June 20th, 2019
Owner Builders and Sustainability
Following on from my recent post about Owner Builders and the importance of considering solar power, I thought I would throw a few more ideas to consider in respect to sustainability.
Owner Builders need to consider two specific areas of sustainability and conservation, one when they are building their project, and in the design phase.
Design considerations will including how you position your dwelling on the block to capture breezes or to make the most of other site characteristics to minimise your energy footprint.
Double glazed windows are great for reducing energy loss in the house and owner builders will also benefit from the acoustic benefits they bring. I am living in an apartment Monday to Friday on a busy Melbourne suburb with traffic and trams at the front door.
There is a rooftop bar across the road, and without the double glazing, the unit would be impossible to live in.
Consider the size of your eaves, in Queensland of course the wider the better to shade the house and minimise the impact of the harsh Northern sun, certainly not as necessary in Victoria.
The installation of water tanks is of course a huge benefit to the owner builder in terms of the money they can save on water rates with them rising year on year. Also, it is extremely important to the environment, and water will likely become a, more and more scarce commodity in the coming years.
It is interesting that councils have done a 360 degree loop on water tanks in residential suburbs and go from banning to mandating through the inevitable cycle.
During the construction phase you can look at water saving initiatives and encourage all your contractors to minimise waste. Use recyclable products, refuse single use plastics on site, do simple things like encourage keep cups and discourage bottled waters.
Owner builders need to be considerate of their local environment and other residents that may be affected by the works that are being undertaken.
They are all little things but they all add up and they all make sense.
I am not a greenie by any stretch of the imagination, but everything I have mentioned in this post can be done quite easily and I do believe that every little bit will help.
Happy Owner Building,
Interesting read, thank you
Some really good suggestions in here and very fitting for the period we are all experiencing in Australia.
Thanks for your article. It helps a lot.
Some great ideas Rick. We are in the process of choosing water tanks. Any recommendations on materials are appreciated, poly, steel etc.
We have no council facilities where we are about to start building. So have been researching waste sytem plants & water tanks. We were hoping to use the gravity feed to avoid pumps & power but have been unable to use that option due to our soil test result. We live in a fire zone & were impacted greatly during the last fire season.
I would not live in Victoria for a start. The unit as I read the article the unit put together very cheaply to maximise profit from who ever buys it. Sounds like another Opal Tower duster waiting to happen
very interesting reading
Double glazing is the norm in Europe but in Australia it seems to be considered a boutique option with commensurate costs. I am in a cold climate area and past experience has shown that aluminium frames for double glazing is yet another cheapo Aussie product, the problem being that the frames lose heat so badly that condensation runs off them. The solution is frames with a thermal break but where do I source windows with that feature. All contributions are welcome.
Hi, there used to be a company called Schuster Windows that made europian style windows and doors
Timber is a great insulator between double glazed frames, and if it's a hardwood it can offer better fire resistance than uPVC and alloy frames. The only real issue is the nitrogen change inbetween the windows.
This is an interesting read, thank you! We will be installing water tanks and solar power on our build.
Very interesting read, I agree there are many ways to go green. Energy efficient solutions will reduce the carbon footprint of our projects.
Very interesting read and very insightful. Thanks for for that Rick.
Great and informative article
Interesting read. Thanks. Could you please also elaborate more on Solar systems and battery storage.
I really though very interesting read through the blogs, I totally agree that there are many ways to go green. Energy efficient solutions will reduce the carbon initiaves of our projects.
Hi Rick, interesting topic. Our site will require us to be off grid as no services reach us. I like to get your view on hot water. Typically in the area LGP gas is used for both cooking as well as hot water. Would you recommend to go solar - maybe with gas boost?
our solar system gave us good returns, paid for itself and some, within a few years, but after about 5 years before we noticed a reduction in the returns due to cracks in the solar panels, they are now useless, the joys of getting panels from the lowest bidder.
We have had auxiliary solar for 12 years and while there is nothing wrong with our system as the market trend increases in size energy providers re-nig on their offer per kw/h.
I would suggest that you make sure you buy from a reputable company that has been around for a while and I do not think you would have a problem with warranty as most panels are offering up to 15 year warranty, even the cheaper ones.
