Sustainable and Universal Design

We encourage everyone looking to build or renovate within our City to incorporate universal and sustainable design principles into their residential developments. Find out more about these principles below.

Universal Design

Universal design is the design of buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to the greatest number of people, regardless of age, size, ability or disability. It is a means to achieving an inclusive society.

When you build your home using universal design principles, it will be easy to live in and it can accommodate your changing needs over a lifetime, without requiring costly and significant alterations.

Benefits of Universal Design

  • Your home will be more liveable. You will find it easier to move around, access the shower and get from the front door to the street
  • Your home will appeal to a wider market as older buyers look for houses incorporating universal design principles
  • Your home will be easier and cheaper to adapt in the future
  • You will be able to live in your home your whole life, rather than having to move because your house isn’t catered to your needs as you get older

Universal Design Features

Ask your builder or designer to include, as a minimum, these seven features:

  1. A safe, continuous and step-free path of travel from the street, and/or parking area to your home’s entrance.
  2. At least one level, step-free entrance into your home
  3. Internal doors and corridors wide enough for easy movement around your home
  4. A toilet on the ground (or entry) level that’s easy to access
  5. A bathroom with a step-free (hobless) shower
  6. Walls around the toilet, shower and bath that are strong enough to support hand rails
  7. A continuous handrail on at least one side of any stairway.

Other features you can include:

  • An easily-adapted kitchen with lots of room in front of benches and appliances
  • A laundry room with non-slip floors and lots of room in front of benches and appliances
  • Space on the ground (or entry) level that could be used as a bedroom
  • Light switches and powerpoints at easy-to-reach heights
  • Easy-to-use taps and doors
  • Spacious family/living rooms
  • Windows that allow for outdoor views when you’re sitting or standing
  • Firm, even, non-slip floors.

Getting Started with Universal Design

Here are our top tips to getting started with universal design:

  • Make a list of the places/things in your home that are uncomfortable for you to use.
  • Ask your builder or designer to incorporate universal design principles in your home. Be polite, but firm, about having your ideas included and if you need to, bring someone you trust to your meeting with your builder or designer. Remember you can always shop around if they don’t seem interested
  • Consider involving an occupational therapist, who knows about universal design, in planning your home.
  • Find a designer or builder that knows about universal design and already uses those principles in their designs and products.

City of Melville Universal Design Brochure

We have developed a brochure that explains universal design, and its many benefits, in plain English. Download our Guide to Universal Design or pick-up a copy at our Civic Centre or nearest library or community centre.

Energy Efficiency Requirements for Residential Buildings

All new residential buildings, or major renovations or alterations to existing residential buildings, are required to comply with the energy efficiency provisions of the National Construction Code, available from the Australian Building Codes Board website.

Home Energy Rating - NatHERS

The most common way to meet these requirements is by getting a home energy rating done using the Nationwide Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS). This is generally done by an accredited assessor, who will review your home plans and provide you with a star rating from 0-10. They will also provide you with advice on how to best design your house to reduce its heating and cooling needs. In most cases, you will require a minimum of a 6-star rating to be compliant with the National Construction Code.

For more information about how star ratings are determined, visit the NatHERS website.

How to Achieve a 6-Star Energy Efficiency Rating

The key to achieving a good energy efficiency rating is by designing your house so that is requires as little artificial heating or cooling possible to keep it at a comfortable temperature.

Key considerations include:

  • Block orientation and passive solar design: aligning your house so that your living areas face north, as this will allow the winter sun to warm your house while blocking the heat from the summer sun.
  • Solar power: consider installing a solar PV system which will allow you to generate your own electricity.
  • Energy- efficient hot water systems: a solar hot water system, though more expensive to buy and install, is generally more energy-efficient and has lower running costs.
  • Window frames, glazing and shading: double-glazing and energy efficient windows can help reduce heat losses from your home, reducing heating costs.
  • Insulation: insulation that is properly installed and water-proofed can help keep your house warm in winter and cool in summer, reducing heating and cooling costs.
  • Draught-proofing: finding and fixing draughts in your house stops cold air coming in and prevents warm air from escaping, reducing heating and cooling costs.
  • Energy efficient lighting: using smart lighting design and taking advantage of natural light will help you save money on your electricity bills.
  • Zoning and efficient heating and cooling: designing ‘zones’ in your house will allow you to efficiently heat and cool individual rooms, helping to reduce your heating and cooling costs.

The above is an exhaustive list, and we encourage you to consult an energy efficiency expert to see what will work best for your individual circumstances.

You can also refer to the Australian Government’s Your Home website for detailed information on how to design your home so it is environmentally sustainable.

Other Methods for Measuring Complying with Energy Efficiency Requirements

Another method used for measuring compliance with the energy efficiency requirements is using the elemental provisions method, known previously as deemed-to-satisfy or DTS.

Through this method, you are required to comply with a number of performance design elements which are set out in the National Construction Code. This is a strict pass or fail assessment and every element must comply with the minimum standard.

You are also able to use the alternative solution method, where you demonstrate compliance with the relevant performance elements in the National Construction Code using one of a number of methods.

More information about the elemental provisions and the alternative solutions method can be found on the Building Commission website.

City of Melville Energy Efficiency in Building Design Policy

We also have a local planning policy outlining energy efficient and design principles that we encourage all applicants, builders and developers to incorporate into their development proposals.

There principles closely mirror the requirements of the National Construction Code, and include things such as:

  • Building orientation and passive solar design
  • Solar access
  • Landscaping plans that consider climate control and solar access and feature waterwise gardens and the retention of trees
  • Where appropriate, various building features, such as:
    • Plumbed rainwater tanks
    • Greywater systems
    • Solar Water Heaters
    • Photovaltaic Energy Systems
    • Insulation
    • Light roof colours
    • Water and energy efficient fixtures, fittings and appliances

For more detailed information about these energy efficient principles, read our Local Planning Policy 1.5 Energy Efficiency in Building Design

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