The 2023 Challenge is here

Submissions extended to 30 June 2024

The aim of the competition is to design a home that not only produces more power than it uses over the year; through energy-efficient design, careful appliance selection, and photovoltaic integration. But also to consider & calculate embodied carbon in material selection, and to put on enough extra photovoltaic panels to pay back the home's entire carbon debt by 2050* (based on today’s carbon intensity).

We call this the True Zero Carbon Challenge!

This challenge will not only furnish entrants with the necessary skills to thrive in the coming decades but will pave the way in showing the industry a roadmap to true Net Zero housing. At this juncture when the industry is arguing the benefits of moving to a 7 star Whole of House standard, this competition will be a pivotal beacon to show what is possible and to let the industry know that Design Matters members are ready, willing, and able to meet the challenges of the low carbon future.

Benefits of Entering

Recognition - These awards are designed show off the skills of Australia's most progressive designers and thermal performance assessors. The awards recognize building designers and thermal performance assessors with the knowledge, passion, and ability to design the homes we need for a low carbon future. Meeting the Zero Carbon Challenge will give third-party endorsement for your business and a sign of professional quality for your clients, differentiating your company from the competition.

Education - 
Most importantly, all entrants will receive free training in True Zero Carbon Design (6 technical CPD points), which will not only give them the skills to meet the performance criteria, but for their businesses to flourish in the coming decades as we move towards a Net Zero Built Environment.

Certification - All entrants who meet the True Zero Carbon Challenge will be rewarded with a digital logo they can use on their websites and marketing to show they have the skills and knowhow to create the homes of the future, today.

Prize money - 
The Awards will let the world know who Australia’s best building designers and energy assessors are. The overall winning team will also be rewarded with $5000 in prize money, and the prestigious title of National True Zero Carbon Challenge Design winner.

Marketing - 
Entering the True Zero Carbon Challenge is an inexpensive way of getting national PR and marketing in every state and territory of Australia, with entrants to be featured across DMN's social media platforms, website, and publications.






Sustainability Victoria

Sustainability Victoria 's powerful FirstRate5 Whole-of-Home Tool will not only allow entrants to assess the impacts of passive solar design and energy-efficient appliance selection on overall energy performance but will also quantify the carbon offsetting of photovoltaic power contributions to the grid. This allows entrants to determine how carbon positive the homes they design are in operation. 

It is this feature, combined with a further calculation of upfront carbon by the entrant, that will allow the number of years required to 'pay back' the embodied carbon, to be determined. We see this as an opportunity for Design Matters National True Zero Carbon Challenge entrants to learn to work with the new tool and show how it can be used to move toward Australia's low carbon future agenda.

Energy Inspection

Energy Inspection is happy to support the 2023 DMN True Zero Carbon Challenge where BERS Pro 5 can be used to calculate the thermal and whole of home requirements of the competition.

BERS Pro 5 provides flexibility and efficiency and is used by thermal energy assessors all over Australia and has been energy modelling software trusted by the industry for over a year.

The whole of home new calculation tool will allow entrants to work out the impact of different artificial heating and cooling systems, hot water systems and lighting loads for their design, whilst being able to add different configurations of photovoltaic to discover what it will take to fully offset carbon emissions for their design and achieve True Zero Carbon. 

The University of Melbourne and EPiC Database

The Environmental Performance in Construction (EPiC) Database was developed at The University of Melbourne, and contains embodied energy, water and emissions coefficients for over 300 products. The coefficients are compiled using a technique that uses the best available manufacturing data, filling data gaps with national economic and environmental data. This approach ensures complete coverage of the energy, water or emissions associated with a product’s production, thus maximising comparability between products. The EPiC data can be used to quickly and easily assess whole building performance or select alternative materials. Due to the high level of transparency of the data, it can also be used to identify energy, water and emissions hot spots throughout the product supply chain.


The True Zero Carbon Project by Design Matters is a great competition to promote consideration of "what's next" and where leading-edge sustainable design needs to evolve now that our minimum benchmarks have been increased. We're proud for Hero and our users to be participants in the program. 

Hero Software are at the forefront of helping the industry deliver low-carbon design services in a timely, professional and efficient manner using Hero, our NatHERS accredited Building Energy Modelling software platform. We’re looking forward to bringing our Whole of Home update into Hero in the second quarter of 2023.

The True Zero Carbon Project by Design Matters is a great competition to promote consideration of "what's next" and where leading-edge sustainable design needs to evolve now that our minimum benchmarks have been increased. We're proud for Hero and our users to be participants in the program. 


Entrants will have the benefit of attending the following competition upskilling webinars that will equip them with the mindset and skill set to design the homes of the future 


The Challenge webinars will attract 6 NatHERS technical CPD points and will be available from May.


A Building Designer and an accredited Thermal Performance Assessor will join forces to conquer the Challenge.


Looking for a Partner to enter with?

Fill out this form so we can add you to the list!


