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Design> Triple bottom line

The Smart and Sustainable Homes program sets out to demystify the meaning of ‘sustainable housing’, which is about creating appropriate housing design for our local climate and environmental setting, the varied life situations we are likely to face and our budget.

Sustainable housing is defined as:

Planning, designing and building dwellings to make them

more socially, environmentally and economically responsible.

Practically, this means they are more comfortable, liveable, affordable, accessible, responsive, healthier and cost effective to live in over the medium to long-term.

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The triple bottom line concept of sustainability is achieved through the application of smart design principles at the early stages of planning and constructing the home. Making these decisions upfront translates to multiple benefits for occupants by creating a home that is safer, more secure, flexible, comfortable, environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient over time.

A sustainable home looks like a normal house, but is designed and constructed to include the principles of sustainable design which attempts to balance social, environmental and economic considerations.


Sustainable homes are designed with people in mind. They consider access, safety, security and design that make your home work for you now and into the future.

While ‘designing for people’ is a core component of every designer’s brief, designers should also consider the clients’ future needs throughout the different stages of their lives, as well as the temporary needs clients may face due to illness or injury.

A ‘universally designed’ home is safe, easily adaptable to suit a diverse range of needs and comfortable for people with varying abilities and at different stages of their lives, especially the elderly with our ageing population.

A socially sustainable home can also contribute to safe and friendlier communities that reinforce social networks, discourage neighbourhood crime (through passive surveillance) and allow people of every age and ability to participate in their community throughout their life. An aesthetically pleasing and stimulating built environment will strengthen the sense of well-being of residents and people in the local community.


Sustainable homes are resource efficient by incorporating water, energy and waste efficiencies, as well as passive solar design features such as orientation, ventilation, insulation, shading and building materials.

Resource efficiency is concerned with water efficiency in the house and garden; waste efficiency of materials used during construction, and energy efficiency through good passive design and high star-rated whitegood appliances and lights. It is also linked to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption.

Resource efficiency equates to lifestyle benefits for residents in terms of improved thermal comfort (social sustainability) and reduced running costs for the home (economic sustainability).


Improved design features and use of low-maintenance materials make sustainable homes cost-efficient over time, as do the use of appliances with high energy-star ratings that reduce the ongoing costs of running your home. Energy and water bills are lower and potential future modification costs are greatly reduced to make the home more adaptable over its life cycle.

Appropriate orientation on-site promotes passive solar design features that bring warmth to living areas in winter and shade protection in summer, therefore limiting energy costs in running the home.

The consideration of the local market in the selection of building material suppliers can optimise savings through reduced transportation costs to the site. Other economic savings can also be realised with the increased focus on the embodied energy that building materials may represent in their journey from the source, through refinement, product manufacture and transport to eventual use on-site in the construction of the home.


Last updated August 2008

Sustainable home

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Department of Public Works
Illuminating Engineering Society
Australian Green Development Forum
Bendigo Bank
Housing Industry Association
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Urban Development Institute of Australia        Australian Institute of Architects
Planning Institute of Australia
Queensland Master Builders Association
Queensland Government