People building new homes in the City of Greater Bendigo are opting for eco-friendly designs, with the help of local businesses that understand the importance of sustainable building practices.
“People are onto sustainable building, it's a hot topic,” says Ross O’Neill, builder and director of VR Builders. The Castlemaine-based company are accredited Master Builders Green Living Builders and passionate about sustainable building and keeping running costs down using building solutions that make a difference.
Together with helping homeowners create a more environmentally-friendly building, VR Builders has also won multiple Master Builder awards. In 2015, a home they constructed in nearby Barkers Creek won Best Custom Home, Best Sustainable Home (for both the north west region and Victoria) and the National Environment and Energy Efficiency Residential Building award. The house was designed by Castlemaine-based architect Stephen Lumb and has a 6.8 Star rating. The Nationwide House Energy Rating System rates the energy efficiency of a house based on its design. According to the Victorian Building Authority, 6 Star homes are projected to use 24 per cent less energy through heating and cooling compared to 5 Star homes.
This building’s northern aspect (Ross says positioning a house on the building envelope facing north is the first step to sustainability) allows natural light to penetrate the double-glazed windows and heat the polished concrete slab.
“With rising energy costs, we do not need to build the traditional way, we can save money and energy by adopting sustainable building solutions,” says Ross, who adds people are more aware of a greener path than ever before. “Clients know the path and have a lot of information by the time they find us,” he says. “We’re always making suggestions to clients to consider sustainable building (and) being around designers, architects, draftspeople and clients who share the sustainable building principles make the experience easy.”
According to Ross, it’s also a realistic option for homeowners living in older properties (typically closer to the centre of Bendigo) to modify or renovate their house and make it more sustainable. “It is not difficult if you are able to change your mindset,” he says. “Of course money comes into it, some ideas are real winners and some are more, ‘I’d like to, if I wanted to spend more money’.” Ross suggests insulating the walls, floor and roof, installing draft stoppers on your exhaust vents, using LED downlights that have insulated lids on top, installing energy efficient appliances, and sealing windows and doors where air is leaking.