulation cost and thermal bridging construction details when building a new home. Only once you move in and realise how much energy your home consumes to heat and cool it does the cost of energy efficiency measures come into focus. It's much cheaper to install thermal measurements when building your home than to retrofit them. Builders love the status quo, don't change the equation because it may mean we might have to adapt. Everyone adapts differently to stimulus and builders get nervous when there is forced adaption (think regulatory) because how you adapt may affect the bottom line of your business. The status quo is good for shareholders and for predictability. Change is the enemy of the project-building industry and its lobby groups (read industry associations).

Short-Term Thinking

Project builders are focused on maximising profits, so they cut corners to build homes as cheaply as possible. They aren’t considering the long-term costs to homeowners or the environmental impact. Their incentive is to build fast and keep initial sale prices low, not ensure quality, efficiency or energy costs to the homeowner. It makes no sense to me that we rate appliances we buy based on their energy efficiency, yet we fail to rate the largest energy-consuming object we have - the home we live in!

Buyer Beware

If you’re in the market for a newly built home, do your research. Ask builders about the energy efficiency features and ratings of their houses. See if they use sustainable and high-performance building materials and construction methods. Get an independent energy assessment of any homes you’re seriously considering. Compare each builder's energy efficiency claims against each other so you know the running costs before you commit to a builder.

While project builders should be doing more, home buyers must also get educated and speak up. Demand better-built, energy-efficient homes because, ultimately, you’re paying the price—both upfront and for years to come. Choosing a builder focused on sustainability and quality will give you a better home for the planet and your wallet.

person in blue pants sitting on brown wooden floor
Photo by Erik Mclean / Unsplash

Scrutinising Common Energy-Inefficient Construction Methods

It’s time to scrutinise the construction methods commonly used by project home builders. Many of the techniques and materials they employ reduce the energy efficiency of new homes, costing owners more in utility bills and wasted energy over the lifetime of the house.

Poor Insulation

(-) Walls and attics are often poorly insulated, with gaps and air leaks throughout. Proper installation of insulation, sealing and weatherstripping are critical for energy efficiency.

(-) Double-glazed, low-emissivity windows are rarely used, resulting in heat loss.

Substandard Materials

(-) Cheaper, lower-quality materials are commonly used to cut costs. These break down faster, requiring more repairs and replacement.

(-) Materials like concrete slabs and dark roofing absorb and retain more heat, increasing the load on cooling systems.

Faulty Design

(-) Poor architectural design reduces efficiency, like lack of eaves, insufficient ventilation and improper orientation.

(-) Placing living areas in the western and southern parts of the house increases heat gain, raising cooling demands.

While affordability and housing availability are important issues, the excessive lifetime costs of inefficient homes are often overlooked. Scrutinising and improving large project builders' practices will benefit homeowners and the environment through energy conservation. Homeowners should thoroughly research different builders and push for higher-quality, energy-efficient construction to avoid paying more down the road. By choosing builders with sustainable building certifications and expertise in energy-efficient design, you can have an affordable, comfortable and eco-friendly home.

stack of jigsaw puzzle pieces
Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster / Unsplash

How to Select a Project Builder Committed to Sustainable Design

To find a project builder committed to sustainable design, do some digging. Check their website and marketing materials for mentions of energy efficiency, environmental responsibility, and sustainability. If these concepts aren’t prominently featured, that’s a red flag. Some builders may “greenwash” to appear eco-friendly without building high-performance homes.

Research their track record.

Look for specific details on the energy ratings and green certifications of homes they’ve built. Do they have a proven history of achieving 7-star or higher ratings? Are their homes Green Star or LEED certified? If so, at what level? A builder focused on sustainability will proudly provide this info.

Review their standard specifications.

See what energy-efficient and eco-friendly features their base house design includes. Things like double-glazed windows, LED lighting, solar panels, rainwater tanks, insulation, rain screens, air gaps behind gladding, shading, and ventilation are good signs. The more these are incorporated as standard, the less you’ll have to pay extra.

Ask about their building process.

A sustainable builder should be able to speak knowledgeably about the latest green materials, technologies and techniques they employ. For example, they should build an airtight thermal envelope, maximise natural light, and install high-efficiency appliances and systems. They should also limit construction waste and environmental impact. Keep looking if they can’t explain their sustainable building approach in detail.

Consider their customer service.

Selecting a project builder is a big decision, so you want one that prioritises communication and transparency. Do they take time to understand your needs, priorities and budget? Are they willing to walk you through each step of the design and construction process? Exceptional customer service is a hallmark of a quality, sustainable builder.

By analysing builders based on these factors, you can find one that will design and construct an energy-efficient home that suits your needs. The effort you put in upfront will reward you for years through lower utility bills, reduced environmental impact, and a higher quality, more comfortable home.

carriage beside gray window
Photo by Larry Costales / Unsplash

Tips for Maximising Energy Efficiency in Your New Home's Construction

To maximise energy efficiency in your new home, scrutinise what your project builder proposes and push for higher standards. As the consumer paying the bills for the lifetime of the house, you deserve quality. Some tips:

Insist on a higher star energy rating

Don’t settle for the minimum 6-star rating: demand seven stars or higher. While lobby groups argue this reduces “affordability”, you’re already paying more over the long run in energy costs from an inefficient home. Hold project builders accountable.

Choose eco-friendly and sustainable materials.

Select materials that reduce environmental impact and lower energy needs, like timber, recycled metal, and sustainably sourced stone. Ask for Energy Star-certified products as well. These green materials and ratings ensure quality and energy efficiency.

Upgrade insulation and windows.

Added insulation, especially in the roof and walls, improves the thermal performance of your home. Ask for bulk insulation and double-glazed windows, which provide better insulation. Although pricier upfront, you’ll gain significant energy savings.

Install renewable energy

Discuss installing solar panels, heat pumps, or renewables with your builder. While an extra cost, renewable energy generates free power for your home and provides energy security. Many offer incentives, rebates or payment plans to improve affordability.

Demand a home energy rating.

A rating evaluates how energy-efficient your home’s design and materials are. Get an independent energy rater to assess the plans and finish home. They can suggest improvements to reduce energy usage before you move in. A good rating also adds resale value.

By prioritising energy efficiency in your new home’s construction, you’ll gain substantial savings in energy bills and a sustainable, high-quality residence for the long run. Work closely with your builder by asking lots of questions about the materials, methods and ratings used so you get the home you deserve. Make your voice heard – you’re the one paying for it!


The bottom line is that you deserve an energy-efficient home that saves money and helps the environment. Don't settle for the excuses and resistance to change by groups only concerned with protecting builder profits. You're making one of the most significant purchases of your life, so do your research and demand better. Hold your project builder accountable and push for higher energy standards, better insulation, and quality components. Your new home should last for generations, so make sure it's built to stand the test of time and not become an energy sieve when you get the keys. You owe it to your wallet, family, and the planet to get the home you pay for. The era of the energy-efficient home is here, so make your voice heard and choose a builder who will give you a house to be proud of.