Sustainable Home Design

Sustainable Home Checklist

Discover the three most important decisions when building a home. Learn about the basic design principles of sustainable home design.

View the checklist

We all need to make changes to the way we live! Increasing greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of energy use and concerns about the impacts of climate change is affecting everyone, but there is something you can do.

Are you planning to renovate or build a new home, or simply wanting to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle while renting - think Sustainable House Designs! A sustainable home will considerably reduce your environmental footprint, minimising energy and greenhouse gas emissions. It saves you money by reducing the need for artificial heating, cooling and lighting and provides a more naturally comfortable living environment. And the best part, efficient sustainable designs don’t have to be more expensive, let us show you how!

We’ve provided some handy hints below to help you on your sustainable home journey.

Building a sustainable home - three most important decisions

Location, Location, Location

A home that is close to everything you need will save on transport and fuel costs. Consider the walking and cycling distance to public transport, shops, parks and schools.


Bigger isn't always better. If you really want a sustainable home, choose one with a smaller footprint. Larger homes require more heating, air conditioning and lighting and also take up valuable garden space.


Look for a block with good orientation that allows for the placement of living and entertaining areas in the north and minimal windows on east and west.

If your house has a longer north side orientation, you can take advantage of winter sun for warmth and natural lighting. If you can’t choose a block with a longer northern orientation, you can adapt the layout of your home to maximise solar passive design.

The City developed a Building a Sustainable Home Checklist of things to consider when building a sustainable home. 

House designs for sustainability

In partnership with the University of Western Australia and Solar Dwellings, the City of Cockburn has developed six innovative and inspirational house designs for sustainability. These designs are intended to help residents create a home that is climate sensitive and site responsive. A home that will keep warm in winter and cool in summer, while minimising the impact it has on the environment and saves money.

Each home has been designed for a different lot orientation to achieve optimal performance.

To view all six designs, view the Building a Sustainable Home brochure. 

Related Documents

Document name Downloadable files
Building a Sustainable HomePDF document

Renewable / solar energy

Installing a Photovoltaic (PV) system can be beneficial to both the environment and homeowners. It not only produces energy from a renewable resource (the sun) and reduces your carbon emissions, but can also increase the value of your home and provide you with a level of energy security.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels also known as Photovoltaic (PV) systems, convert light energy from the sun into Direct Current (DC) electricity. In order to convert this energy into electricity we use in the home (known as Alternating Current (AC) electricity) a device called an inverter is used. This AC electricity is then used to power your home. If the system is grid connected (most common for households) any excess energy is fed back into the main electricity grid.

What size solar system will I need?

A typical West Australian household consumes 18 kWh of electricity a day which produces approximately 5,300 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

The most common size Photovoltaic (PV) system for households is 1.5kW which would produce approximately 30% of household electricity and prevent 1900kgs of greenhouse gas emissions being emitted. Overall this would save the household approximately $525 a year with savings increasing as electricity prices increase. To find out what size system you need, it is useful to examine your electricity bill to find out your daily average consumption in units.

What is a unit or kWh? 1 unit = 1000 watts = 1 Kilowatt hour (kWh)

There are a range of solar panel rebates and subsidies available to home owners to encourage uptake of renewable energy in the home.

Appliances and fittings

Energy efficient appliances will improve the sustainability of your home. Check the water and energy rating of appliances before you buy them and aim for the stars (the more stars, the more efficient).

Gas-boosted solar hot water systems or heat pump systems will save hundreds of dollars off your energy bills annually, compared to standard electric systems. By locating your hot water system near the bathrooms, laundry and kitchen you can reduce the amount of cold water that needs to be run while waiting for hot water to arrive at taps and shower heads.

Rainwater tanks can also help you to save water, but make sure you check the City’s guidelines on water tanks before you install one.

Renovating for sustainability

Many of the tips provided above apply to both building and retrofitting a home for sustainability.
If you have purchased an established home, while the basic orientation of your home can’t be changed, there are passive solar and thermal additions you can make to make your home more comfortable and efficient, such as:

  • Insulation

  • Window ventilation

  • Sealing draughts

  • Installing floor and window coverings.

You can also install energy and water efficient appliances and tanks. You can consider compost and worm farms to reduce your waste and you can landscape for water conservation and cooling / shade.

Of course – renewable energy and solar hot water installation is an option for most homes, and will instantly reduce your energy costs and environmental impact.


If you are thinking about retrofitting your home, please consider  preserving the heritage aspects of your house. The City has produced information brochures on the heritage components of five historic housing styles commonly found in Cockburn.

For more information on heritage homes, please refer to the City’s Residential Heritage webpage.  

Sustainable living for renters

Whether you’ve already moved into your rental property or are still looking, we’ve prepared the Sustainable Renters Guide for you to understand the possibilities of adopting a sustainable lifestyle while renting.

View the Sustainable Renters Guide

15 ways to sustainable living in Cockburn
There are many grants, subsidies and programs available to Cockburn residents to help kick-start their sustainability journey. Opportunities include: To kickstart your sustainable jounrney, download the 15 Ways to Sustainability at Home booklet or the poster. Feel free to collect a hard copy at any of the Cockburn Libraries.

For more information and contact

For more information on sustainable living, please contact the City’s Sustainability Officer on 08 9411 3444 or email [email protected]



City of Cockburn
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Spearwood 6163

PO Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC,
Western Australia, 6965

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Cockburn Nyungar moort Beeliar boodja-k kaadadjiny. Koora, yeyi, benang baalap nidja boodja-k kaaradjiny.
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We acknowledge a continuing connection to land, waters and culture and pay our respects to the Elders, past and present.