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Sustainable Tropical Design

Over the years COOLmob has advocated for, and received funding to educate the Top End community on passive design principles suitable for the tropics.

Passive and tropical design principles are important because they mean your home is more suited to our Top End climate. Building or renovating a home that is designed with climate in mind means it will be more comfortable to live in, energy efficient, cheaper to run (lower power bills), more resilient to climate change and increasing temperatures. 

While no house can resist all extreme weather events, those in the tropics need to be designed to function safely and comfortably during floods and cyclones. Building codes already mandate that houses withstand cyclonic winds. However, the most common response to these codes and legislation is concrete block dwellings on elevated compacted earth pads. As an alternative, we are encouraging the uptake of cyclone resistant, lightweight construction that is well-shaded, well ventilated and increases interaction with the natural environment. After-all, to be climate resilient, we need to be in it and understand how it affects our day-to-day activities and lifestyle choices.

Somewhat ironically, this used to be understood; for example houses constructed before the 1970s in Darwin were typically high-set and framed with locally sourced timber. These houses had open, breezy undercroft spaces that provided cool respite from summer heat and protected the upstairs living areas from seasonal flooding. Mostly three-bedroom, single-bathroom designs, they had large casement windows to direct the breeze and no air-conditioning. Shady verandahs were also common features, sometimes enclosed with banks of timber or glass louvres to create sleep-outs – great flexible spaces that can act as filters of the tropical environment.

Downloadable COOLmob booklets 

The Design for the Tropics Booklet is a very handy, easy-to-read booklet to help inform you about sustainable home design for the tropics. It includes great advice on:

  • Getting started
  • Your house structure
  • Inside your home
  • Outside your home

Other booklets include Greenhouse Friendly Habits (behavioural tips to reduce energy at home) and Greenhouse Friendly Hardware for Top End Housing (products you can buy, use and install to make your home more energy efficient)

Other reputable and useful resources 

COOLmob work with different organisations including NTCOSS and the NT Property Council Sustainability Committee in advocating for increased minimum energy efficiency standards for homes and buildings in the NT. 

Below is a collection of useful resources we draw on for up to date facts and research in this area: