At a time when extreme heat is affecting much of the sunshine state, a number of built environment experts from Queensland have given their thoughts on how best to deal with the heat both now and into the future.

Minimising artificial cooling is paramount to the continued operation of Queensland’s electricity grids, with the design of homes holding the key. Red Dog Architects Managing Director Paul Worroll believes sustainable design principles should be embedded into the concepts of each Queensland home.

"Sustainability and resilient design should be an inherent part of the design process for a Queensland house. 

“We need to consider the impact we are having on this planet and how we cope with changing climatic conditions and the impact of natural disasters. It is not possible to create a design that can cope with every unpredictable event, however with good design, we can help to make sure our cities, buildings and communities are able to cope with disruption and bounce back afterwards.”

With more extreme weather on the way, Worroll has called upon the design industry to react accordingly.

“For example, the frequency of floods is increasing and heatwaves are becoming more prolonged and intense, so we need to adapt our designs, materials and construction to minimise the damage caused by floods and reduce the effects of extreme heat, making houses more energy efficient is part of this adaptive process."

Rosemary Kennedy, Director of the Subtropical Cities Consultancy, agrees.

“Many existing and new houses are overblown in scale, yet fail to provide quality dwellings that don’t cost the earth to keep cool or warm,” she says. 

“The mass housing industry’s reluctance to adopt basic energy efficient construction practices will ensure that people will have no choice but to live in substandard energy-dependent houses for the next 40 years, or attempt to update and adapt them at even greater expense down the track. 

“Many residents default to the air-conditioner by necessity rather than choice, simply because a failure of design or workmanship makes it unavoidable. But what if power is too expensive, or unavailable because of a blackout, or if we’d simply prefer to take advantage of beautiful weather, and our home is not designed for it?

“It is imperative that both passive climate control and energy efficiency are designed into new buildings and retrofits. Theoretically a 9 Star house would require no energy for thermal comfort. Currently a very low percentage of Australian dwellings even achieve the current bare minimum of 6 Stars, and affordable accessible dwellings are simply unavailable.”

Renters may be the most vulnerable to extreme heat, with many landlords putting off the improvement of living conditions. Luke Reade, President of Energetic Communities Association in Brisbane, says incentives should be introduced by the state government for landlords to improve the living conditions of renters.

"Renters often live in the poorest quality homes, with many low-income households being renters. Renters have minimal agency to make their homes more efficient, comfortable and resilient. Landlords don't have any incentive to undertake energy efficiency upgrades, and often don't allow even basic upgrades when asked, even when of no cost to themselves,” he says.

"Heatwaves are a big killer – this will only get worse in Queensland as existing poor quality homes become less resilient to expectations with the increase in extreme heat days.

 “It is only through regulation that renters will get a fair deal. Queensland really needs to catch up to other states and international jurisdictions.”