Star performer: Connecting a smart home for optimum energy efficiency

ABB’s home automation solutions are key to the successful completion of South Australia’s first 10 Star rated energy efficient house.

The planet needs us to move swiftly towards a more sustainable built environment, and many believe Australia should probably be further along the track to get there, particularly in terms of energy-efficient dwellings.

Adelaide-headquartered consultancy SUHO is 15 years into its mission to drive sustainable building design and this year celebrates the opening of its 10-star display home in the Adelaide suburb of Woodforde.

With Australia’s population set to grow to an estimated 31 million people by 2030[i], teamed with a global target to become net zero on emissions by 2050, the development of South Australia’s first 10 Star Home is an exciting step towards showing just what is possible when it comes to building sustainable and energy-efficient dwellings.

The passively designed SUHO home features the first Australian pilot installation of ABB-free@home® home automation, TerraAC wallbox electric vehicle charger and solar inverter with a solar energy storage system, REACT 2, from Fimer.

“We pushed the project further than just answering the requirements of the certification,” says Geraldine Petit, lead construction design specialist at SUHO Studio, who stresses she is part of a multidisciplinary team that worked on the project.

“We wanted the building to be accessible, and to consider interaction between the house and the inhabitants, so it could be automated to fit the requirements of any family – because there are no ‘average’ people.”


Petit says SUHO wanted the home to be equipped to do the smart thinking for its inhabitants. “Not all people will be aware how to best use such a house, to think about the ventilation, the windows, the devices, which means that people might not be able to get the best performance out of the house,” she explains. “The ABB system provides direct feedback on the energy consumption of the house. That means the users will be aware, and also it’s programmed so that many of the key features that make the house comfortable and energy efficient, are automated.”

With buildings and their construction accounting for 36 percent of global energy use and 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually [ii], SUHO’s 10 Star house showcases how form and functionality can combine to reduce environmental impact through safe, smart and sustainable homes.

“Besides safety and comfort, our building automation solutions are very much focused on energy efficiency, and to date it’s mostly been done on the commercial side, but these are perfect solutions to expand into the residential market,” says Christian Schiemann, ABB’s Market Development Manager, Building Automation Australia & New Zealand and Electrification – Smart Buildings Division. “ABB decided to sponsor the installation of our technology in the 10-star house because it’s a great showcase of what it can do for Australian homes.”

Driving home energy efficiency

Launched in 1987, Australia’s Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) scales a home’s energy efficiency on a scale of 0-10; the highest-star rating denotes that the house requires less power to be comfortable all year round. Historically, a home that achieves the top 10 Star rating would most likely not have an artificial heating or cooling system installed. Clever design, selection of building materials and intelligent automation have combined to make that possible for the SUHO home.

ABB-free@home® lets homeowners control lighting, shutters, electric windows and awnings from their smart phone. Homes with artificial heating and cooling systems can also use these controls, but the SUHO 10 Star Home has its environment managed by its passive design and a recovery ventilation system.

This complex system extracts air from the home and replaces it with fresh air from outside, but unlike conventional ventilation, the air in both directions passes through a heat exchanger. In winter, this means that warm air being expelled from the house is used to heat the air being brought in from outside. The system can operate at around 90% energy efficiency, which can also be attributed to the building’s construction and airtightness of 0.64 ACH (air exchange per hour).

“The house is designed to be passively comfortable and is very well sealed for air tightness and has triple glazing, but Adelaide can have extreme conditions at times,” explains Petit.

“On a hot day, the house can cool down pretty well at night because there is good natural ventilation and the windows can be opened, then automatically closed by the ABB smart home system when the difference of temperature between outside and inside is not comfortable. At that point, the recovery ventilation system will maintain this temperature in the house, renewing the air at the same time.”

For added convenience, ABB-free@home® also integrates with third party solutions – such as whitegoods and audio systems – as well as other ABB smart home products, such as the ABB-Welcome door entry system to boost home security. The Fimer REACT2 solar-energy storage system combines with ABB-free@home® to make the most of the energy generated by the PV system.

FIMER’s REACT2 solar-energy storage system combines with ABB-free@home® to make the most of the energy generated by the PV system on the roof. ABB-free@home® monitors the status of the battery, for instance, to show how much solar energy has been generated and how much has been stored. It’s so flexible that pre-set rules can be agreed, so that if the battery is 80 percent charged, it will start to charge your electric vehicle with the ABB EV wall charger. It’s all automated, so that these decisions don’t have to be made by human interaction and are instead based on accurate energy efficiency requirements.

“ABB-free@home® monitors the status of the battery, for instance, to show how much solar energy has been generated and how much has been stored,” says Schiemann. “We can set up rules to say, for example, ‘if the battery is 80% charged, start the washing machine’, or ‘start charging my electric vehicle’ from the ABB EV wall charger. It’s all automated, so that these decisions don’t have to be made by human interaction and are instead based on accurate energy efficiency requirements.”

Passion with a global vision for the future

Schiemann is as passionate as his SUHO customers about driving home energy efficiency in Australia. “Most Australian new builds are at the six-star level, which in the global vision is a pretty poor standard when it comes to energy usage,” he says. “A six-star house uses on average 83MJ per square metre and a 10-star house is so passive it only uses 3MJ per square metre – a massive difference. Having the ABB system that takes care of energy usage helps to achieve an outstanding rating.”

“Working collaboratively with ABB I discovered the possibilities of the products,” says Petit. She was familiar with ABB’s intelligent home automation from her work in Europe, but the ABB-free@home® was a new solution to her. “With ABB and all the other suppliers who worked on the project with us we’ve added a lot of beautiful features to this home, and it showcases what’s possible to make a very comfortable home that’s also so energy efficient. We hope to see our smart design housing many Australians in the future.”

The SUHO 10 Star home is set to become the blueprint for future energy efficient housing across Australia.

Keep up-to-date with trends and technology within the smart building segment. Subscribe to our smart buildings newsletter.


[i] HIA, Housing Australia’s future, 2018


Categories and Tags
About the author

Eva Ford-Murphy

As Head of Communications for Asia Pacific and Australia for ABB’s Electrification business, Eva is responsible for creating brand value, enhancing reputation and building the business’s profile in the marketplace. Eva brings more than 20 years’ experience in corporate communications and marketing across numerous sectors including infrastructure, energy, resources, transport and community and government services. Eva holds a Masters in Communication Studies (Public Relations) from the Queensland University of Technology and Bachelor of Arts majoring in psychology from the University of Queensland. Eva is based in Brisbane.
Related stories
Comment on this article