We plan to have double glazing in our windows and doors. Does anyone know about the pros and cons to get glass which has a reflective shading applied to the outside. Will this increase the performance of the windows?
I am in the same position, I would assume so, but would like to know if anyone out there has an answer.
Thanks for the info
Very good read
Rick. I do not believe that sufficient thought has been put into the installation of water tanks into private homes. The running and maintaining cost of the pump and diverter equipment out weighs the saving in water cost, especially with the cost of todays power. Water quality is also a problem as many councils require W.C.s and laundries to be connected to this tank water, which is usually heavily contaminated , staining both the toilet bowl and white clothing, requiring the use of harsh chemicals. I believe the better option is a simple free standing tank only supplied from the roof, with one hose tap to fill a simple watering can by gravity, for use in the garden or washing cars. There by making 100% cost saving on water from the tank.
I agree Mark and Kristen, I want to catch rain water and store in tanks under my deck for garden use, washing the car, outside use.
nice read Rick.
The use of concrete is a major contributor to greenhouse emissions
Thanks for that article it is a good read
Thanks Rick this has some interesting points to consider especially the use of double glazing
Great read Rick, you have provided some useful information to consider for my new build. As per our basix requirements we are already including water tanks, however will look further into solar options so I can make my build more sustainable.
As a definite greenie, this is something that has been of consideration at all stages of my project design.
Hi there everyone
Thank you for a good read
I believe the future should be houses that are as self sufficent as possible, this for me would be collect and filter your own drinking water. Solar power for your electricity and battery pack. you can even treat your own sewer and use the treated sewer to fertiliser your garden.
Come to my world Joe. We Will have a 120 000L water tank, a septic and at least 6 kw solar.Cant wait for all this to happen!
I agree with the idea that one size does not fit all. The key is for your design to maximise what your house and property has to offer and to design out any negative influences such as the noise issue mentioned above. Personally, my new home will have an extremely high ratio of outdoor living area compared to inside as I am on private acreage and this is where we intend to spend a lot of our time.
I like the idea of no single use plastic and will happily provide a jug of water for any trades on site.
Adam Marwood Cole
Good read but also remember the double glazed windows are not only good for noise reduction but for retaining heat in buildings that are in the cooler climates.
Agree, double-glazed windows are a great choice when it comes to for sustainability. They definitely provide excellent improvements for temperature and noise control.
Great information for anyone starting a build.
Since installing solar panels we've found our daily habits have changed. Whatever can be done during the daylight hours is done to take advantage of free power.
Hi Andrew, I would also be interested in any feedback on heating in concrete slabs. I have heard hydronic is preferred?
Hi Rick and everyone,
Thank you for the information.
I am planning to use all of these sustainable practices in my off grid house. A little more cash upfront for little to no bills down the track. Why wouldn't you if its your forever home.
I agree Kate. We are doing the same.
Thanks for the information and all the work you put into the courses
Great tips! We will be installing a Bradford solar unit, however, still reluctant to purchase batteries at this stage although the tech is getting better and they are becoming more cost effective from a ROI perspective. We will leave provision during the solar install for batteries to be a "plug and play" option down the track.
Paul Eric Coveny
Thank you very interesting reading on all fronts of some building ideas
Thanks Rick, this has some interesting points to consider. I will definitely consider the size of your eaves.
Hi Rick, I read the article on sustainability just at the right time so I could reconsider the placement of the water tanks.
If only more people did a little reading/research before building, we would be building more liveable homes that saved money and energy and greenhouse emissions - if only!
There are some really good suggestions and I think it is very fitting for the period we are all experiencing in our work
As the owner builder, do I need to find the building inspector to do a report on asbestos before I know down the house?
Very good article, I am wondering if induction solar hot water panels would be good to use when I am building 30metres from the beach?
This was a great read.
Interesting article. Totally agree that Homeowners need to consider the environment and the examples provided were spot on.
Quite important these days to consider sustainability when doing renovations or a new build.
Article definitely makes you think about how an owner builder can contribute to reducing our environmental impact with simple considerations when planning and building.
