Sydney’s Sustainable House: Guest Post from Michael Mobbs

Imagine living in a house that was completely self-sustainable and self-sufficient. Now imagine that house is in the middle of Sydney central business district. Our guest blogger, Michael Mobbs has done it. 1 Million Women were very excited at the chance to pick Michael’s brain about Sydney’s Sustainable House and tips to make our own homes more sustainable.

The following is a guest blog post by Michael Mobbs…

sydney sustinable house
So it’s 2013 and my house beside Sydney’s central business district, Sydney’s Sustainable House, has been disconnected from mains water and sewer since 1996, some 16 years ago.  All the daytime energy is from the sun, and the energy company sends me cheques for my clean energy from the sun I sell them during the day.  Four people have lived here for energy and water bills of less than $300 each year.

How did I get myself out of my bills and into this lovely pickle?

Two things got me here.  The first was engineers telling me it couldn’t be done; thanks fellas.  The second was my fed-up-ness with the sound of my voice complaining about governments not doing anything about the pollution from electricity stations they owned and make money from.  So when we decided to make the kitchen and bathroom bigger in the 19th century terrace house we decided to stop our own sewage and energy pollution during the three month renovation.

Here are five tips for making your house, office or units sustainable. The first two are emotional – sorry, this will be over quickly.

Firstly, you don’t have to be special to do this – I’m not – so don’t worry about your capacity to cut your own pollution. All the tanks, panels, systems can be bought and put into your project tomorrow by local tradespeople.

Secondly, you just have to want to do it – have the will.  You’ll find as many architects, engineers, planners, friends who’ll say you can’t do it as those who say you can.  Listen to your heart, look at government inaction and give yourself permission to act ahead of them.

The other three tips can be listed:

·      Choose simple systems, not complicated, fancy new ones, that you can see have been working well

·      Don’t fuss about the solar panels, the water and sewage systems; choose proven installers whose business has been going several years who will know how to install the systems.  And, having been in business some years, you can expect they’ll be around to back up warranties when or if the systems fail.

·      Set a budget of about $20,000 for the energy, water and recycled systems and set measurable goals that you make part of the contract with the builder, engineer and designer; eg no stormwater to leave the site, all rain water to be used for drinking, cooking, hot water.

Click on the picture below for a Sustainable House fact sheet.

Sydney Sustainable House Fact sheet

For more information on Michael’s journey, the mistakes, products, design and data on the house check out his book, Sustainable House (2 Ed 2010).

You can find his website at

Join the movement at

3 responses to “Sydney’s Sustainable House: Guest Post from Michael Mobbs

  1. We have done some of these things but are now moving to a retirement village. Oh dear, they are all in the dark age and as we don’t actually own the house we can;t do much to change it.:(

  2. The problems with the stock of buildings for aged care are monumental, and need innovative solutions. mr Mobbs has shown what can be done in one house and he and his family and supporters should be applauded.

  3. In ‘Secondly’ you forgot to add ‘and the money’. That’s what stops most of us, unfortunately.

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