Courtyard Duplex in Gymea. Architecture by Chris Freeburn of Ironbark Architecture. Construction by Build By Design. Photography by The Guthrie Project.

Create a sustainable home without breaking the bank


Not many can relate sustainable design with the word affordable. However, this twenty-years old company is able to create an inexpensive cooling system

Sustainable design is a creative approach to design, aiming to reduce negative impacts on the environment and build a healthier, more comfortable environment for people in their homes. The term ‘sustainable design’ is thrown around though and it is rarely seen as an inexpensive endeavour. This causes many to  shy away from thinking they’re saving money by going the conventional route.

“One of the biggest myths is that sustainable design is more expensive,” says Chris Freeburn from Ironbark Architecture. While it can be more expensive to build a higher spec home with elements such as high-performance insulation or double glazing, sustainable design can be as simple as orienting the building correctly. Chris says that “the running costs of a building with the right orientation, as well as insulation or double glazing, will be offset in the future as a result of those upfront costs,” even offering savings in the long run. Orienting windows correctly to allow for heat gain in winter and providing shade to that glass to avoid heat gain in summer is a simple design choice that costs no more, yet can save a lot. “Old habits die hard though, and our less-sustainable ways of living have been ingrained in our behaviour for some time,” adds Chris.

A house designed to use the local context and climate to keep comfortable reduces the reliance on active heating and cooling (such as air conditioning which seals the users off from the outdoors) that can use a lot of electricity to run. Ceiling fans are a key design feature to these types of homes increasing comfort by introducing air movement. Big Ass Fans, the leader in developing innovative ceiling fans, use a very small amount of electricity over traditional fans and save you money in the long run. They can also be used in winter as they push the warmer air (which naturally rises up to the ceiling) back down to floor level. These fans can remove the need for active heating/cooling systems such as air conditioning, which consumes large amounts of energy.

“Conventional fans start at at about 90 watts,” explains Rebecca Steffanoni, Big Ass Fans territory sales rep. “Our fans start at two watts and go up to 30 watts. That means if you run the fan 24/7 for a year, you’d be looking at spending only about $24. Compare that with air conditioning, which can be in the hundreds, and it’s easy to see how you can save money and be
more sustainable.”

Efficiency gains and cost reduction are core to Big Ass Fans’ offering, something that Chris from Ironbark Architecture has experienced firsthand with his projects, including the Tin Shed House, which showed how easy marrying sustainability and style can be.

“At Tin Shed House, the emphasis was on expressing a distinctive ‘Australian-ness’ and emphasising the connection with outdoor spaces, natural light and breezes,” says Chris. Ironbark Architecture chose Big Ass Fans’ Haiku fan due to its technology, such as the “SenseMe” feature, which makes it appealing both visually and from a functionality point of view.

“Utilising the local climate and ceiling fans to maximise comfort while minimising energy use puts the homeowners back in touch with the environment in which they occupy and encourages ventilation and fresh air, all of which provide a happier, healthier and more environmentally responsible home,” says Chris.

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