Canberra’s most sustainable demonstration home opens its doors

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Between climate change and the rising cost of electricity, many homeowners have been driven to consider renovating or building a more sustainable home.

But whether you’re a property novice or an experienced hand, the idea can be overwhelming. Where do you start? How expensive will it be? Does it mean compromising?

A unique demonstration home in Ginninderry aims to answer all of these questions and more, giving Canberrans the rare chance to experience first-hand what an 8 Star Energy Efficient Rating (EER) home might look, feel and sound like.

Using best practice features, Energy Efficiency Consultant Paul Nagle built the home for himself with one objective: to educate other homeowners on how to do the same.

Working with architect Jodie Pipkorn from local community organisation SEE-Change, the house was built using a plan from the Federal Government’s YourHome website, which acts as a guide for creating sustainable homes.

From the minute you step into the sun-drenched living room, it’s clear that a sustainable house doesn’t mean compromising on aesthetics.

Some of the home’s key features include passive solar design, double and triple glazed windows, energy and water efficient appliances, renewable energy systems, good draft sealing and insulation, a grass driveway to help biodiversity and reduce the urban heat island effect, a kitchen made from recyclable products, a climate-wise garden and a green roof studio supported by Ginninderry.

People can view the home and its unique features up close until December, with Paul and Jodie running guided house tours on weekends. The 30-minute tours are a collaboration between Commonsense Sustainability Solutions and SEE-Change.

A buyer’s guide and demonstration videos have also been developed in collaboration with SEE-Change and with support from the ACT Government Community Zero Emissions Grant Program.

“The house tours include question and answer sessions, the chance to see the features and how they work, a home buyer’s guide that lists all the key features and ongoing support where they are free to email us with follow-up questions,” Jodie says.

“We’ve had some people walking passed who said they wish they had seen this house first before going to their builder. Some of the things we’re proposing are really simple, where if you can get it in the design phase, it’s really easy to implement and in the end, doesn’t necessarily cost more than the other display homes out here. It’s all about thinking what you can save on, and perhaps spending more on features like good quality, double glazed windows which are going to save you in the long term.”

With a north facing living area and clever design, Jodie says most people comment on how warm the house is without heating, particularly in the depths of a Canberra winter.

“The house was designed for the sun, not the street, so it keeps out the hot summer sun by having higher eaves but captures the heat in winter,” Jodie says.

“There are doors to zone the different areas to make it more efficient when heating and cooling, and it is well insulated and wrapped so there are no unintended airflows. We’ve also got the thermal mass of the floors which makes it feel as though there is underfloor heating in winter even though there isn’t.”

Another clever feature that saves on air-conditioning is the use of pendant lights instead of downlights, to keep any unwanted air leakage at bay.

“We didn’t need heaters for the first few weekends because the sun was streaming in – sometimes we even had to open the windows. And because of the wider eaves keeping out the summer sun, during building it felt like we had an air-conditioner on, so it works both ways,” Jodie says.

“We knew in theory energy efficiency worked because we’d both been working in this space for so long, but we didn’t realise how effective it was going to be until we went through the process first-hand.”

From start to finish it has taken “around three to four years” to design and build the home, with Paul taking a year off work to dedicate to the build. Although it was substantially delayed by COVID, Jodie and Paul describe the experience as “really enjoyable.”

“With Paul being the owner, it meant he could live in it and experiment first-hand,” Jodie says.

“He could make sure, by being here, that he could do it right. The experience has been quite phenomenal.”


The essentials:

What: Energy Efficient Demonstration Home

Where: 3 Folvig Close, Strathnairn, Canberra, on the edge of the Ginninderry GX Display Village

When: From now until 18 December on selected weekends. Visit the website for dates.

How much: Free


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