Pursuing more sustainable architecture

Sustainability is a complex and important issue and a key consideration in all decisions that we make when designing buildings. We grapple with the fact that real sustainability is hard to achieve in anything that we humans do. Ultimately we aim to make our buildings as resource-efficient in their production and occupation as we can.

If we can produce buildings that require very few resources in occupation (energy and water) and use responsibly sourced materials in manufacture, then we are close to achieving our goal.

There are aspects of construction that we can’t control such as the electricity, water and transport used in manufacture of products. But we endeavour to work with local builders and suppliers who share our values and we research and specify locally manufactured, sustainably sourced, materials where possible.

We design our buildings to be energy efficient and wherever possible use energy produced on site.

All of our buildings are designed to last for a long time and be loved by their occupants so they will be around longer than us. With their high thermal performance and environmental design considerations our buildings should be very low impact well into the future.

How we design to be more sustainable


Buildings that harvest their own energy and water and treat their waste on site. An example of this is our Elemental House which uses a 6kW solar system with 24 photovoltaic panels and 2 x 9.8kWh lithium batteries. All rain water is collected in water tanks: one for use in the house (20,000L) and the other for the CFA (10,000L) to use in the event of a bushfire

Fossil-fuel free energy use in occupation

Most of our buildings are now designed to use no gas in occupation and instead be fully electric. The use power produced on site with solar panels where possible and are supplemented with green power produced off-site where required. They are all battery-ready and electric car charger-ready. An all-electric house that we have recently built is Wongi, Fitzroy North which uses solar power mounted on the roof of the heritage house. The house uses no gas, only electricity to power its heat-pumps that produce its hydronic heating and domestic hot water.

Passive solar design

Passive solar design is the classic principles that have been around for a long time and we know work and use in all of our projects. Orienting windows to bring in warming sun for passive heating in winter. Placement of openings to catch prevailing breezes for passive cooling in summer. Providing external shading to keep cool. The trick can be in the difficult circumstances where the site constraints make it harder to engage with the sun. Like the smaller blocks and heritage houses, oriented north to the front. This is where creative solutions are required to get sun into the living rooms. Great examples of designing to overcome the context are Rise House, Curvy House and Lean-2.

Passive House

Passive House buildings are very energy efficient by using the five passive house principles:
1 – no thermal bridging
2 – high quality insulation
3 – high quality windows
4 – airtight construction  
5 – mechanical ventilation with heat recovery ventilation (HRV)
We are members of the Australian Passivhaus Institute and are Certified Passive House Designers. We are using the five principles including heat recovery ventilation units on  current projects and look forward to completing fully certified passive houses in the near future.

Building re-use

One of the most environmentally responsible things we can do is retain existing buildings and choose not to send them to landfill. If we alter them to meet contemporary purposes and upgrade them to be more thermally and energy efficient, its a great environmental outcome. We have retained and altered/upgraded many houses that work with existing hundred year old buildings like Wongi, Beyond House and Through the Looking Glass. We’ve also given a new life to a poorly designed and built townhouse from the 1990's at Townhouse Turnaround.

Sustainably-harvested, low-embodied-energy materials

Choosing materials that are responsibly sourced and environmentally friendly while also being thermally efficient is one of the most important decisions we can make. Callery house is a good example of using a mixture of recycled and radially sawn timbers from sustainably managed local forests.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn, design and build.
© 2023 BCA Architects & Contributors
Site by Projekt Digital