7-Star Feature Home: 2 Sunlight Avenue, Cape Paterson

Published: 26 May 2021
2 Sunlight Avenue, Cape Paterson

Sustainability Victoria recently collaborated with SJD Homes to deliver what could only be described as a modern-day eco-ranch, with a twist. At first glance, you’ll never know just how energy-efficient and sustainable the home really is. It’s only when you take a moment to look beyond what appears to be a very typical four-bedroom, single-storey display, that you can appreciate its 7.6-star NatHERS rating and its zero net carbon achievement.

The key take-out from this home is simple. New homes can successfully be energy-efficient, comfortable and affordable, without compromising on style.

Feature home snapshot

Builder: SJD Homes

Estate: Cape Paterson

Address: 2 Sunlight Avenue, Cape Paterson

Design: Custom built

NatHERS energy rating: 7.6 stars

Whole-of-home assessment: The home achieves high efficiency with a modelled 'Zero Net Carbon' footprint in its operational phase.

Other features: Fully electric; recycled material (bricks)

Retail cost: $258,900 (does not include land price)

About the home

The kitchen at 2 Sunlight Avenue, Cape Paterson shows electric appliances and venting to the outside.

From the moment you enter 2 Sunlight Avenue it becomes clear why it performs in a class of its own. In fact, when looking at this home’s thermal envelope, less than one percent of homes built in Victoria last year performed as well as, or better than it does. The design is intended to feel comfortable all year round, with minimal reliance on heating and cooling.

In addition to its superior thermal envelope, this home is also equipped with enough solar PV to produce more energy than it uses over the year. It has also been fitted with all electric appliances (no gas connection) and is designed to produce no net greenhouse gas emissions.

Most impressive is that the purchase price of this home, including its energy efficiency package, falls in line with average costings for homes in Victoria. The average cost of a 6-star home of the same size is $284,418*, whereas 2 Sunlight Avenue, Cape Paterson is $258,900 including the efficiency package. Without the energy efficiency package, the cost of 2 Sunlight Avenue comes in at $229,900. Please note: the land price is not included in these figures.

*Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics – based on a square meter cost of $1,374.

Energy and cost savings

Comfort aside, the home also shines when it comes to annual energy and cost savings. The estimated greenhouse gas emissions savings is 6.2 tCO2-e and the estimated annual dollar savings total approximately $1,389.

This is based on 4 occupants in the home all day.

Table 1: Predicted annual energy costs, including supply charge, and carbon emissions of 2 Sunlight Avenue.

2 Sunlight Avenue Cape Paterson, if it were a 6-star home 2 Sunlight Avenue Cape Paterson (actual) Savings [%]
Annual energy use 25,289 MJ -4,604 MJ 123%
tCO2-e emitted p.a. 5.2 tCO2-e -1.0 tCO2-e 123%
Annual energy bill $2,078 $688 67%

Home design

The 900mm eaves on the north facing façade protect the home from the sun and allow light in.

The current National Construction Code requires that new homes achieve a minimum of 6.0 stars under the NatHERS rating system. When it comes to design, 2 Sunlight Avenue has achieved well above the baseline, with an impressive rating of 7.6 stars.

“We wanted to create a home that was really comfortable for the occupant to live in, without the high price tag, so we paid really good attention to the orientation of the home.” Simon Dunstan, Owner SJD homes.

Orientation of the home with respect to the rise and fall of sun is crucial in maintaining comfortable internal temperatures. This home’s living areas all face north, making the most of available sunlight throughout the day. The addition of clerestory windows in the main living areas enables the home to further maximise on the benefits of its northern orientation. The design also factored in 900mm wide eaves on the north facing façade, protecting the home from the sun without compromising on light in summer and warmth in winter. View the floor plan.

