Sustainability in Australia’s residential architecture has come along in leaps and bounds over the past 10-15 years. Minimum sustainability standards are being mandated to increasingly stringent guidelines, forcing the industry to both think and operate differently, and ultimately benefiting all of us (and our natural environment).

In line with the NCC 2022, all new dwellings must now achieve a minimum 7 star NATHERS rating which takes into account design, materials and construction, in order to predict the amount of heating and cooling a house will need to stay comfortable year-round. 

But in an industry where both innovation and legacy are prized and praised, Australian architects continue to raise the sustainability bar well beyond the minimum standards. Future-forward construction methods, materials, and design choices are now becoming commonplace in our homes; changing the face of the single dwelling market. In a sea of new techniques and processes, there are a few key trends that are emerging. 

Prefabricated construction

The industry is growing increasingly aware of the sustainability benefits that can be achieved with prefabricated construction. By controlling the construction process end-to-end, prefabricated housing can substantially reduce the wastage that occurs throughout the process, and reduce the number of unforeseen circumstances that occur during any construction project.

By creating parts in factory controlled environments, prefab homes reduce waste. They can be built faster in the factory, and constructed faster on-site, reducing labour and environmental footprint. And factory construction also enables a higher degree of precision in the fabrication process, meaning prefab homes often have superior air sealing, leading to better energy efficiency in the home.

Smarter homes

At this point, smart homes are not a new concept. The Internet of Things has existed for years now, and everything from robot vacuums to web-enabled fridges are commonplace within our homes. But what has changed is the sophistication of the technology, and just how much it can contribute to sustainability in the home.

Smart thermostats ensure that energy is not wasted on excessive heating or cooling. Smart lights interact with the levels of natural light in a home and adjust themselves accordingly. Real-time monitoring of energy and water consumption is allowing people to be more cognisant of their behaviours, and change them accordingly - as well as getting ahead of potential problems or maintenance issues before they become serious. These are just a few of the plethora of smart devices that are fast becoming standard in new single dwellings, changing the blunt tools of the past into the finely honed instruments of a sustainable future. 

Designing for multi-generational living 

As people grow old, the preference to age in place is increasing, and rightly so - as Australia’s aged care frameworks don’t currently seem prepared to handle the changes that are taking place. So as our family structures evolve, there's a growing need for homes that can accommodate multiple generations under one roof.

This means embracing the principles of universal design; things like wider doorways, accessible bathrooms, and grab bars that can make spaces functional for people of all ages and abilities. This can be supplemented by flexible floor plans that make spaces more easily adaptable or reconfigurable as needed; and by the introduction of separate living areas (where space permits) to meet privacy needs within the one dwelling. 


We hear a lot about biophilic design, but a lot less about biomimicry. Biomimicry is about learning from nature and using those ideas to solve human problems. Biomimicry can be expressed in many different ways, beginning with more accessible features like passive rainwater harvesting systems or green roofs that mimic natural topography or flora; and going through to the more restrictive features like self-regulating facades. These are building envelopes that can be adapted to changing weather conditions - such as self-retracting awnings or roofs, or automated louvres that mimic pinecones reacting to rain. 

So whether it’s mandatory sustainability measures, or getting an architecturally-designed facade that mimics a pinecone, it’s fair to say that Australian residential architecture is no longer sleepwalking through sustainability. And with a wealth of innovative new solutions emerging at all stages of the construction process, it will be one of the more fascinating areas to watch over the coming years and decades. 

The 2024 Sustainability Awards jury is looking for innovative and functional designs that prioritise sustainability and community, while also delivering an outstanding visual appeal. 

Don't miss out on the opportunity to showcase your project and contribute to a better future. Click here for more information.