Sustainable Housing

Covenants and body corporate by-laws

Since 1 January 2010, new and some existing covenants and body corporate by-laws have been prevented from banning energy efficient features or fixtures and requiring certain design elements in houses, townhouses, units or enclosed garages. The law on these issues was further amended on 23 May 2010.

From 1 January 2010 amendments to the Building Act 1975 and the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 that prohibit new covenants, new body corporate by-laws and in some cases existing by-laws and covenants from banning energy efficient building elements and features come into force. These laws apply to class 1 (houses and town houses) and class 2 buildings (units) that are the subject of covenants or body corporate by-laws.

The amendments that come into force 1 January 2010 will render invalid new covenants and body corporate statements/by-laws which restrict a person from occupying a home before landscaping, driveways or similar work is completed and which restrict owners from using selected sustainable and affordable features, such as:

  • light roof colours
  • window treatments (e.g. tinting)
  • smaller minimum floor areas
  • fewer bedrooms and bathrooms
  • types of materials and finishes for external walls and roofs
  • single garages
  • appropriate location for solar hot water systems
  • photovoltaic cells.

Existing covenants and body corporate by-laws relating to solar hot water systems and photovoltaic cells will also be rendered invalid.

Sustainability declaration

From 27 June 2012, a sustainability declaration is no longer required when selling a house, townhouse or unit in Queensland.

For the latest Queensland sustainable housing laws go to:

6-star energy equivalence rating requirements for houses and townhouses

New houses and townhouses and major renovations to these buildings must achieve a minimum 6-star energy equivalence rating from 1 May 2010  This requirement was implemented via the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and the Queensland Development Code (QDC) Mandatory Part (MP) 4.1 – Sustainable buildings. A 6-star house or townhouse is not only more comfortable to live in, it can also provide you with ongoing savings on energy bills because it uses less energy for artificial cooling and heating.

How to achieve the 6-star energy equivalence rating

There are many ways to ensure your new house, townhouse or major renovation meets the new 6-star requirement, such as:

  • northern orientation of living rooms
  • natural ventilation through windows and doorways
  • shading with wider eaves and awnings
  • increased insulation in roof space and walls
  • treated glazing
  • light coloured roofs and walls
  • ceiling fans in living areas and bedrooms
  • covered outdoor living areas, such as a deck or verandah connected to the building in subtropical and tropical areas
  • well designed outdoor living areas.

It is important to consider the climatic conditions of the area in which a home is to be built or renovated so that the design can provide maximum comfort for occupants while minimising energy running costs.  

Optional credits

The inclusion of an outdoor living area is rewarded with up to a 1-star credit towards an energy equivalence rating for homes.

A half-star credit applies to a fully covered outdoor living area that is connected to an indoor living area of a new house or renovation and is:

  • at least 12 square metres in size
  • a minimum dimension of 2.5 m in all directions
  • covered by an impervious roof with an insulation R-value of at least 1.5
  • has two or more sides open or is capable of being opened.

The full star credit is available when an outdoor living area (as per above) is fitted with at least one ceiling fan.

A new nominal credit of 1-star is also available for houses and townhouses that include a photovoltaic (solar) energy system with a minimum of 1 kilowatt capacity. Please note:  When the above optional credits are used, a minimum ‘baseline’ energy equivalence rating of 4.5 – 5-stars must be achieved, depending on the climate zone.

Costs for the homeowner

It is anticipated that the increase to 6-star will result in an increase in building costs of as little as 1.25 per cent on average. This will be dependent on the design, size and location of the building. Any costs are expected to be offset by ongoing savings on household energy bills by a reduction in the need for artificial heating and cooling.

The 6-star requirement for houses and townhouses came into effect on 1 May 2010. Prior to this, houses and townhouses were required to achieve a minimum 5-star energy equivalence rating from 1 March 2009 and a 3.5 - 4 star rating prior to 1 March 2009.

