Archives for category: Environmentally Sustainable Design ESD Home Retrofit

How your energy efficient home office and green business system can save you money



West st kilda house designed by BP Architects





Planning to jazz up your office in an environmental way?  Then there are two aspects to consider.  The first is your actual building.  The second is how you can make your business more environmentally friendly.


The following practical tips will pay dividends in the long run and most have very short pay back periods.  They may also save you money from the word go so for any business owner, they are all worth considering.  If not now, you can plan for them as your need arises for each of these energy efficient and money saving tips.




If you are planning to renovate your home and home office it is always good to upgrade your building so that it works better for you.  If you make it a more energy efficient home and home office then you will have a comfortable living and working environment.  Your energy bills will be lower and your working environment will be improved.


Summer Cooling


Shading your windows will block out the heat from the sun.    If you do this successfully you can still let the sun in during winter and block out the summer sun.


Each orientation of your house will be exposed to different angles from the sun.  On the east and west you have the low angle of the morning and evening sun.  Vertical screens help block out the rising and setting sun.  On the north side you have the sun at it’s highest in the sky during the middle of the day.  And on the south side of your home you might be exposed to the early morning and late evening sun during the middle of summer.


It is best to shade your windows from the heat of the sun on the outside of your window, rather than the inside.  This will stop the sun’s heat before it comes into your home office.


If your window that you want shaded is located on the east or west side of your house you can simply strategically plant trees or shrubs.  They will vertically shade your window from the low angle of the rising and setting sun.


Windows on the north side can usually be shaded during summer by the eaves this of your house.  If you do not have eaves then you might consider external shutters or a sun shading device over your window.


Sun shading to Essendon Home, designed by BP Architects

Sun shading to Essendon Home, designed by BP Architects






If overheating is a problem in your office a window film can reduce the heat input into your home office.   This will also block out any direct winter sunlight by the same percentage.


Or you can install a removable perforated reflective sheet to the inside of your window which will reflect the heat from the sun.  The perforations in the sheet still allow you to see through to the outside.



Winter Warmth


Insulation provides the best return on your investment when looking to make your home and home office warmer.  It also helps to keep the heat out during summer.


Insulation is usually easily installed and the payback period for insulating is usually a couple of years.  Hot air rises so high levels of insulation in the ceiling will work the best for you.


If you have timber floors, you will get drafts from the floor up.  Insulation such as reflective foil insulation with foam insert, which comes in a sheet, can be installed under the floor to stop these drafts.


Single glazed windows have poor insulation properties.  If you need to replace a window then you might consider installing a double glazed window.


If you want to insulate your windows, but don’t want to replace them, then you might consider heavy drapes with a pelmet.  This will keep the heat in overnight.


Or you might consider installing or having installed a second transparent acrylic or glass sheet to your window frame.  This will slow the heat flow and will also help reduce any outside noise.




West St Kilda House, designed by BP Architects

West St Kilda House, designed by BP Architects








Painting is the most readily way to jazz up your office for the New Year.  If you use low emission paint, which has low levels or zero levels of volatile organic compounds, then you can paint in an environmentally friendly way.


You will find that these paints are better to use as there are no toxic chemicals in the air when you are working.  And they are good for the environment as they have low or zero levels of chemicals in their manufacturing.  The paint industry produces more chemical emissions than vehicles on our roads so your choice can have an impact on the environment.




If you have decided that painting is the way to go to jazz up your office, then you may want to know the impact of colour on your well being.  How the psychological properties of colours can affect how productive you are and have an influence on your judgment.


The colour that will make you feel most productive is an individual choice and different for everyone.  Blue colors affect your mind; yellow your emotions; red your body; and green your ‘balance’.


Research into the affect of colour has shown that the intensity of that color is what affects you as to how you will respond.  A strong bright color will stimulate, and a color with low saturation will soothe.






If you want to stimulate your mind, then painting your workplace blue would most likely make you the most productive.  All the same, you may want to add a highlight of colour such as orange to add a bit of emotion to your colour scheme.


If you are a designer you may want yellow colours in your work place as an ego, confidence and optimistic stimulating colour.   As the colour specialist Angela Wright1 states


“It takes guts to be creative and come up with something new – that’s why yellow works in that environment.”


If you do physical work then red would make you more productive as red is a physically stimulating colour.  If balance is what you want to achieve, green is your colour.



Entrance of Essendon Home, designed by BP Architects

Entrance of Essendon Home, designed by BP Architects



Your Green Business System


The second part of making your business more environmentally friendly, and save money at the same time is to consider your business practices.


