What are Green Design Principles?

There are literally hundreds of improvements and design innovations that can be undertaken to enhance a project’s environmental sustainability and green design value. These initiatives can generally be categorized into five key areas:


Each principle has a primary focus and will include a range of enhancements. Please read on below for an understanding of each of these principles in more detail, and to learn exactly what analysis will typically be undertaken for a Green Design Project or comprehensive consultation and Green Design Report.

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1. Thermal Performance

  • 1. Optimal planning and layout for zoning and prioritization of different areas to allow varying thermal requirements to be compartmentalized and managed to prevent unnecessary heat loss and gain.
  • 2. Correct orientation for passive solar heating and cooling to maximize sunshine when it is required for warmth in winter, and to exclude solar heat in summer. This is nature’s free heating, cooling and lighting mechanism.
  • 3. Ventilation and passive cooling to capture prevailing breezes in the warmer months and assist with the expulsion of hot air from the building in summer.
  • 4. Thermal mass to store and release heat from the sun within the house as required and provide a heat sink when the house needs to be cooled.
  • 5. Insulation to reduce unwanted heat loss or heat gain through the roof, walls, and floors. This also reduces noise transfer through walls and ceilings. Effective insulation will vastly improve comfort throughout the year.
  • 6. Appropriate glazing and window positioning used to trap the sun’s warmth inside a space when needed and, when located correctly, to exclude excessive heat gain in summer.
  • 7. Shading glass and walls to exclude the hot summer sun but also permit the penetration of winter sun. Shading also prevents heat building up around the house and garden in summer and external heat re-radiating back into the house.
  • 8. Draught sealing to control the flow of unwanted warm or cool air through gaps within the building envelope. A draughty house will undermine the effectiveness of insulation.

2. Energy Efficiency

  • 1. Sourcing and identifying the most efficient suitable heating, cooling, and hot water services, as well as appropriate electrical appliances, where required.
  • 2. Development of an effective natural lighting strategy in order to reduce demand on artificial lighting, and therefore reliance on overall power usage.
  • 3. Choosing the right lighting for the right job – and selecting lighting systems that are long lasting, efficient and, importantly, safe to use.
  • 4. Passive (low use or no-power) heating, cooling and hot water systems to facilitate thermal performance where possible.
  • 5. Self-sufficient renewable power generation options, including: solar, geothermal, wind, and hydro – after all other thermal performance options in the house have been addressed.

3. Water Efficiency

  • 1. Rainwater harvesting and storage solutions for either potable (drinking) supply as well as other household purposes, including laundry, toilet and garden/irrigation use.
  • 2. Efficient water supply appliances, devices, and services – in order to manage water flow, minimize waste, and reduce overall water demand.
  • 3. Sensitive stormwater management practices that increase ground water penetration and garden absorption, and reduce water infrastructure requirements and stormwater pollution.
  • 4. Recycling of wastewater where appropriate, and reuse into garden irrigation and/or drinking supply where necessary.
  • 5. Drought-resistant landscape design, including plant species selection and the application of appropriate landscape materials.

4. Material Selection and Healthy Buildings

  • 1. Astute selection of building materials with low embodied energy – the total energy typically used in extraction, production, transport and assembly of the material.
  • 2. Giving preference to materials from recycled, renewable and low-impact sources as opposed to materials sourced from more ecologically damaging processes.
  • 3. Conducting environmental, life cycle, and performance assessments on materials for new construction, renovating and retrofitting of existing buildings.
  • 4. Suggesting detailed environmental management protocols for construction in order to reduce waste material and landfill and to maximize recycling opportunities.
  • 5. Assessing building products and materials to minimize off-gassing of excessive hazardous chemicals or pollutants (such as Volatile Organic Compounds or ‘VOCs’) – which all contribute to unhealthy indoor living environments.
  • 6. Provision of natural ventilation management systems – such as cross-ventilation and thermal chimney design, automated openable windows and heat recovery ventilators.
  • 7. Implementing strategies for significant improvement of internal air quality by reducing bacteria and mould, environmental dust, water vapour, pollens, and Carbon Dioxide or Carbon Monoxide emissions.
  • 8. Minimizing (wherever possible) risks from electromagnetic radiation produced and conducted by electrical appliances, structural steel and aluminium, wiring circuits and meter boxes, power supply lines and transformer units.

5. Landscape & Sustainable Communities

  • 1. Analysis of existing site conditions, including: vegetation, soil types, natural light, micro-climate, prevailing weather patterns, and indigenous (local) biodiversity.
  • 2. Soil structure improvement for increased aeration, drainage, and organic content for the promotion of healthy plant growing conditions.
  • 3. Stormwater and drainage management for reduced infrastructure requirements, increased ground water recharge and plant absorption, as well as decreased run-off velocity. Sound drainage helps ensure your home remains dry, structurally sound and termite free.
  • 4. Plant selection and application, including: drought-resistance, plant type diversity, food production and permaculture requirements, and grouping of plants and planting locations.
  • 5. Green walls, roofs and earth structures wherever space is restrictive, bushfires are a threat, or simply for optimized thermal performance or aesthetics.
  • 6. Natural heating and cooling strategies for the home and garden: appropriate shading and capture of prevailing breezes for summer; maximizing winter sun and protection from harsh cold winds for more comfortable winter conditions.
  • 7. Reduced outdoor water consumption through efficient irrigation systems, special soil treatments, mulching application and subsequent weed reduction.
  • 8. Application and selection of environmentally responsible building materials: sourcing recycled and reclaimed materials; assessing new materials against their production location and transportation requirements; and ascertaining whether the material is renewable and if it was legally harvested.
  • 9. Detailed specifications, construction details, and suggested environmental management protocols for more efficient landscape construction, responsible removal and reuse of waste materials and to assist with a more constant tendering and quoting process.
  • 10. Reduced maintenance for more enjoyment and less ongoing work.