Zero carbon townhouses

In Yarra, we’re seeing leaders in the development industry respond to growing demand in the community for zero carbon, healthy and climate resilient homes and workplaces. We are keen to promote further leading sustainable developments that would meet zero carbon standards.  If you have a suggestion for a zero carbon development to be featured, please contact Yarra City Council on 9205 5555 or email

Ford St, Clifton Hill 

Street view of zero carbon townhouse, Ford St, Clifton Hill 

Image by Dan Farrar 

Development summary 

Designed with an eco-conscious home owner in mind, these three-level townhouses in Clifton Hill   aspired to apply leading sustainable design and construction. Through smart design and innovative construction practices, Field Office Architecture and Sustainable Homes Melbourne have produced high quality and thermally efficient dwellings.  
The intention was to create highly efficient, ethically sourced, sustainable and high-quality residential homes to stand the test of time and serve this generation and many after. The two homes have been designed to gain strong solar access and manage a difficult north/south orientation and narrow steep blocks by carving out a central zone in the house for a courtyard. This vegetated central courtyard area means that the rear living spaces receive a significant amount of northern light, whilst allowing for effective cross flow ventilation and night time purging.  
Built on a challenging site, they aim for optimal self-sufficiency and achieved high energy ratings through clever orientation, reverse recycled brick veneer construction, high performing thermal mass, insulation and glazing. They each feature large solar arrays, supported by battery storage with no use of gas.
The project had a strong focus on understanding the impacts of various materials and choosing lower impact options, including reclaimed bricks and recycled sustainable timbers with low volatile organic compounds in paint or other finishes.  

The use of innovative construction practices, not typically used in residential projects, provided for improve thermal performance, energy efficiency and sustainability. The project used alternative technologies and products giving small, local and start-up businesses a chance to gain invaluable experience, and the opportunity to grow and bring lasting change to the industry.
This development has been constructed and is occupied.

Project Team: Field Office Architecture and Sustainable Homes Melbourne

Key zero carbon development features 

On-site renewable electricity generation and storage  

The emphasis on self-sufficiency has significantly reduced the need to draw energy from the grid. The dwellings are powered purely by electricity, with no use of gas, with the majority of the homes’ energy needs being met by two solar arrays with a combined capacity of 13.8 kilowatts) (8.6 and 5.2 kilowatt capacity) and two 9.8 kilowatt hour batteries and smart technology to calibrate energy usage.  

Passive design, heating, cooling and energy performance

  • Layout designed to maximise northern solar access in winter, including the use of central courtyards
  • Achieved 7 and 7.1 Star NatHERS Energy Ratings 
  • Reverse recycled brick veneer construction – brick on the inside of the building with an insulated, reconstituted timber clad frame on the outside provides a highly efficient building envelope with a significant amount of thermal mass assisting to maintain steady temperatures throughout the year
  • Fully insulated, including use of a thermal break brick for the bottom course of all brickwork to ensure minimal heat transfer between slab and brick
  • Double-glazed and low-e windows throughout; a combination of timber and thermally-broken aluminium windows are positioned for optimal light intake during the winter and shading above during the summer months. Honeycomb blinds to all windows provide additional insulation
  • Suspended slab for increased thermal mass
  • Generous eaves to north, east and west windows provide shading throughout the warmer months, whilst allowing sunlight at lower angles during winter
  • Natural cross-flow ventilation in all living spaces with careful consideration of wind patterns to maximise airflow through building
  • Strategically designed and located casement and awning windows provide effective cross flow ventilation throughout all living spaces of both dwellings
  • All windows and external doorways have screens for insect management whilst allowing full ventilation
  • Energy efficient heating and cooling powered by heat pumps, energy efficient appliances, heat pump hot water system and efficient LED lighting

Other sustainability features 

Building materials and finishes

  • Reuse of bricks from the previous 100 year old dwellings that occupied the site, providing a historical linkage between the old and the new
  • The sustainability credentials of materials were taken into account and the highest standard materials were used throughout the project
  • Use of Australian made reconstituted timber cladding manufactured from PEFC certified sources and pressed with natural wax with no chemical additives
  • Recycled rubber and cork flooring in service, workshop and storage areas
  • Low VOC paints and water-based floor polish


  • 80-90% of construction waste was diverted from landfill to recycling depots
  • A significant amount of timber and brickwork was reclaimed and given a second life
  • Recycled messmate and ironbark feature cladding, decking and railings and internal recycled timber flooring  


  • 8 x 2000L water tanks harvesting from 280 square metres of roof space plumbed to toilets and for garden irrigation  
  • High WELS rated tapware and energy efficient lighting.


  • Food producing garden with fruit trees and vegetables with automated watering systems.

Clifton Hill Townhouse courtyard

Image by Dan Farrar 

Clifton Hill townhouse aerial view

Image from Sustainable Homes Melbourne