If you want your office to be an environmentally friendly office you will want to have your own green business system or, more formally known as, business environmental management system.  Your System would include how you rethink the way you run your business in a green way.  Your business operations would considering reduce, reuse and recycling in all practical aspects.


Energy consumption


The following are some ideas on how you can start saving money straight away.  There are a number of power plug timers, and power boards with foot switches, that make it easier to implement these energy savings.


Phantom energy


Phantom energy is the electricity drawn from outlets when equipment is off but still plugged in.  Switching off equipment when not in use will stop this energy consumption and stop paying for energy you don’t use.


Your home office equipment may include computers, printers, scanner, photocopier equipment, or a combination printer/fax/copier/scanner.  In 2001 the Australia greenhouse office estimated if this equipment is left on continuously you will use approximately $220 worth of electricity. Switching off the equipment when not used would save you more than half of this electricity2.


From generating annual greenhouse gas emissions of around 1.8 tones you can cut your own greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60% by simply switching off your equipment3.  This is a significant reduction in your business green footprint.


Office equipment has become more energy efficient since 2001 but energy costs have increased.  Turning off your office equipment when not in use will save you money.  It will reduce your ecological footprint and green house gas emissions.







Ecohome, designed by BP Architects

Ecohome, designed by BP Architects






Screensavers on your computer don’t save you energy and consume energy you don’t use.  Turn them off and start any energy efficient mode on your computer such as energy star.


The startup surges for equipment are of very short duration and continue only for a few seconds.



Office Equipment & Supplies


When choosing business equipment you can include energy efficiency in your criteria.


If your budget is tight then you could buy second hand equipment in good working order, or refurbished equipment.


Think about the end of life use of your equipment and toners and printer cartridges.  Can they be recycled?


If you used recycled paper then you would use a product that uses 90% less water and 50% less energy than if you used paper that was manufactured from trees4.





Artificial lighting can be another big energy user.  If possible use natural daylight.


You could consider motion sensors to turn off lights that might be left on.


LED lights are becoming more affordable.  A 100W light bulb is equivalent to an average 17W LED lamp.  There are some local council government schemes where you can have all your lights changed over to LEDs without charge.  Changing your quartz halogen downlights to LEDs is a straight forward way to reduce your energy bills.



View from the home office, ecohome, designed by BP Architects

View from the home office, ecohome, designed by BP Architects



Some plants will clean the air of chemicals as well as provide an environmentally friendly feel about your home office.




If possible you can install a photovoltaic array so that your energy consumptions is offset by the electricity generated from these panels.


Reduce, Recycle, Reuse


Rethink how you run your business to see if you can improve in these areas of reducing, recycling and reusing. This will save you money in the long run, as well as helping the environment.


This may includes reducing consumption such as using both sides of your paper.  You could sort out your waste effectively into different categories and receptacles for recycling.


Considering these three aspects of your green business system will mean that you will run an efficient business with minimal waste.

Going green in your business is not as difficult as it may first seem.   It is a practical no nonsense approach to running a streamline business that is efficient and effective; whilst saving the environment.

  2. 3. 4. The Green Office Guide.


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Jan and Michael’s Camberwell Home during construction

Jan and Michael loved their existing single storey California bungalow home.  They met with architect Bridget Puszka, BP Architects and explained that they wanted an environmentally sustainable designed home retrofit for their existing home.  Their plans for their home project included a first floor addition.

They found that with their two girls now teenagers, and parents older, that their existing home did not provide the accommodation that they wanted.  Several neighbours in their street had two storey homes and Jan and Michael felt that if their home had an additional floor upstairs that it would provide the additional space that they needed in their home.  As well as this, the first floor addition would be in keeping with their neighbourhood streetscape.


Camberwell Home before renovations

A Brief Description

Jan and Michael’s existing house was dark and dim.  Not enough daylight was able to provide sufficient day lighting levels to the rooms.  The houses on all three sides of their home were double storey homes.  The higher east side of Jan and Michael’s home was shaded with dense vegetation of trees and plants.


Front Entry of existing Camberwell home

Their existing weatherboard home had been modified over the years and an additional room with a flat roof had subsequently been added to the back of their original home.  A carport was located at the back of the home and towards the rear of the property.

The back of Jan and Michael’s home faced north.  They had a large garden at the rear that they could access through a door from their laundry.  Their kitchen was over crowded and enclosed.  To get to the back of the home you had to walk through the kitchen to the dining room. An existing brick chimney surround and chimney stack was located on one side of their kitchen.

