With talks about the impacts of climate change escalating on a global level, sustainability has become a buzzword in the property industry. While the cost of making a home sustainable remains a significant concern for many investors and homeowners, a construction expert said this should not be the case.

Andrew Payton, director at AJP Constructions, said it is "ludicrous" for builders to charge a premium for making homes more sustainable. Payton said homeowners and investors can maximise the planning stage of house construction to ensure that the finished dwelling is built to require less energy and incur lower costs.

"The facts are by applying clever planning early, you can construct a high-end property that's faster to build and costs less to operate," he said. "Homeowners are keen to reduce their running expenses in times of high costs of living. For investors, saving money means they can get a far better yield on their investment property.”

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One of the very first things investors should look at is the design of the house. Understanding orientation and exposure could potentially reduce heating and cooling costs at a substantial level, Payton said. Smart design elements such as eave overhangs and patio roof lengths should be considered to achieve maximum energy savings.

"Open plan is great, but if the orientation and exposure to sunlight is wrong, then you can end up paying a lot extra in running costs. Many small changes can have a big impact in costs, from window placement to avoiding 'dead space' in underutilised rooms," Payton said.

Blurring the line between indoors and outdoors can also do the trick. One way to create extra space is to open up to a patio or deck, which could also lower running costs, Payton said.

"By using the right materials for your openings — solar tinted glass stacker doors or more solid bi-folds — you can simply reduce the space when it's not needed and insulate the area you're either heating and cooling," he said.

Another crucial strategy is choosing the right materials for the home. For instance, there is a growing trend of using cross-laminated timber for the house's framing.

"Because it's cheaper to produce and easier to work with than steel or concrete, it's a saving in your construction budget. We've also found CLT frames are faster to erect than traditional frames, because it comes in panels," Payton said.

Property owners should also invest in quality fitting and fixtures to avoid skyrocketing costs in the long run.

"This may sound counter-intuitive to the idea of reducing costs, but it's often worth the extra money to choose recognised brand-name appliances with excellent durability. The same goes for finishes — good quality, durable carpet, tile, timber and paint all pay for themselves pretty quickly," Payton said.

Late last year, the Property Council of Australia and Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) unveiled a policy toolkit aimed at transforming Australian homes, workplaces, and other buildings into low-carbon, high-performance structures while cost-effectively reducing emissions.

According to the Property Council, buildings account for over 50% of Australia's electricity use and 25% of carbon emissions, spurring the need for a comprehensive policy plan.

"Energy efficiency has been the forgotten part of energy policy for the past decade as governments have debated energy supply. With the right policy frameworks in place, we can minimise the costs of a transition to net-zero emissions and create economic opportunities across all parts of the industry, from sole traders and homeowners to large businesses," Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said.