Whilst orientation is key, it’s not the only design consideration for achieving a more energy efficient home. Other key considerations featured in this home include above standard insulation, windows and glazing, lighting, good air tightness, and energy-efficient appliance choices. From a sustainability perspective, the design also includes the use of recycled brick.

In addition to these considerations, 2 Sunlight Avenue also offsets any residual greenhouse gas emissions with an appropriately sized solar PV array. The 5 kW system installed on the roof offsets all emissions and further reduces the home’s energy use, significantly lowering the home’s energy bills.

As the thermal envelope of homes gets more efficient, attention to the appliances can make a substantial difference to the annual energy use of a home. Key energy-efficient design choices, including appliances, are listed in this table.

Feature Standard 6-star home design in the same climate zone 2 Sunlight Avenue, Cape Paterson
NatHERS rating 6 stars 7.6 stars
Design orientation Variable North-facing
Insulation - ceiling Varies but often R4 batts to ceiling R5.0 batts to ceiling
Insulation - external walls R2.0 to external walls R2.5 to external walls
Insulation - internal walls No thermal insulation for internal walls (sound proofing only) R2 to internal walls of wet areas
Insulation - ductwork R1.0 ductwork R1.5 ductwork
Windows Single glazed aluminum Thermally broken double glazed with argon throughout
Hot water Solar hot water system - gas boosted ECO Sanden heat pump
Rooftop Solar PV Not required 5 kW Solar PV system
Heating and cooling Any compliant product on the Australian market 3-star rated, 7kW reverse cycle split system
Lighting Maximum 5 W/m2 2 W/m2; energy-efficient LED lighting

Construction

The lounge at 2 Sunlight Avenue passed the as-built verification test and is a comfortable, energy-efficient living space.

The home’s design is essential in achieving a cost-effective, energy-efficient home; however once that has been completed, it is crucial that the home is built and tested to meet the intended design outcomes.

The construction process at 2 Sunlight Avenue included:

  • ensuring that the building shell was constructed to be airtight, to reduce heating and cooling requirements and ensure that the home is not draughty
  • extra care during insulation installation to minimise gaps and thermal bridges e.g. around window frames, at wall-intersections and openings for services such as the air-conditioning
  • silicone sealing between the slab and the external frame, around windows and around services such as the split air-conditioner
  • all venting from the kitchen and the wet rooms vent directly to the outside rather than into the roof cavity – to avoid the risks of mould and mildew.

As-built verification results

During the construction phase, 2 Sunlight Avenue was subject to an as-built verification test. The test provided quality assurance, guaranteeing that the home’s thermal envelope had been built in line with the design spec.

Sustainability Victoria engaged an independent as-built verification assessor to ensure that the home was built to meet its intended energy efficiency targets. The verification check included a blower door test to measure air leakage and a thermography test to check insulation coverage.

Blower door/window test

The home was blower-door tested to determine the air leakage rate. The home passed the blower door test with an air-permeability of 4.4 m3/m2.hr, which is well below the requirements of the National Construction Code.

Thermography test

This test uses a specialised camera that can ‘see’ heat transfer, enabling the assessor to inspect the installation of insulation, by looking for hot spots and cold spots in the ceilings and walls. The inspection is passed if no more than 5% of insulation is missing.

The home passed with only 3.7% deficit in ceiling insulation coverage and an impressive 0% deficit in the walls.

Outcomes

  • New homes can be energy-efficient, comfortable and affordable, without compromising on style.
  • Environmentally conscious decisions for new homes can also lead to an affordable and comfortable home over time.
  • There are more benefits than just cost savings – meaningful comfort, quality and durability are key features of these homes and key selling points for customers.
  • Getting a better NatHERS or going from a 6 to 7-star home is more than achievable with current designs and technologies.
  • It is important for homeowners to understand the NatHERS rating system and the as-built verification assessment, so they can be confident that they’re getting what they pay for.
  • For builders and homeowners, the environmentally conscious choice needs to have a reasonable payback period and it needs to be built with readily available products.