A local competition has revealed the top ways Canberrans can create low-, net zero and carbon-positive houses at the same price as other homes.
Adding solar panels, using existing building materials and creating smaller but more adaptable spaces can transform ordinary abodes into environmentally friendly sanctuaries.
Winner of the new house category, a one-storey home in Narrabundah designed by Michael Tolhurst Architects, used materials from the existing house.
"The Narrabundah house has brickwork from the existing dwelling, reused into the fabric of the new building. That was a really important thing," competition jury chair Rob Henry said.
The winner of the extension and renovations category, the Pettit Sevitt Net-Zero home in Lyons designed by Light House Architecture and Science, produces more energy carbon than it needs. Carbon emissions from the house are around 100 per cent less than those of a typical Canberra family home.
Scroll down for full list of winners.
"It was a design exercise around getting better orientation and thermal performance, and things like that improved the overall efficiency of the house," Mr Henry said.
The competition wanted to award homes with good design as well as low carbon emissions. It's possible to create a carbon-positive house, meaning one that produces more carbon than it emits, just using solar panels.
However, Mr Henry said the best residences were adaptable enough to survive for decades across different owners.
"[We need to make] sure the things we build, whether it be an alt and adds or a new house, have a lifespan beyond the current owners and have the ability to adapt over time," he said.
"The Narrabundah house in particular did that very well. There's a series of spaces created in that house that could be used as bedrooms, could be used as living spaces and [allow] different occupants over time.
"That's likely to be a project that ends up having a lower carbon footprint in the future."
The Narrabundah house architect Michael Tolhurst said the win was a "pleasant surprise."
"The next bite of the cherry [in low-carbon housing] is the embodied carbon, and that's arguably the best way to make short-term improvements to our carbon emissions," he said.
"Making some different choices about the materials and the way we design houses, building smaller, they're all things that makes instant changes and reduce carbon straightway. Otherwise it becomes too late."
Mr Henry said Canberrans building new homes should try and keep them reasonably sized and create adaptable rooms.
"Consider building a smaller [house], and making spaces able to be adjusted and modified ... [for example] having the ability to turn a living space into a bedroom space or into a study space."
For those renovating a house, installing double glazed windows, using sustainable materials such as timber, and re-orientating rooms to make windows face north would help reduce carbon impact.
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He advised every homeowner to install solar panels; home builders or renovators should hire an architect to save money in the long run.
"Always consider putting on solar on a house," he said.
"We still have a majority of houses in new suburbs being designed without the skillset of an architect.
"The money invested in an architect is almost like putting solar panels on your roof. There's a payback period. And it's a critically important thing for the environment for us to stop thinking that we should be building houses fast and cheap and for the quickest profit to the developer.
"Affordability doesn't mean fast or cheap."
New house category
First prize for a net zero new house: Narrabundahaus by Michael Tolhurst Architects
Second prize for a low-carbon house: Blackwood House by Mather Architecture
Alts+adds (existing house renovations and extensions) category
First prize for an alts+adds house: Pettit + Sevitt Net zero Makeover by Light House Architecture and Science
Second prize for a low-carbon house: Little Loft House by Light House Architecture and Science
Multi-gen (medium density townhouses, duplexes, granny flats) category
Second prize for a low-carbon house: Whitlam 'Multi-gen' Townhouses by Heyward Lance Architecture
Net zero new house: White House by Light House Architecture and Science
Net zero new house: Collector House by Open Principle Architecture
Low-carbon new house: Ironbark House by Allan Spira Architects
Low carbon new house: Canberra 'Beach' House by Light House Architecture and Science
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