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one earthECOdesign Principles

Location. In a resource, oil and carbon constrained world, location near work and play will become central to affordability and lifestyle. Close access to public transport for school, shops, family life and activities will (again) become a fundamental need. Car dependence will become a costly liability.

Correct orientation. Passive solar design costs nothing to build into new homes other than understanding and imagination. The sun provides free natural warmth, whilst some summer breezes can provide natural coolth. In almost all climates, combining northerly orientation for most of the (efficient) glass, appropriate thermal mass (ie. concrete, bricks/blocks, earth) and high-level insulation will make homes most comfortable. Re-designing existing buildings to achieve these principles is for us, an everyday task.

Energy-efficient. All new houses now need to be 6-star energy efficient design – but that’s the new minimum. With good design it’s not hard to do better again as is needed with rapidly rising energy costs. Overseas, 8 and 9-star efficiency is becoming mandated, with developing concepts of Zero Energy Buildings (ZEBs). Upgraded insulation is the single most cost-effective step you can take, followed by eco-redesigning for sunlight deep within buildings. We can tell you more.

Resource efficient. The act of building irrevocably changes land, water soils and sometimes, micro-climate. Then there’s the operational energy used for the life of the structure. So it’s more sustainable (resource efficient) to renovate rather than build new, and/or build in degraded places with long-life, naturally durable materials. The ‘life-cycle cost’ of materials; ‘embodied energy’ (energy used in winning, manufacturing and supplying materials); and ‘resource intensity’ (amount of material used to manufacture something) will become key criteria. We have knowledge on these matters and more.

Adaptable. How long should a building last to be sustainable? How easy is it to retrofit either for changing family needs, disability, improved services or enhanced sustainability? ‘Long-life, loose-fit’ is a useful mantra commonly forgotten over recent decades, but an essential ecodesign principle that we follow. ‘Universal access’ and ‘accessible buildings’ are part of this and mandated by regulations in some circumstances.

Waterwise. Whilst the worst drought on record may have ended for now, such cyclical events return across our dry continent. Harvesting rainwater, active greywater systems whilst minimising wastage are mandated to varying degrees, depending upon location. This practice lead the way with NSW’s first approved composting toilet system (late 1980’s, Jemby-Rinjah Lodge) and continues with recycling and worm systems of all kinds, appropriate to demand and location.  

Healthy. Sick building syndrome’ has spread with the plethora of highly processed synthetic chemicals increasingly used in buildings, from carpets to glues to paints and more. The tighter the building construction for energy-efficiency, the bigger the issue of healthy materials so as to minimise ‘off-gassing’ of toxic chemicals. We can advise on principles, practices and materials that are a healthy antidote.  

Small. We have just one earth. Small is beautiful (as E. F. Schumacher said in the 1990’s) – and that applies to our buildings. Australians build the biggest homes in the world, which means biggest use of land, materials, resources and energy – and rarely to good effect. Clever use of smaller spaces is what we do, producing buildings easier to heat, cool, light and clean, sustainably.  

Local. We are local ‘place-makers’, creating buildings that respect the past (local vernacular), consider the context, and are planned for the future. We do not follow any one style or visual idiom, but co-create with our clients what is sustainable, practical and affordable for their needs. We do this with respect for people, place and planet.  

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