Their existing fire place and chimney in the living room was still operational.  Some of the ceilings in their home had decorative ceiling roses and mouldings that Jan and Michael wanted to try and keep.  There was evidence of water damage on the ceilings.


Rear of existing Camberwell Home before renovations

The ground floor was redesigned by Bridget Puszka, BP Architects, to provide easy access throughout the home. New kitchen and living areas were located on the north and warmer side of the home.  From the living areas large sliding doors provided a visual connection with their rear garden.  As a natural extension of their living rooms, a deck was located adjacent to their living rooms and provided an al fresco area for dining on warm Melbourne nights.

Their existing home was transformed into a light bright and delightful home with garden views and decorative features throughout.  Jan and Michael’s ESD retrofit meant that they could live in the home with the character of a Californian home, with all the features of a modern home, and the comfort of a passive solar designed building.

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Rear of Camberwell Home with first floor addition, during construction

Detailed Feature Description

The modifications to Jan and Michael’s existing home were designed to enhance the architectural character of their existing house.  They wanted to retain their 1920’s weatherboard Californian Bungalow architectural character.

Second hand materials were used wherever possible.  Second hand double hung windows and bay windows were designed into the project.  These second hand windows enhanced the Californian Bungalow house character.

2 Camberwell IMG_6768 copy

Second hand bay window used for first floor addition

Strong visual connections with their back garden were established from living rooms adjacent to the roof garden and the ground floor deck. Medium to long distance vistas designed throughout the house created openness and a larger sense of space within the house.

The ground floor north deck positioned adjacent to the living rooms connected the house to their garden.  Large north facing sliding doors opened onto the deck allowing ease of access to the large garden.  A functional kitchen was designed in an open plan layout with the living areas.

A roof garden on the first floor provided a roof for the ground floor deck.  The roof garden is an extension of their first floor living areas.


5 Camberwell IMG_6819

Large north facing sliding doors from the dining room opens onto a deck


To make the most of the existing services, a laundry and new powder room was located in the previous position of the kitchen.

Jan and Michael’s home project plans included the installation of a future grey water treatment and garden feature in the form a billabong.  The reed bed treatment pond would be a garden feature in the back yard and would also assist in cooling hot northerly breezes.

The Weather Conditions

Jan and Michael’s home is located on a gentle sloping site.  The east side boundary was higher than the west side boundary.  They have double storey neighbouring homes on three sides of their property. Dense vegetation on their east boundary of their house shades and shelters the east side of the house.  The west side of their house was fully exposed to the hot summer sun.

Their existing home did not allow for the passage of breezes through their home.  In the redesign of their home the window and wall placement were carefully considered.  This allowed cross flow of breezes throughout the home, and for the breezes to flow unimpeded.  In doing so, the house quickly and effectively cools down in summer when the weather conditions changed and cooling breezes avail.

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Second hand double hung windows used and allowed cross flow of breezes

Climate change has meant that our weather patterns are more unpredictable and we are experiencing more extreme weather events.  Melbourne’s climate is temperate and variable, with moderate rainfall generally most months. It is warm in summer, with daytime temperatures averaging in the mid to high 20s.  Temperatures normally exceed 35°C on nine days a year.

Temperatures are mild in autumn and spring, with daytime temperatures averaging around 20°C.  Winters are cold with daytime temperatures on average in the low to mid-teens.

The ‘heat island’ effect is the phenomena when asphalt and concrete absorb the daytime warmth and radiate it back into the environment during the night.  This results in metropolitan locations being warmer than country locations.

Wind can come from all directions and varies from day to night and from season to season.  Cooling breezes from the sea breezes come from the south in summer.  During winter, cold air travelling down valleys from inland Victoria, bringing cold breezes from the north. In summer, the same inland breezes result in hot northerlies.

Melbourne has an average mean annual total of 639 mm rainfall on 143 days of the year. This is a general total as the mean annual total rainfall has fluctuated since recording started.  Usually rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, averaging about 55 mm per month.

Energy Efficiency

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North facing glass doors open onto roof deck.  Awning to be installed above doors

The design of Jan and Michael’s retrofit and additions to their home were designed on good environmentally sustainable design principles. They wanted a high energy star rating and a home with no or low vocs.  The maximum use of natural lighting was utilized to all parts of the design of their home project.