Design of the Year for each Climate Zone

National True Zero Carbon Design of the Year

Best use of Organic Materials

Building Design Student Award

Energy Assessor Student Award


  • All entrants who meet the challenge brief will receive an award to show they have been able to meet the True Zero Carbon Challenge. 
  • Digital certificate/logo and assets citing True Zero Carbon Designer for online recognition
  • Climate Zone winners will qualify for National Award
  • Student Award winners are drawn for all Student entries
  • The National True Zero Carbon Design winner will receive $5,000 


Please provide your documentation in the numbered order and format listed below.

1)  Plans (Provided in one PDF Document)

  • Site/Landscape plan
  • Floorplan
  • Elevations
  • Sections
  • Renders/3D Images/Hero Images
  • Anything else useful to demonstrate concept eg: Fly Through/Animation as a MP4 file

2)  NatHERS Energy Assessment Report - 7 Stars Minimum requirement plus Whole of Home (submitted as a PDF)

3)  Environmental Product Specifications table (submitted as a PDF)

4)  The EPiC Spreadsheet Calculator Rating Report (submitted as an excel file)

5)  Embodied Carbon Payback time calculation (Sustainability Victoria Spreadsheet) (Submitted as an excel file)

Plus Your answers to the Entrant's online questionnaire - link coming soon


True Zero Carbon Challenge Fee per Team

True Zero Carbon Challenge Fee per Team
Entries open: 1st June 2023

Submission deadline is 30 June 2024.

True Zero Carbon Challenge Awards Night: September 2024.

Note: All Team members must be DMN members. Building Designer's must be registered (if applicable in your State/Territory). Assessors must be Accredited with DMN.


  • All members of an entry team must be a DMN member
  • Building Designer's must be registered (if applicable in your State/Territory)
  • Thermal Performance Assessors must be accredited with DMN
  • Students of Building Design and/or Home Energy Assessment (Student Assessors are not required to be Accredited yet)


Entries Open: 1 June 2023

Entries Close: 30 June 2024

Fee: $400 per group



ENTRANTS' RESOURCE PACK - Webinar recordings, resource and calculations tools will be available to teams once payment has been received.

ENTER HERE Entries will open from 1 June 2023


  • Design a Custom 3 bed + study family home  to suit the site plan provided
  • Design for a suburban block from the list of Australian Climate Zones listed below.
  • Your clients are a family of 4 members (The Family). The Family has strong environmental values and has advised that they want a functional home that will meet the current and future livability requirements of the family.
  • In addition, the clients would like to allow for living space for Grandparents who visit regularly and may move into the home as they become less mobile in years to come.
  •  One parent works 4 kilometers away. The other parent currently works from home, offering online consultations, sometimes out of regular business hours. It is essential that the work space can be separated from the rest of the house when necessary.
  • Both children ride bikes to their school located 2.5 kilometers from home.
  • The Family likes to spend time in the garden with their 4 legged pet.
  • The Family enjoys camping holidays, and has camping equipment which ideally can be stored in an easy to access manner.
  • They have an electric vehicle as their family car. 
  • Future proofing the home for potential intergenerational living is important.
  • They also have strong values around growing their own food and spending time in their garden/ yard.
  • The budget limit is $700,000
  • Minimum House Energy Rating: 7 stars (in line with NCC 2022 provisions).

Entrants needed to:

  •  Create a design and Calculate operational energy use, with the NatHERS software Whole of Home tools.
  •  Calculate embodied (Up Front) carbon in the structure with the EPiC Spreadsheet tool.
  • Then enter data into the SV Spreadsheet tool
  • Put on enough photovoltaic panels to have a Net Zero operational energy account on a yearly basis, and offset the embodied carbon in the structure by 2050.

(Note, an export cap for the competition is a 5kw per phase = 15 kw Max for 3 phase)


Design for a suburban block in any of the Climate Zones listed below that you choose.

  • Australian Capital Territory, 17 All Stars Way, Macnamara 2615 - climate zone 24.
  • New South Wales – 12 Zero Carbon Street, Stanhope Gardens 2786 - climate zone 28.
  • Northern Territory – 34 Energy Efficient Avenue,  Northcrest 0828- climate zone 1
  • Queensland – 56 Solar Passive Boulevard,  Ormeau Ridge 4208 - climate zone 10
  • South Australia – 78 True North Lane,  West Lakes 5021 - climate zone 16
  • Tasmania – 9 Southern Winds Circuit,  Spring Bay 7190 – climate zone 26
  • Victoria – 10 Thermal Performance Street,  Mambourin 3024 - climate zone 60
  • Western Australia – 11 Orientation Way,  Landsdale 6065 – climate zone 13

Note: The above addresses are fictional and are not searchable on Google Earth or similar.


See Entrant Guidelines for full details of judging criteria to help guide your submission

  • The Challenge
  • Sustainability Innovation
  • Materials
  • Livability
  • Desirability

FAQ's click here

Looking for a Partner to enter with?

Fill out this form so we can add you to the list.