Minimum energy rating for air conditioners

The increased popularity of air conditioning is not good news for the environment or community owned electricity infrastructure. This is one reason why these new sustainable housing laws pay specific attention to natural ventilation and climate sensitive house design.

A well designed house is not only more comfortable to live in, but also reduces the need to use an air conditioner.

Air conditioning is contributing to increased average household energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, particularly when less energy efficient models are installed and used. Around 70% of Queensland households have at least one air conditioner.

Since 1 September 2009, air conditioners up to a cooling capacity of 65 kW that are installed in houses, townhouses and units must now meet a minimum tested average Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 2.9. This is generally equivalent to a 4-star rating on an energy rating label. This is only the minimum requirement - the higher the EER, the greater ability the system has to be more energy efficient and the more money you can save on running costs.

If a system is not labelled with the tested average EER or a star rating, contact the air conditioner manufacturer.

Benefits to the homeowner

In a typical Queensland household, electricity consumption from air conditioning is 27% of total usage, making it one of the highest single energy users in the home. Consequently, the more energy efficient your air conditioner, the more money you will save on running costs, as well as minimising your household’s carbon footprint.

Costs to the homeowner

There are currently 1500 air conditioner models tested and registered under Australian Standards with an EER of 2.9 or higher, so there is not a significant cost impact on consumers expected.  

Sales ban

The Queensland Government has also introduced a ban on the sale of air conditioners in Queensland that have a tested average EER of less than 2.9 for cooling.

From 1 September 2009, air conditioners (new or second hand) which do not meet a minimum tested average EER of 2.9 are not able to be sold in Queensland, regardless of the building in which they are to be installed.

Electric hot water system replacement

Around 27% of electricity used in the average Queensland household is for heating water, making hot water systems one of the highest single energy users and greenhouse gas contributors in the home.

Replacing an electric hot water system with a greenhouse efficient system is one of the most effective ways to save money on your energy bill. Most greenhouse efficient hot water systems generally have lower running costs than standard electric systems. Electric hot water systems are being phased out all over Australia. 

In Queensland, since 1 January 2010 owners of existing houses and townhouses in Queensland (class 1 buildings) located in natural gas reticulated areas have been required to install a greenhouse efficient hot water system (i.e. gas, solar or heat pump) when an existing electric hot water system needs replacing. Householders do not need to replace their existing hot water systems that are in good working order. 

The phase out refers to electric resistance hot water systems only. An electric resistance hot water system is the most common form of electric hot water system. These systems were commonly installed in houses and townhouses built before 1 March 2006.

This initiative, part of Queensland’s Climate Change Strategy, is the first of its kind in Australia and follows action by the Queensland Government to ban installation of electric hot water systems in all new houses and townhouses (class 1 buildings only) which came into effect on 1 March 2006.

Reticulated natural gas area

This is an area where a gas distributor can supply gas to the meter of the property at no cost. The property owner will still be responsible for the internal connection costs from the gas meter outlet to the hot water system.

Find out if your property is within a reticulated natural gas area or contact the Natural Gas Connection hotline on 1800 007 427.

At this stage, owners of homes located outside these areas will still be able to replace their existing hot water system with another electric system or voluntarily upgrade to a greenhouse efficient system.

Rebates may available if you replace your electric hot water system with a solar or heat pump system. For more information on the Queensland Government rebate, visit Visit the Commonwealth Government’s website for more information on the federal rebate scheme.

Electric hot water system replacement regulation

Since 1 January 2010, the Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code has prevented hot water installers from installing electric hot water systems as replacement systems in existing houses and townhouses located within a natural gas reticulated area.

Electricity sub-metering

Electricity sub-metering was announced as part of the 2009 election commitment on 2 March 2009 along with other sustainable housing measures.

It is now mandatory for all new multi-unit residential (class 2) and office (class 5) buildings to install an electricity sub-meter for each individual unit in a multi-residential building or each storey in an office building (where individual net lettable areas have not been identified at the time of the building development approval). Previously, costs may have been shared based on floor area or another mechanism.

