With Australia bubbling with heatwaves from east to west, The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) has identified some simple steps for making your home more energy efficient, comfortable and sustainable.

“Australians have a great affinity with home renovations and additions. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), around 60% of households live in a home that has been renovated in the last ten years, and many people buy a new home with the intent to renovate soon after purchase,” Sid Thoo, ABSA’s Chair said.

“While people often focus on new kitchens and bathrooms as part of their home renovations, it can also be a valuable opportunity to improve the sustainability and energy efficiency of homes too.

“Not only can sustainability retrofits be easier to complete while renovating, they can make your home much more comfortable, help protect against rising energy costs, and add market value,” Sid said

Here are our top tips on retrofitting and renovating for sustainability:

1. Plan where to add new space: if you’re thinking about adding a new room or space, take the time to consider the planning and layout of the addition. What will the space be used for and at what times throughout the day? Where does the sun come from in summer? Are their any cooling breezes that be used to help keep the room comfortable during summer? By taking into account these considerations, you can plan your rooms, windows and openings to work with the climate and help make your home more naturally comfortable during summer.

2. Seal up those gaps and cracks: rattling windows, doors that don’t close properly, and gaps between walls and floors create air leakage in your home known as infiltration. We know these can makes our homes difficult to keep warm during winter, but they can also make it harder to keep the hot outside air from entering our homes during summer. As you renovate, seal and fix these gaps, and install weatherstrips to doors and windows to help make your building more airtight and thus more thermally comfortable.

3. Install insulation: the easiest time to install insulation is while renovating, as this often provides the opportunity for easy access to the roof and walls. It’s important to have the right levels of ceiling and roof insulation in place, as a lot of summer heat can enter through the roof. Bulk insulation such as fibreglass batts, and blow-in newspaper is best for the ceiling, while reflective insulation such as building foil and sarking, works best on the underside of the roof covering. 

4. Think about your windows: there are many different types of frames and glazing now available in the Australian market, such as double-glazing, high performance tinting, and thermally broken frames. By specifying the right kind of glazing and frame in the right places, you can make your home much more comfortable without comprising the view. For example, double-glazing often works best for north facing windows, while high performance tinting works better for west facing windows.

5. Discuss your ideas with a qualified NATHERS assessor: while designing your new renovation or addition, having an accredited NatHERS Assessor working alongside your architect, building designer or builder can help you to plan your spaces to avoid the harsh summer sun, capture natural cooling breezes and minimize the need for artificial cooling. They can also help you to choose the best building materials and right types of insulation for your budget, saving money and adding value to your home.

““Polls and surveys consistently indicate the strong desire of Australian households to understand their own energy use and a willingness to change and adapt in an effort to reduce energy and water consumption,” Rodger Hills, ABSA’s CEO said.

“The heatwaves sweeping the country are a great reminder about why it makes so much sense for people to take some of these simple steps to tackle the heat in their home,” Mr Hills said.

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Sid Thoo is the new Chair of ABSA and a practicing architect based in Perth who helps people design eco-effective homes that are more comfortable, use less energy and water, and have a smaller carbon footprint. He lectures at Murdoch University in energy efficient building design and is a member of the Australian Institute of Architects.

About ABSA: The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) is a not-for-profit national membership organisation representing building and design professionals who specialise in assessing the environmental impact of buildings. ABSA’s vision is to improve sustainability through the design and use of buildings.

For more information about ABSA visit www.absa.net.au