Canberra Low Carbon Housing Challenge Award

Sonder Architects were awarded the Canberra Low Carbon Housing Challenge prize last night for efforts made in delivering low to net-zero housing.  We showcased three residential extension and renovation projects that focus on small smart spaces, utilising existing buildings, energy efficiency and specifying building materials with low embodied energy.  The carbon saved by these designs equates to planting 7,536 trees.

As Canberra heads to net-zero by 2045, it is imperative that architects and the building industry push for net-zero carbon housing.  This means ensuring that houses are at least carbon neutral (but preferably carbon negative!) in their energy usage, as well in the embodied energy of the materials specified.

Central to our design approach are sound solar passive design principles. In each design we retained the existing house, but improved energy performance through the inclusion of double glazing, and underfloor, wall and roof insulation.  Each pavilion extension is oriented to maximise northern sunlight, and configured to optimally perform across the changing seasons.  We specified low carbon cladding materials, such as timber and Shou Sugi Ban (Japanese charred timber), and generally prioritised timber throughout the structure and finishes to sequester carbon.

With of focus on electrification, we encourage all services and appliances to be electric, and included solar panels, water tanks and EV charging points to take the late-mid-century houses into the future.

In response to the work-from-home revolution, the designs allow for spatial flexibility, fostering flexible work and living environments.  These additions also provide potential future intergeneration living arrangements, which has become critical in response to the current housing affordability crisis.

At the heart of our philosophy of sustainable architecture is people.  We want our homes to be places that people love and want to live in for many years.  This means making sure that the dwellings are also beautiful, welcoming, and foster convivial space to enable family and social gatherings.

Our work is exhibited as part of Design Canberra at Constitution Place, 220 London Circuit, along with our co-winners, Neighbourhood Architecture and Lighthouse Architecture and Science.  Thank you to all involved in the challenge, including our clients and Powerhaus who assisted with the energy ratings, and to the local Canberra architects who are making efforts to engage with sustainable building solutions.


  1. Susan, Peter and Jake

    Canberra is in good hands with initiatives of this nature. Well done both of you.

    • Sonder Architects

      Thankyou Susan, Peter and Jake. Your support is appreciated along with your interest in building in a climate responsive manner.

  2. Sarah and Krys

    Congratulations Claire and Wendy! Appreciate the work you’ve put into our design-
    fits with our philosophy too. We will have to go and check out the exhibition.

    • Sonder Architects

      Thankyou Sarah and Krys 🙂 What great timing to have your awarded project receive Development Approval today! Up and away…

  3. Susan Ryrie

    This is a remarkable achievement. I love the idea of retro fitting and can’t wait to see the exhibition. Congratulations.


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