Electricity sub-metering has been required since 1 January 2010 and is regulated through the Queensland Development Code 4.1—Sustainable buildings

Energy efficient lighting in houses, townhouses and units

Installing energy efficient lighting is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways householders can reduce energy use.

Lighting represents around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions for a typical Queensland household. Using energy efficient lighting in new houses, townhouses and units can reduce household greenhouse gas emissions.

Previously, indoor lighting to 40% of the floor area in a new house, townhouse or unit was required to be energy efficient using only compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or fluorescent tubes.

The number of halogen downlights being installed in housing is increasing. While halogen downlights are sometimes described as ‘low voltage’, this does not mean halogen elements are efficient in producing light. Often four or more halogen downlights are used per room where previously only one light globe would have been installed.

When designing new dwellings, promote natural day lighting in high-use areas to minimise the use of any artificial lighting that may be required through the day.

How this affects the homeowner

A typical 15-watt CFL (equivalent to a 75 watt incandescent) costs around $3. Replacing an incandescent or halogen downlights with a CFL globe can save up to 80% on running costs, with a saving of around $10 each year on electricity bills.

CFL globes also last up to 10 times longer than an incandescent globe. Savings of around $400 per year can be achieved by using 10 energy efficient lights instead of 40 halogen downlights.

CFL globes also do not generate heat into the roof space and living area.

Water efficiency requirements in houses, townhouses and units

Water conservation is essential to ensure a continued water supply for Queensland’s growing population, especially given that rainfall conditions can be highly variable. These requirements can assist to reduce demand on our water resources and infrastructure. In addition, installing water efficiency fixtures and fittings around the home not only saves water, but can also save you money on your future water bills.

The requirements apply to all new houses, townhouses and units. They also apply to existing houses, townhouses or units at time of renovation or extension. Prior to 1 March 2009, the Queensland Development Code (QDC) required all new houses and townhouses (class 1 buildings) and all units (class 2 buildings) to have 3-star WELS rated toilets and shower heads.

There were no previous minimum water efficiency requirements for tapware or garden irrigation systems.

When a renovation or extension requires both a building and plumbing approval, all toilet and shower head fixtures within the dwelling, regardless of whether or not the fixture is part of the renovation or extension work, must be upgraded to a minimum 4-star WELS rating for toilets and a minimum 3-star WELS rating for shower heads.

Tapware installed in a new area of an existing house, townhouse or unit, is required to be a minimum 3-star WELS rated. There is no requirement to upgrade existing tapware in the dwelling.

Toilets and tapware need to be installed by a licensed plumber. Shower heads may be installed by the homeowner. A landscaper or homeowner may install a garden irrigation system.

Rental properties

Since 1 April 2008, landlords of rental properties have been able to pass on full water consumption costs to tenants where the building has been individually metered and water efficient fixtures (shower heads, toilets and tapware to kitchen sinks, basins and laundry tubs) are installed.

Charging arrangements must be stated in the tenancy agreement.

Guidelines - Sustainable Housing Requirements

The following link  is available to assist with understanding how the sustainable housing requirements, including water conservation, 6-star housing, outdoor living areas and energy efficient lighting, apply to new houses, townhouses and 5 star rating for apartment units. It also provides information on how these requirements apply to alterations or additions to existing dwellings, such as extensions, renovations or relocations.

New and replacement garden irrigation systems must comply with the Queensland Water Commission guidelines.

Climate Smart Home Service - water and energy efficient shower head

The ClimateSmart Home Service will provide and install a new water efficient shower head for free if you have a shower head that consumes more than 9 litres per minute.

The average Queensland household uses 27% of its electricity to heat water. A water efficient shower head will reduce the amount of hot water you use while showering. This will in turn save energy by reducing the amount of hot water used for showering.


This articles information has been sourced from Queensland Department of Infrastructure and Planning.