informing, connecting, activating, actioning

Design Guides & Recommended Reading

Introductory reading, moving through to more technical papers.

What is Sustainable Housing?

Simply put, sustainable housing is simply housing that is simply better all round - providing benefits to us environmentally, socially and economically.

This brief article from ecoSAVVY outlining the benefits available from incorporating social sustainability design elements into your home. The benefits relate to: lifestyle, health, safety; security; accessibility, neighbourliness and inclusivity.

A more indepth overview of Sustainable Housing from the Queensland Government is here: Smart Housing Design Objectives

Tropical Design Guides

Hot Tips for Cool Homes in the Tropics

A useful two-pager that clearly identifies the tropical design principles that will create a cool and comfortable home with less reliance on air-conditioning.
Hot Tips for Cool Homes in the Tropics

Townsville City Council's Tropical Design Guides

Six excellent tropical design guides containing comprehensive explanations and drawings of key principles and concepts to help you understand why your house might be hot and what you can do to make it cooler. These guides are particularly compiled for Townsville's dry tropical climate.

Guide 1 - Orientation for Townsville Homes

Guide 2 - Harnessing Cooling Breezes 

Guide 3 - Shading Out the Heat

Guide 4 - Landscaping: An Integral Aspect of Sustainability

Guide 5 - Building Materials and Insulation for Townsville Homes 

Guide 6 - Enhance Outdoor Living  

White Roofs

If you don't already, having a white roof is one of the simplest and most beneficial things you can do to improve the performance of your house. A white roof will make your house more comfortable, help reduce your use of air-conditioning, and reduce the need to spend millions of dollars on additional energy infrastructure.

Townsville City Council has created an exceptional resource that will guide you through the process. See

Troppo Architects ESD Design Principles

Troppo Architects ESD Design Principles, courtesy Troppo Architects.

Tropical Green Building Network 

Based in, the wet tropical climate of, Cairns, Far North Queensland, the Tropical Green Building Network (TGBN) is a community of building industry professionals who collaborate to develop, support and lead the uptake of sustainable building practices in the Far North Queensland region.

The network is voluntary and led by a steering committee who meets quarterly to assess projects and establish strategy and direction.

With a strong record for engaging with industry stakeholders and the community since 2009, the network has faciliated over 80 events. You can find their latest news and events here. 

The network also has an excellent resources page, listing a range of very useful design guides (as outlined below), predominantly sourced from the Cairns / Far North Queensland region, which includes the titles listed below -

Tropical design guides on TGBN resources page:

Cool Homes - Smart Design for the Tropics (by Cairns Regional Council); Cairns Style Design Guide (by Cairns Regional Council), Building Design and Architectural Elements (Policy by the Old Douglas Shire Planning scheme); Building Strong and Cool in the Tropics (By Studio Mango), Sustainable Tropical Building Design: Guidelines for Commercial Buildings (by Cairns Regional Council), Your Home Technical Manual (by the Australian Government: Department of Industry).

Resilient building guides: Rebuilding in storm tide prone areas: Tully Heads and Hull Heads, Part 1 Guideline (by Queensland Reconstruction Authority); and Wind Resistant Housing, Part 2 Guideline (by Queensland Reconstruction Authority).

Renovation guides: Retrofitting for Sustainability: A Guide for Far North Queensland (by Sophie Barrett of Green at Heart and published by the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre); Your Home Renovators Guide (Your Home: Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency).

Home buyers guides: Making Sense of Sustainability: The Handbook (By Stockland North Shore, Townsville) and the Tropical Home Buyers Guide (Produced by Investa Property Group, Defence Housing Australia, the Institute of Sustianable Futures and the University of Technology Sydney).

Airconditioning and condensation guides: Condensation in Buildings: Handbook, 2nd Edition 2014 (Non-mandatory) (by the Australian Building Codes Board), Airconditioning Residential Best Practice Guildeline (by the Brisbane City Council in conjunction with AIRAH) and the Air Conditioning Residential Best Practice Guildeline (by AIRAH). - The Tropical Green Building Directory

The Tropical Green Building Directory is managed by Emma Thirkell, founder of the Tropical Green Building Network.

It is a very useful web directory of building materials, products and service providers that excel in warm, humid (tropical) climates. The directory covers the Far North Queensland (Cairns) and North Queensland (Townsville) Regions. is the sister site of and is managed by Emma Thirkel of Cairns.

The website is a place where demolition, salvage, secondhand, recycling yards, builders and businesses can list factory outlet, seconds, mis-orders, damaged goods, leftovers, and second hand and recycled goods. Search the database to view the goods listed and buy direct from the seller. Australia wide but with majority of goods in the Cairns and greater Cairns region.

Advancing Tropical Green Build

Prepared for the Queensland Government by Cummings Economics, and ecoSAVVVY the Advancing Tropical Green Build Business Directory profiles 112 Green Build businesses in North and Far North Queensland that have especial expertise in tropical climates and have invented new products, and/or specialise in climate resilience, tropical design, development and construction, water managment, air-conditioning and ventilation, smart technologies, local / recycled content, environmental management, advice and ratings, and/or education and training.

A sister document, Advancing Tropical Green Build: Connecting Tropical North Queensland Capacity to Market, and Summary version is the result of extensive industry surveying and an economic analsyis of the sector. This report is a capability assessement of the Tropical Green Build sector, providing detailed insights, economic export potential and recommendations for growth.

Breakthrough Ideas for Sustainable Urban Development in North Queensland

The product of an extensive industry consultation program conducted by the Thuringowa City Council (now Townsville City Council), this program captured the collective ideas and knowledge of over 100 industry representatives seeking to plan, design, construct, and market, commercially viable, market friendly and cost competitive sustainable housing and urban development products. 

The recommendations cover: improving housing affordability; cost effective tropical housing; development application/approvals processes to support ESD (ecologically sustainable development); the need for tenure and building forms to influence subdivision layouts; marketing tools to reduce the commercial risk of ‘designing’ and ‘selling’ sustainable development product; the importance of landscape analysis informing development design; water sensitive urban design in tropical climates; educational priorities for the NQ urban development industry to accelerate sustainable practices; guidance for cost effective energy, water and waste efficiency; the need for community involvement in community creation; universal accessibility (at the level of the precinct) and ‘visitability’ (at the level of the house), and more...

Breakthrough Ideas for Sustainable Urban Development Summary (Recommended)

Breakthrough Ideas for Sustainable Urban Development Full Report

Thuringowa Sustainable Village Project Survey

What would you most like a sustainable residential development in North Queensland achieve? Here are the collated responses from North Queensland building and development industry professionals in 2007. An inspiring read!
Thuringowa Sustainable Village Project Survey

Green T Commercial Building Casestudy

Developing Green in Townsville's CBD: A casestudy of the greenT / Evolve commercial building project 2006-2010. A report prepared for the Australian Government as part of the Towsville Solar City Project. The report outlines key aspects of this developer's quest to build a leading edge green commercial building in Townsville. The report's purpose is to share experiences and learnings, provide insight into best practice commercial building design for dry tropical climates, and assist regulators and others in addressing the barriers.