Thanks Rick, an informative article. We as homeowners and caretakes of the environment should always consider the most environmentally friendly, sustainable and least impactful way to build. These decisions not only have an impact on the way we live within the dwelling of our choosing but also how that impacts on the local neighbourhood and the wider natural spaces in which we share with flora and fauna. We have to be responsible as owner builders, and the product and technology is out there for all of us to be able to make good material and design choices whether it is required or not.
Hi, I totally agree with larger eaves, the last house I built I installed 900mm eave, in summer with shading from the eave kept the house a lot cooler. I can't believe all the house in new suburbs have no eaves at all. Makes you wonder how they achieve BASX requirements hear in NSW. I do release it's all to do with building budgets and costs etc. Also I'm lucky enough to live on a large block, so this was achievable.
Owner Builders and Sustainability great read thanks for that Rick it really gets you thinking, Looks like we are looking at solar panels now.
Ricks Owner Builder Course has been very informative and has provided good info to take on first domestic project.
The owner builder course content that has been provided by Rick is very thorough and informative, and puts you in the right perspective to tackle the project of building your own home.
Thanks for an informative read. I will be looking at som of these features before I build.
I have to have a 5000l water tank and solar panels to be able to pass the latest BASIX here in Dubbo NSW. Years ago we were not permitted to use water tanks.
Great read and some things to think about with my upcoming build. Thanks
Pricing tanks awhile back I have found that the larger liner tanks such as pioneer are the cheapest storage per litre.
I truly believe that smart choices can help reduce the impact on our great planet as well as provide piece of mind to ones self, satisfaction and comfort in our home as well as being cost effective and energy saving.
The rules for sustainability seem to be always changing. A few years ago you couldn't put in rain water tanks in Dubbo, now they are a must to meet the BASIX.
Hi Rick, thanks for providing this training platform to enable me to complete my NSW Owner Builder Course. I am enjoying the challenges that the course is presenting so far and haven't had to use maths like this for years. I am completing the course to allow me to put a swimming pool in my back yard. Hopefully I can get the project completed by Christmas. Kind Regards.
Thanks for the read Rick, some good tips.
I have found this course to be an interesting experience so far.
Good read, thanks
Interesting read, good fall back material.
Just finished out BASIX assessment for our house build so good to know we're on the right track.
Interesting read...I installed double glazing in my last home and source the double glazed window panels directly from a company call DIY double glazing in Melbourne. http://www.diydoubleglaze.com.au Saved thousands and got a great result. Difficult to quantify exactly but I'd estimate a 5-7% reduction in our heating costs over winter.
Just wanted to build on this earlier post. We also noticed that we weren't running our aircon during the summer as much. Once again very difficult to quantify the exact impact and cost saving attributable to the double glazing as we also had 3.2KW of solar intsalled a couple of years earlier. During hot days I suspect the solar was producing enough power to drive the AIrCon and we did notice that the amount of power exported to the grid decreased. Our local power supplier only paid 6cent per KW, a watch out for anyone considering installing new solar, so the financial savings were minimal. Either way, the house felt cooler and held it's temperature better over night.
Hi Rick, Thanks for the article above...I live in a E3 environmental zone which makes everything we want to particularly sensitive in these areas.
Don't forget to maintain your water tanks. Many houses have water tanks... way fewer have water tanks that are actually delivering the benefits after 5 years.
Hi Rick, Thanks for the information
Thanks for the information. I will try and apply as much as possible to the new renos
Valuable info. These resources will be handy during the build.
Interesting read. Useful tips on saving money long term.
Hi, I am doing this course to get my owner builders to meet certifier requirements from local council to add extension on house. Interesting read
Melchor Gonzalez Alonso
Thank you for providing this course online. It will be very helpful to me as I'm needing it to be allowed to build a pool in my backyard. Keep up the good work.
Great course. I am becoming an owner builder to build a pool in my backyard. This course has been been helpful and informative.
Hi Rick, Just a comment on water savings, Im looking to increase min water tank size for small granny flat, I to hopefully reduce water cost and be more environmentally friendly. The cost of increasing your water tank size seems like a small up front cost and could be a real benefit long term.
