How to Choose a Sustainable Apartment
As the effects of global warming become more pronounced and energy and fuel prices continue to rise, making sustainable choices is increasingly important for many Australians. Electric Vehicles (EVs) now make up 8.4% of new car sales , home solar panel uptake is at record levels, and consumers are increasingly shunning single use plastics and unsustainable packaging.
But one of the most impactful things any one person, couple or family can do to help the environment is ensuring their home is efficient, both from an energy and water use perspective. The average Australian household has an annual carbon footprint of 15-20 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is well above the target of six tonnes set by the UN to limit global warming, and a large proportion of this is attributed to a home’s impact. 
If you’re looking to limit your carbon footprint and live in a more environmentally friendly manner, apartment living is a step in the right direction. European-style, walkable cities address many of the big challenges of sustainability, but finding the right apartment that embraces key sustainability principles will also enhance comfort inside the home and further reduce running costs.
But what makes an apartment sustainable? Below are some key factors to consider when researching new apartments:
- Condensation control systems – passive systems that allow your home to introduce fresh air and expel moist, warm air (even with the windows closed) are at the top of the list.
- Energy-efficient apartment design – double glazing, passive solar design, cross ventilation, balanced thermal performance, appropriate eves and shading.
- All electric operation – electric appliances, LED lighting, climate control systems, ceiling fans and electric heat pump hot water systems. These elements, when coupled with a green power network, enable the building to operate fossil fuel free.
- Electric Vehicle (EV) charging – communal or private EV charging stations (for new builds or the ability to retrofit an EV charger into older apartment buildings).
- Energy-efficient building design – rooftop solar, used to power common areas to reduce the building’s energy consumption.
- Water – rainwater harvesting into a common rainwater tank, re-used for landscape irrigation and apartment toilet flushing to reduce the building’s consumption of mains potable water. Homes should also feature taps, toilets and a dishwasher with a minimum five-star WELS rating.
- Pollutant-free interiors – use of low volatile organic compound paints, carpets, adhesives and sealants, and low formaldehyde engineered timber products, which results in higher indoor air quality, free of airborne pollutants.
- Efficiency rating – aim for a minimum seven-star NatHERS rating, which assesses the building design’s energy efficiency on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Green Star – while some apartments claim to be Green Star designed, they lack actual Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) certification. It’s crucial to seek this certification by the GBCA. Owning a Green Star certified apartment means better indoor air quality, energy efficiency and sustainability. The benefits are lower bills, healthier living, and a boost to property values, all while supporting the environment by reducing the carbon footprint.
Generally, only new buildings incorporate all (or most) of the above features. Hence, buying off-the-plan is the best way to get into a sustainable apartment featuring the best practices available.
Alternatively, if you’re considering buying an existing apartment, it’s best to steer towards those built more recently (generally after 2018), as they’re likely to incorporate increased sustainability features.