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Innovative design ideas are a great way to add unique features that will save you time, energy or money in the future, adding to your comfort and maybe even helping your resale value down the track! That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our 10 favourite innovative design features to consider when constructing a new home – each of these can make your life cheaper, healthier and more comfortable. Take a look and add some of these to your plan!
1. Indoor herb garden
Indoor plants have numerous benefits and can help clean the air, making it healthier to breathe (especially for children with asthma). Many also claim plants make them feel happier. But could they also save you money?
A modern trend right now is to plant indoor herb gardens, with vertical gardens being popular. Imagine mounting herbs in pots on a ladder, stacked on shelves or hanging from baskets. This helps put fresh, healthy herbs right at your fingertips, which is much easier than going shopping, ensures you know where your herbs have come from, and can help save you money. It can also be educational – teaching young children how to grow and tend plants, even if you don’t have a garden.
2. Underfloor heating
Maybe this won’t feel like such a priority for those of you in hotter parts of Australia, but if it gets chilly where you live then think about including underfloor heating in your new home. Underfloor heating is an energy-efficient way of warming a space as it operates at a lower temperature than conventional heaters, and so requires less electricity (although whether this translates into lower heating bills depends on other factors too, like insulation). Additionally, because it warms from the ground, there’s typically less heat wasted – other heaters can send hot air straight out the roof or windows.
There are two types of underfloor heating: hydronic (water based) and electrical. But which to choose? We suggest doing your research to compare your options and selecting the one that best suits your lifestyle. For instance, hydronic is usually slower to work but cheaper to run, whereas electrical is generally the opposite.
3. Heat-rejecting windows
Speaking of heat, have you heard of low-E film? Low-emissivity (low-E) windows are glass panes coated in a special film that is better at rejecting radiant heat than standard glazing. That means if used for exterior windows, it can reflect the sun’s light and help prevent your new home from overheating during the day. At the very least, it’ll save on air conditioning costs. Low-E film’s solar rejection properties also block UV light, so your furniture will fade less quickly.
That said, low-E film isn’t appropriate for every home so be sure you talk to a windows specialist about whether it’s right for you.
4. Smart home devices
Smart technology can automate your home devices (like air conditioning units) and provide clarity on energy usage, which is a good way to save on bills as well as increase convenience.
Typically, a digital home ecosystem will have a device hub – like Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri – which acts as the brain. This can then control a raft of house functions through voice commands or your smartphone, including house lighting, door locks, security cameras, thermostats, robot vacuum cleaners (like Roomba), and even your coffee machine – set it to turn on when you wake up, so there’s coffee prepped and ready.
As for energy usage, some Australians might also be able to access this information through the use of an in-home display (IHD).
IHDs are interfaces that connect to a smart power meter and highlight hourly, weekly, monthly and seasonal electricity usage. They could also tell you if you’re in a high, medium or low use period, so you can plan which devices you use to avoid the highest tariffs.
5. Solar power
In a country as sunny as Australia, solar power could be your solution to trimming the fat from those energy bills. Of course, solar panels are the obvious choice when installing a solar system, but are there other options? Yes!
First, there’s battery storage. During the day, your solar panels may produce more electricity than you actually use. When you have a solar battery like a Tesla Powerwall installed, this excess energy is stored. That way, when night time comes, your house can still operate independently of the grid and so save your power costs. This can also help in the event of a grid outage – if the power goes down, you’ll still be operating off stored energy.
And second, there’s evacuated tube solar. Water heating accounts for about a quarter of all household electricity costs, according to the federal government’s YourHome website. But you can start to bring that cost down with the installation of an evacuated tube solar system.
Put simply, evacuated tube solar systems work by harnessing the sun’s rays to cost-effectively heat water. Cold water flows into a solar collector, typically installed on the roof, where the sun’s heat is transferred to it. It then runs into a storage tank for use in your home.
6. Rainwater capture system
Pull quote: A rainwater capture system could cut your water bill down as much as 100 per cent in some climates.
A rainwater capture system – also known as rainwater harvesting – could cut your water bill down as much as 100 per cent in some climates (according to the federal government’s YourHome website). Meanwhile, the WA government says that in drier regions like Perth, the right tank can still provide as much as 20 per cent of a household’s water per year.
Rainwater harvesting can be used for watering gardens, flushing toilets, showering and even drinking. However, many authorities recommend using the local utilities grid for water that is to be consumed, as it is more carefully filtered.
Just make sure you check your community design guidelines before falling in love with a rainwater capture system to make sure major modifications like these will be OK.
7. Efficient water fittings
There are many ways to save water with smart tap and shower fittings. Take a look at this:
Taps: Never buy a tap without a fitted aerator. Aerators mix water with air as it comes out, meaning the tap uses less water but still feels high pressure. These can also be retrofitted to older taps if that’s what you’ve already bought.
Shower heads: Switching from a 9-litre to 7.5-litre flowrate could save up to 5,000 litres a year, according to consumer advocacy group CHOICE. By also purchasing wider showerheads, you’ll still have a comfortable showering experience despite the weaker pressure.
Still not sure what to get? Here’s a fast tip: The higher the WELS star rating on a water fitting, the more efficient it will be.
8. Low-VOC paint
While less of a ‘feature’, using low-VOC paint for your new home is still important to consider at this stage of planning. Some people have found that paint containing volatile organic compounds (VOC) causes them discomfort or other health issues as it dries. If this is you, you could try low-VOC paint.
Low-VOC paint contains less of these compounds. The catch though is that the texture of these paints is often rougher than regular paint.
The good news is low-VOC paint is readily available from major Australian brands such as Resene and Dulux. You can also look for products with a GECA or Green Star stamp of approval.
9. Extra storage
Features like walk-in closets, knee-wall dressers and built-in bookshelves are highly popular with new home builders because they maximise storage capacity while minimising floor usage. For example, need a home office workspace? Build your desk into a spare wardrobe or beneath your staircase to have an office space that can be tucked away when not needed.
And if you aren’t sure, a knee-wall dresser is a short partition that fits under the rafters of a sloped roof, and is usually not much taller than a metre. If this isn’t a load-bearing wall (you’ll need to check if it is), you can cut it out and fit a chest of drawers in the empty space, which gives you drawer storage that is flush with the wall.
10. Flexible spaces
There’s a term in commercial construction that’s all the rage right now – ‘hackable’ spaces. Essentially, these are areas that can easily be converted from one purpose to another. This design idea can also apply to your new floor plan: designing rooms that can quickly be converted to different types.
When building your house, ask yourself if some of the rooms could be type-agnostic. That way a bedroom could also be a guest room, play room, craft space or study, depending on your needs at the time. You could even have sliding wall panels within or between some areas to allow them to expand/shrink as required, and of course you’ll want to make sure there are plenty of power outlets around the walls to allow for different configurations.
Satterley is Australia’s largest privately owned land developer, having built hundreds of award-winning communities that are now home to more than 250,000 residents in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland. We believe that it’s vitally important our residents live in beautiful, welcoming communities, not just a house and street. Our estates are planned near key amenities, employment hubs and a raft of green spaces, and there’s land for sale across Australia right now!
To find the perfect lot to build your new home with all the features we’ve mentioned, check out our listings today.