Have been contemplating putting in water tanks myself, mostly just to water the grass as we have quite a large yard. Anyways good info.
Thanks for the info Rick. Good read
Very interesting read, Rick you made some very points there and do agree with them all. I personally encourage any person or owner builder these days building or extending any building to consider and incorporate these ideas into their building designs. I will definitely be including them in my building works. Incorporating environmental conscious ideas into today's building designs and low ecological footprint building design ideas are a more important thing then ever to consider and implement when building or extending new dwellings today due to more unprecedented climate change influences we face today.
Didn’t realise double glazed windows helped save power! Good read.
Great blog - thank you.
lots of interesting information
I agree new builds and some renovations to existing properties should consider alternative power supplies and sustainability but not without due research to what fits each one. Sometimes you might think you’re saving the planet but are actually taking yourself closer to bankruptcy and not helping much at all.
Agree with the introduction of solar panels when building a new dwelling. While the technology still has a long way to go we have to start somewhere and with periodical government incentives it is worthwhile.
Interesting read on sustainability. Good for new builds and renovations. Looking at solar, water tanks in our renovation
Thanks Rick for your post. I am building at an ecovillage in Narara just north of Sydney and we have many sustainable homes already built here. Your owner builders are very welcome to come and look at examples of passive solar design, solar panels, batteries, double glazing (uPVC, timer, aluminium thermal break and composite windows), water tanks, ventilation systems and use of many different materials (natural like straw and hemp, conventional and new technologies). Thanks for doing your bit to promote sustainable building. Megan
I am seeking to build in the near future and looking at use of sustainable building materials and researching construction techniques to reduce my carbon footprint. My son-in-law is a Civil Engineer and volunteers with Engineers Without Borders. His been involved in building community projects overseas and some of there energy saving techniques such as converting kitchen waste in to clean energy is very ingenious.
My build is on 5 acres with power available but no water. I have to have 20,000 litres per acre with 20,000 being available for the fire brigade and a gate opening for their access. I will have 60,000 in tanks and a 50,000 litre dam. Water sustainability is certainly an issue here especially after the drought years experienced here with the town running out of water.
Interesting read, Rick.
Thanks for an interesting read - another good thing to consider is solar heat gain coefficiet of glass - particularly for air conditioned spaces.
Thank you! We will be installing water tanks and solar power on our build. I found this to be quite interesting.
In our last owner build we have installed double glazed windows, good insulation, a water tank that is sent through toilets systems. We have also had the roof designed to be most proficient for solar panels when we eventually get them installed. We were waiting until energy was stored for night time use, but it doesn't seem to be happening in a hurry but we've realised there is still many ways we can use solar energy during the day anyway. We also use off cuts and left over building supplies, pallets etc in our garden as my wife loves to upcycle.
Good information.I am considering double glazing for aircraft noise
Agree with Steven King. When livingin Switzerland double glaze was a given. The insulation was incredible. We have 3 water tanks as we are not connected to town water. We struggle with both drought and floods (getting in and getting rid of water!). We are considering installing another tank. Additionally, with the increase in electricity prices we have now found that the cost recovery on solar batteries now makes sense. We have invested and the reduction in electricity costs is exciting!! (Does that sound sad??!!!)
Great information. Our basix stated we needed a 3500L tank, but we ultimately decided to install a 5000L. Best decision we made, we haven't run out of water yet.
Great information for anyone starting a build.
Thanks Rick for your tips on sustainability, good to consider during design and build stages
Thanks for all the great info.
I think a lot of these suggestions should be standard on all new builds - great ways to improve our homes.
Quite and interesting Rick.
Really interesting. Thanks for sharing
Some very interesting reads and useful tips to keep in mind whilst completing my project.
Having recently sold a house that had solar hot water, solar panels and water tanks I can say that I will be ensuring that all of these items are installed on my new house.
This is a great read :)
All excellent info, shame I am just building a shed, I feel this course is prepping me for a something much bigger and better to build, but there's always another project.
Excellent resource for all home builders :)
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Rick Heaton is a Building and Construction Industry professional with formal tertiary qualifications in management and training.