What is MDH?



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Consider energy management and sustainability at each step of the design process.

The design, orientation and layout of every medium-density housing development should aim to minimise energy use.

Energy efficiency

Most aspects of the design offer opportunities to enhance energy efficiency. For example, passive heating, cooling and ventilation can be enhanced during the layout, structural, landscaping and interior design of the development.

An efficient passive design can increase thermal stability, reduce indoor condensation, promote natural ventilation and remove airborne contaminants, reduce power consumption and create a significantly more comfortable indoor environment for occupants.

To enhance the energy efficiency of an MDH design, try to:

  • place additional glazing on northern elevations (within 30° of north) to maximise solar gain in winter
  • shade glazing with landscaping (especially deciduous trees), shades, screens or awnings to prevent overheating in summer
  • avoid large areas of glazing on south and west-facing elevations (if feasible)
  • locate the main living areas of each housing unit to the north
  • provide generous glazing areas and limit external shading in winter
  • specify materials with a high thermal mass, such as exposed concrete, masonry or stone
  • encourage natural cross-ventilation with individual dwelling layout (at least two external walls) and by incorporating opening windows
  • vent kitchens, laundries and bathrooms to the outside
  • consider incorporating photovoltaic generation and solar water heating systems
  • specify energy-efficient appliances, lighting and heating
  • use higher-rated wall and ceiling insulation.
Med dens draft 20 v2

Orient living spaces towards the northern side of each housing unit to increase thermal gain and energy efficiency. (Adapted from Building multi-unit housing (In Living 3 zones) An Urban Design Guide for Christchurch, Christchurch City Council, 2014)

Waste management and recycling

It’s important to make waste disposal and recycling – and other services occupants may require – easy for them use.

Consider how and where waste and recycling will be stored and removed from dwellings and from the site. It is good practice to add a communal recycling area that is cleared regularly or provide each housing unit with a space to store municipal bins and a stepless path to the street for kerbside collection and recycling. Where rubbish bins cannot be located inside or at the rear of the complex, consider adding screens or a purpose-built enclosure to avoid affecting the streetscape.

Med dens draft 21 v2

Provide each housing unit with a dedicated space to store waste and recycling bins and a stepless path to transport them to the street for collection. (Adapted from Building multi-unit housing (In Living 3 zones) An Urban Design Guide for Christchurch, Christchurch City Council, 2014)


Large amounts of energy and resources are used to manufacture, transport and install construction materials and the waste these processes generate. To reduce a development’s environmental impact, try to:

  • use materials that can be recycled
  • specify materials from renewable sources
  • source local materials, especially those that are expensive to transport
  • specify materials that are durable and easy to maintain
  • specify standard sizes to reduce waste.