E114 – My Own Sustainable Home and How We Created It – Sustainable Homes and Living Season E4

In this episode of the podcast, Frances is joined by her partner, Neil, as they chat about how they went about designing and building their Award Winning, Sustainable Forever Home. They discuss the challenges, the things they didn’t compromise on, and how the whole project came together. 

This is an information rich episode on how to get started and what to keep in mind when considering a sustainable and energy efficient home.


My own Sustainable Home and How we Created It 

This week I get personal, and how sustainability is not just something I talk about, but something I truly believe in. 

Having lived in Europe (Amsterdam, Ljubljana and London) for 12 years, it was so ingrained in the daily life there, that it also became part of my daily life. 

It was common practice in Amsterdam to collect all your bottles, pack them on your push bike and take them to the recycling station in a street nearby. I can’t see that happening here anytime soon. 

My partner, Neil, lived in Paris for 7 years, so he also lived in a community of being more environmentally conscious. 

So when he and I were faced with building a new home, we knew we wanted it to be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible. We wanted the home, and the whole site to be linked to our values of using less fossil fuels by creating a home that was energy efficient and a healthy home for our children. 

So today I have Neil here so we can chat through what we did with our home design. What we compromised on, and elements we were determined to have. 

Neil is super passionate about sustainability and is Passive House qualified, after studying and passing exams in 2017. 


The key challenges when starting to build a sustainable home back in 2013 

  • Lack of information about climate change 
  • Few energy-efficient products on the market. What was available was very expensive 
  • Finding the right builder with experience in energy efficient products and understanding the issues 
  • SIPs (Structural Insulated Panel) – sourcing the products, experience in installing and use of the product 

Components we would not compromise on that would undermine the integrity of the efficiency of the home 

  • Window shading – to keep the summer heat out 
  • Light coloured roof – color of the roof that could reflect the heat of summer away from the roof cavity 
  • Proper insulation and not skimping to have the bare minimums 
  • Good quality glazing – double glazing 
  • Airtightness  
  • Thermal mass 

Core elements of our design and build that make our home really energy efficient and comfortable 

No single element carries the whole load itself. It’s a combination of different factors that all come together to make sure the home is comfortable year-round.  

  • Double Glazing & Low-E Glazing 
  • Ceiling and Wall Insulation 
  • Light-colored roof 
  • HRV – heat recovery ventilator 
  • Passive Solar design principles  

The whole site was considered, not just the house  

  • Veggie patch 
  • Composting  
  • Native garden  
  • Natural pool – no salt or chlorine 
  • 20,000 litre Inground water tank that serves toilets, garden, pool and washing machine 

Interior products used  

  • Window treatments to maximise on thermal insulation 
  • Low toxicity materials – wool carpets, low VOC paints 
  • Materials that are GreenTag accredited 

The environmental features that were used to reduce the energy load on the home 

  • Solar panels on the roof for electricity 
  • Energy-efficient LED lighting 
  • Ceiling fans 
  • Running the dehumidifier mode on the split system instead of cooling mode  

What we’re most proud of 

  • After almost 10 years, the home is still working above average.  
  • The daily energy consumption is low by any standard (somewhere between 10-12 kilowatts per day).  
  • Still love the materials chosen for the interiors – hard materials (because I chose it with my heart) 
  • Pendant lights – one disco ball and a 3-tiered mirrored upside down wedding cake 

What provides the most impact  

  • Get some knowledge before engaging with designers or architects.  
  • Get the correct balance between living experience, efficiency and cost 
  • Build to passive house standards 
  • Don’t connect  gas to the home 
  • Optimise roofing layout for solar panels 

What we’d change if we did it again 

  • Go all the way and build an accredited passive house 
  • Have no gas appliances or connection to the home  

Ready to start your sustainable home journey? Here are some useful links to help you: 

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