You might be living in a low or net-zero carbon emission house, and not even know it, one architect says.
Melinda Dodson believes there are homes hidden across Canberra that are low carbon.
The Low Carbon Competition, started by Dr Dodson and fellow architects Rob Henry and David Clarke, is designed to identify and reward those hidden gems.
From July 27, architects can submit low- to medium-density houses that have have low or net zero carbon emissions.
"Part of the role of the competition is to start doing the modelling and gathering the evidence on the carbon footprint of different houses around us," Dr Dodson said.
"We can get a better understanding of where we are already finding zero-carbon houses that perhaps people don't realise, including the architects that designed them."
Common design features in many Canberra houses designed by architects already act to reduce the carbon footprint of the residence.
"There are a lot of housing characteristics that are already helping to lower the carbon footprint of their houses," Dr Dodson said.
"Houses facing north so that they're getting their energy from the sun to warm up a living room, for example.
"The use of rooftop solar panels, so that you're generating your own electricity or some of your own electricity."
Dr Dodson said the competition - which has three categories - will also consider the whole lifecycle of the house.
"Total carbon footprint ... is made up of energy efficiency, and the materials that you use and the construction of a house and ultimately, the waste you produce in order to build the house in the first place," she said.
Dr Dodson also wants to show that low-emission carbon housing can also be affordable.
She designed several 94 square metre complexes at Ginninderry in Strathnairn, which were sold to first home buyers at around $380,000.
The houses were more than 33 per cent more carbon efficient than the average Canberra 'business as usual' house.
One home owner, Zoe Carter, even claimed to only pay $2.05 in electricity in her first quarter of living in the residence.
"To me that's suggesting that not only is it affordable for first-time buyers when you first purchase the house, but when you put all of those low carbon features together, it translates into a house that's affordable to run as well," Dr Dodson said.
Fellow competition creator Rob Henry designed an award-winning net-zero carbon house in Curtin.
There are north facing windows in each room, a battery solar storage system, heat pump hydronic heating, a domestic hot water system, and thermally broken high performance aluminium windows.
Some of the materials of the house were recycled from the original standing cottage, including bricks and timber roof battens.
Homes will also be open to the public for walk-in tours at the end of the competition.
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