Sustainable House Day 2024 was a cracker day out

Renew Magazine Managing Editor, Nathan Scolaro reflects on his 2024 Sustainable House Day experience 

Renew’s Sustainable House Day has all the ingredients for a cracker day out: passionate homeowners, valuable lessons on minimising household energy, an engaged community asking great questions about construction and design, and a good-old peek into someone else’s thoughtfully conceived home.

In Victoria, we got even luckier this Sustainable House Day, with all of that plus a glorious day of autumn sun, making it impossible to return home uninspired. Renew’s 2024 Sustainable House Day saw over 100 homes swing open their doors for punters to get a look inside, plus many more sharing video tours online. Nearly 4,000 people got on board for an in-person tour, with representation from every state and territory across the country.

My day began in Brunswick at Peter and Penny’s House, a single fronted Victorian terrace which had been extended at the rear with a two-storey addition. We learned about some of the passive cooling and heating principles incorporated into the retrofit –which included cross-ventilation, a thermal chimney, deciduous planting around the house and thermal mass – as well as a battery and 9kW solar PV grid connection, considerations for an EV parking space and charger, rainwater storage, hot water heat pump and much more.

Gathering around the north-facing deck, surrounded by an edible and native garden, we heard from Peter about what it was like living in the very recently completed renovation – how much more comfortable it was, and efficiently run.

Next stop was the Clifton Hill House, which has bones dating back to 1880. Host Andrew took us through the renovation and extension project which emphasised energy efficiency, natural light and 100% electric utilities, resulting in a comfortable, very low energy cost residence, with average daily energy consumption at 0.5kWh in summer and 10kWh in winter.

I finished my voyage at Merri Home in Northcote, with beams of afternoon sun flooding the stunning interiors and back garden, which fronts the Merri Creek. Owner-builder Luke Middleton grounded us in the landscape, noting how design decisions and building processes happened with thoughtfulness to the environment. As well as being breathtakingly beautiful with its gable inspired profile and rammed earth and timber clad walls, the house was designed with a strong commitment to efficiency – built from low embodied energy materials, drawing on passive house principles and achieving an 8-Star energy rating. It was a feast for the senses, and a delight to be immersed in such deep consideration for beauty, comfort and environmental impact.

As a renter, the day was a glimpse into “what could be” when home ownership presents itself, but at the same time there were many small nuggets to take away for improving household liveability and efficiency at any level. It was also great to meet so many people committed to making real progress on reducing fossil fuel use in our homes.