5 Star

10 Steps to Sustainable Building with 5 Star Rating

Courtesy Jan Brandjes, Brandjes Environmental Building Consultancy

5 Star Ratings and Environmental Design

by Kerry Press


From July 1st 2004 the Victorian Government's 5 Star Energy Rating came into effect. The design and construction of all new homes in Victoria will need to achieve a 5 Star rating in order to enhance their environmental performance. A 5 Star home will save around 30% of the energy used in the average home, save up to $10,000 over the mortgage life of the house and be around 5°C warmer in winter and up to 10°C cooler in summer. Owners of a 5 Star house produce approximately 3 tonnes less greenhouse gas emissions than the average family home, so they are helping to create a cleaner, healthier environment.

We can be certain that energy and water prices will rise to more accurately reflect their true environmental cost. It is also time to consider what type of home is appropriate for the landscape and climate in which we each live. It is no longer appropriate, for example, to build a Queensland style house with lots of glass and natural ventilation, if we live in Melbourne's colder climate. As Feng Shui reminds us, a balanced and conscious living environment is about "the right thing in the right place at the right time, and facing the right direction".

The demands we place on our home spaces have changed over the years. For example, we now prefer a warmer indoor temperature of 18-21°C compared with 15-17°C 15 years ago. The size of our houses has increased by 30% over the last 10 years and yet the number of occupants has decreased.


Kerry Press, principal of Spirit of Design, recently attended several Sustainable Design seminars, organised by VicUrban and CertainTeed (double glazed windows). Presenters included Michael Mobbs (author of Sustainable House), Jan Brandjes (Brandjes Environmental Building Consultancy), Ross Wilson (CertainTeed), and Bernard Desormeaux (Healthy Home & Workplace). All presenters urged designers and home-makers to aim beyond 5 Star to at least a 6 Star rating, in order to keep pace with the increasing commitment to environmental sustainability. In fact Ross Wilson argues strongly that "if you really want to live more comfortably and slash your gas and power bills, you'll need to think in multiples of 5 stars". He asserts that it is not only totally practical and affordable to build the equivalent of a 20 or 25 star home, but that each extra star achieved adds $5000 to the sale price of an otherwise comparable home. CertainteedThis is confirmed by recent studies conducted by the ACT Government (Read the full story on the CertainTeed website).

To achieve an energy-efficient home Bernard emphasises the importance of insulation, positioning and type of windows, draught control and ventilation, room placement and orientation, conscious selection and use of materials, efficient heating and cooling and an efficient hot water system.

Sustainable House

Michael Mobbs highlights the need to consider the embodied energy of a product or process in the design and construction of a building. In particular transport of raw and finished materials to and from the building site represents vast amounts of energy, requiring us to improve the efficiency of the building process from cradle to grave.

The benefits to sustainability of good design are clear. If a home is well planned and carefully designed it provides comfort, efficiency, and flexibility that encourages long-term occupation, with minimal energy-consuming makeovers, extensions or demolishing. This also makes sense in Feng Shui terms, as an environmentally conscious home conserves and enhances life force energy (including water, energy, materials, and ultimately prosperity and good health). A successful home aims for optimum siting and orientation for the sun (life force) and it facilitates harmonious and healthy living through sensitive design and use of spaces. When a home is respectful of community and environment, conscious and well-cared for, it feels good to live in.

sustainable design

Holistic design takes account of the uniqueness of people and their living and working spaces. It considers environmental sustainability and promotes good health. Holistic design respects spirit and incorporates Feng Shui principles for balanced and beautiful living. This is the work of Spirit of Design. Contact us to arrange a consultation tailored to your existing home, workplace or building project.

Useful websites for more information:

VicUrban, the Victorian Government's new urban development agency www.vicurban.com.au
The Building Commission (Victoria) www.buildingcommission.com.au
Ecospecifier, the eco-products knowledgebase www.ecospecifier.org
Healthy Home & Workplace www.healthyhouse.com
CertainTeed Australia: uPVC framed double glazing www.certainteed.com.au