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4 Gordon Circuit, Seventeen Mile Rocks (at the top end of the Verandah Estate, cnr Fort Road and Fremont Street).

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Project summary

Bligh Voller Nield has designed an elegant, contemporary Queenslander that responds to the site's views, orientation, and ecologically sensitivities, reflects the region's subtropical climate.

Built by Natural Lifestyle Homes, Sustainable Home Brisbane is a two-level home which contains 4-bedrooms and 3-bathrooms set on a gently sloping site. An elevated walkway from the street allows easy access to the primary upper living level.

The design has a minimal ecological footprint and attempts to respect the site's environmental values such as natural drainage flows for stormwater run-off and remnant vegetation, which has been retained for the area's biodiversity.

An important feature is a roof and ceiling design that promotes the benefits of natural ventilation for cooling in summer, and in conjunction with thermal mass, for heating during winter.

Materials have been carefully selected so they have low embodied energy and low toxicity. Where possible, they are sourced from renewable or recycled resources.

Climate zone

Sub-tropical - Climate Zone 2

Key facts

Sustainable Home Brisbane incorporates many clever design features that assist with environmental sustainability – water, energy, air, soil and biodiversity management are all essential elements for healthy residential living. Applying sustanability principles to our housing is a simple and long-term solution for a sustainable future, and the Brisbane home provides visitors with a first-hand experience.

Carefully scripted, subtle signage throughout the house highlights its sustainable design features and materials. The dedicated information centre in the garage provides visitors with detailed ideas about these features, and sponsors brochures also enable visitors to easily replicate these features.

Sustainable Home Brisbane gives everyone a unique, practical insight into the latest sustaiability practices in residential building and land development.

Project coordinator
Stephanie Skyring - Conics

Bligh Voller Nield

Natural Lifestyle Homes

Project manager
Natural Lifestyle Homes and J A Clarke & Associates

Consultant partners

Major sponsors

Support sponsors

Supply sponsors

Commenced: August 2005
Completed: June 2006

Lot size
Land: 915m2

House size
Living space: 347m2

Garage: 36m2

Total floor area: 347m2

Covered outdoor area: 42m2

Land cost
Approximately $280,000

Construction cost
approximately $370,000

Design workshop and community activities

A stakeholder design workshop was hosted by the Australian Green Development Forum and the Brisbane City Council at Brisbane City Hall in June 2004. Coordinated by Performance Frontiers, more than 50 professionals (architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects, builders, councilors, and government employees) attended, and the ideas generated formed the basis for the house's design. Architects Bligh Voller Nield introduced the subject site, landscape design, and explained what they hoped to achieve.

A range of local community activities was also conducted to support the preparation of the home, such as a Sustainability Fair at the Rocks Riverside Park and weekend info sessions.

Design features

Sustainable Home Brisbane is described as a 'contemporary Queenslander'. Optimal orientation for the site and home, wide eves and covered outdoor living and undercrofts areas for shading, good cross-ventilation, high ceilings, and a clever thermal exchange system all contribute to a more comfortable and stable indoor temperature – naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

Architects Bligh Voller Nield carefully considered each materials' embodied energy, source (renewable resource or recycled), emission potential, and durability; while builders Natural Lifestyle Homes maintained a strict waste management plan during construction.

Rainwater harvesting has been incorporated with a storage capacity for 22,000 litres. Universal design principles such as safety, security, and accessibility have been successfully incorporated into the house's design.

Water and energy saving devices are installed throughout. Landscaping incorporates native species, mulched beds, edible plants, bird-attracting species, and is drought resistant.

Internal environment
The home's passive design features include:

Minimising energy to operate the house:

Water saving features:

Outdoor water conservation:

Appropriate building materials are part of good home design, and should be durable and easy to maintain. They should contain low or zero toxics, such as volitile organic compounds (VOC's), that could harm your indoor air quality and environment.

Energy is required to make all building materials, but some require less energy than others. The energy used to collect raw materials and manufacture products is called embodied energy. Low-embodied energy materials such as recycled timber and aggregate, flyash concrete, and recycled concrete for paving has been used in the home's construction. Examples of renewable materials being used include wool insulation, bamboo flooring, plywood external cladding and lining, timber-framed doors and windows. Old and new growth Australian hardwoods and endangered rainforest timber have not been used.

Maunsell Australia also developed a waste management plan for home's construction phase. Waste disposal was monitored, with excess materials donated for re-use. Construction waste was separated and recycled wherever possible to minimise environmental impacts.

Social considerations

The needs of people of varying ages and abilities were strongly considered in the home's design phase, and universal housing design principles have been incorpated using the Department of Housing’s Smart Housing Design Objectives. These Objectives promote a safer, more secure home, that is easily adaptable to the varying needs of occupants throughout all stages of their life.

The Sustainable Home Brisbane entry thresholds are all level, and passageways (1200mm) and doorways (870mm) are wider than usual. The house is also designed to prevent injuries through built-in safety features. It has security features that reduce crime and improve the occupants' sense of security. Slip-resistant flooring has been used in all wet areas, and thermostatic mixers are used to control hot water tempreature from showers and taps, thereby preventing scalding.

Healthy house

The Sustainable Home Brisbane features many sensible and effective ideas to reduce the allergens and potential health hazards associated with some product materials. Internal walls are finished with natural based stains and low-solvent, non-toxic paints. Timber windows and door are finished with plant-based, natural oils.

Zero and low VOC (non-toxic) products, including materials, flooring, furnishings, cabinetry, and paint were used. High humidity and elevated temperatures can encourage common allergens, such as mould and dust mites. By stabilising the indoor air temperature and promoting natural airflows through cross-ventilation, the home is healthier.

The home's room zoning was designed for a variety of uses and can enable simultaneous adjacent activities without disruption to other occupants or neighbours. The house has been positioned to capture the southern views and mountain glimpses; it also captures smells from the retained eucalypt trees; it is designed for people to enjoy and feel good about their surroundings! It provides comfortable conditions with flexible and individual control: "a place for fun, relaxation, and delight," architect Marci Webster-Mannison of Bligh Voller Nield says.

The external environment

Sustainable Home Brisbane site is located within the Verandah estate – an isolated, well-treed enclave elevated 60 metres above the western reaches of the Brisbane River, just above the Rocks Riverside Park.

The Brisbane project team have considered the ecological impact of the development at every level. The entire Fort Road Development has retained existing trees wherever possible through its covenant provisions. The house's orientation is designed to use the site's trees for shading, whilst at the same time catch the north-east breezes for air movement. The site's topsoil was protected during the construction phase by working with the natural contours of the land, and minimising 'cut and fill'. The landscaping will eventiually include vegetable gardens and fruit bearing trees, in addition to the local plants that will attract the area's wildlife.

Key objective

The key objective of Sustainable Home Brisbane is to increase the demand across the entire spectrum of the housing industry, from home owners, home buyers, architects, engineers, builders, sub-contractors, suppliers, and developers to embrace more sustainable building practices and choose sustainable materials in design and construction. The benefits demonstrated attempt to encompass a triple-bottom appraoch to sustainable housing – environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Related links

Last updated July 2009

Sustainable home Brisbane

Map to sustainable home Brisbane

Sustainable home Brisbane - internal image

Sustainable home Brisbane - internal image

Sustainable home Brisbane - internal image

Sustainable home Brisbane - internal image

Sustainable home Brisbane


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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