Environmentally sustainable design principles utilized in their home design included the following:

  • Avoid, re-use, recycle
  • Passive solar heating and cooling
  • Optimize northern exposure
  • daylighting

This house is a weatherboard clad home with tiled roof and two brick chimneys.  The footings of the house are timber framed floors supported on stumps.  Roof tiles removed during partial demolition were retained to be reused on the first floor roof.

An airlock entry was created in the remodelling of the floor plan.  This restricted the amount of unwanted hot or cold air from entering the main living areas of the home.

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Airlock entry during construction.  Second hand decorative hallway arch

Areas within the house were designed into separate zones.  Living areas were orientated towards the north.  Utility areas and bedrooms were located on the cooler south side of house

Flexibility was designed into the house so that internal rooms could be opened up and increased in volume during summer and closed down to reduce room area requiring warming in winter.

During winter, rooms could be closed off so that the volume requiring heating was reduced.  This included access doors to the staircase that separated the ground floor from the first floor. Localized heating was provided to the rooms requiring heating rather than a centralized heating system.

During summer, these rooms could be opened up to increase the dispersing of hot air throughout the house.  Over head fans were installed in living areas and bedrooms for both summer and winter use.

Kitchen before Renovations

brick fireplace in existing kitchen retained in new retrofit for thermal mass

The two brick chimneys were the only thermal mass in the house and were retained in the house redesign.  The living room fireplace remains operational.  The fireplace in the former kitchen was retained as thermal mass located inside the house.  This existing brick chimney was incorporated into the first floor living area also as thermal mass.

The roof terrace on the first floor shaded the western side of the house.  A new carport, positioned towards the front of the house on the west side, shaded the house from the summer sun.  The carport roof also provided for additional long term storage.

Cross ventilation was considered when positioning windows.  Rooms were designed to have an unobstructed flow of air throughout the home.

A fireplace damper was installed in their lounge room chimney.  The damper was located in the throat of their brick chimney above the firebox.  This meant that the fireplace could be sealed shut when not in use.  It stops heated air escaping up the chimney when the fireplace is not being used.

Natural day lighting was enhanced with high windows above large sliding doors and sky windows.  All new windows were double glazed low E glazing units with external Sun Shading to windows.

Renovating an existing house is a good time to upgrade the whole house.  It is relatively easy and economical to install wall insulation into a weather board home.  If you removal all the weatherboards and install a breathable building membrane you can reduce the amount of wanted air infiltration through the walls and around the window and door openings.


Both Jan and Michael wanted to keep the Californian bungalow character of their existing home.  They wanted to enhance this architectural character in their home renovation project.  Second hand recycled windows that matched their existing home were designed into their renovation and additions.

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Second hand bay window to first floor addition

Californian bungalow style of house first became popular in Australia from 1913 onwards.  This period coincided with the rise of the Hollywood film industry, which popularized American houses.  American architectural magazines were also imported into Australia around this time.

Melbourne has a similar climate to California and the design of the Californian Bungalow was considered suitable for our relatively warm summers and mild winters.  Timber versions of the American brick bungalow house were built in and around Melbourne.


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Sky window above first floor bathroom provides daylighting to stairs


Sustainable Home Features:

  • 1920’s weatherboard Californian bungalow retained
  • Remodelling of existing home to effectively minimize new construction
  • Designed for flexible zoning
  • Zoning of rooms to reduce heating and cooling requirements
  • Airlock entry
  • Avoid, reuse, recycled principles incorporated in the design principles
  • Recycled second hand materials used
  • Second hand fret work to entry area enhances the architectural character of the home
  • Remodel existing bathroom into new ensuite
  • Fireplace damper installed
  • Ceiling mouldings and roses restored
  • Sky view windows above bathroom to let in daylight
  • North facing roof garden / balcony
  • North facing ground level deck adjacent to living areas
  • Reuse existing carport as outdoor living area with pergola
  • Second hand bricks used as paving
  • Roof tiles removed during demolition reused
  • West facing window with sun screens
  • Ceiling fans
  • Optimize northern exposure and north orientation
  • Maximum use of natural day lighting
  • Maximum re-use and recycling of water
  • North facing roof area for future photovoltaic power supply grid connected
  • Solar hot water
  • Rainwater tank
  • Passive solar design
  • Cross ventilation
  • Secure night time exhausting of hot air
  • Brick chimney surround and chimney stack retained on the interior as thermal mass
  • Light weight weatherboard cladding
  • Breathable membrane
  • High performance double glazed windows and doors
  • Low chemical content building materials. No/low vocs
  • Minimal construction waste and reuse of site materials



Camberwell Home ESD Retrofit