Hello and Guten Tag,

My name is Simone and I’m the owner, founder and certified passive house designer at Gruen Eco Design.

I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and our environment. I’m a little bit of a hippie at heart.

As a young girl growing up in Germany, I’ve enjoyed watching nature documentaries with my mum. I couldn’t understand how people could be so wasteful of energy or water. Or how anyone could harm our planet or the animals. This was where my interest in sustainable architecture and environmental issues began.

The PassiveHaus movement started in Germany in 1990. So, energy efficient design was a big part of my architectural studies.

On moving to Australia in 2007, I was shocked at how cold our rental place got. People kept telling me that you don’t need double glazing in Australia. But I wasn’t buying it.

Something was just not right. I felt it was my mission to educate people about the benefits of the German way of designing and building homes. I felt the industry needed a shake up and I was game to question how building was done here.


Over the years I’ve designed over 300 homes for Australian clients.

I’ve helped them achieve their comfortable and energy efficient dream homes. By creating spaces that are safe, resilient and unique to their individual needs.

And while we integrate passive solar design into all our projects. We aim for the passive house standard as best practice to deliver a guaranteed high performing home.

The Passive House Standard is an internationally recognised, rigorous, but voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building’s ecological footprint. Passive houses need up to 90% less energy than a standard 6-star home.

The Passive house standard is one holistic construction certification standard that looks at the actual performance of a house, rather than just on paper, like the current energy rating scheme in Australia.

It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little to no energy for space heating or cooling, even for the coldest and hottest parts of the world. This results in a guaranteed high-performance home for the owners/ occupants from a thermal comfort, health and energy efficiency standpoint

We have a specialised passive house team that looks after all the additional details and calculations required for the passive house certification and to optimise the performance of all our projects.

However, the most important thing for us is to design homes that are as energy efficient as possible within our client’s budget. It is more important that the build is affordable and exactly what our client needs than coming up with an extraordinary design that could win awards but would break the bank.

Don’t get us wrong, we love, love a beautiful design. And we’re designing beautiful homes. Yet, when building on a budget, you must pick and choose your features wisely. Not everything can be a feature. We advise our clients use as many off-the shelf products and materials as possible while concentrating on a few wow factors. Otherwise, a budget can blow out.

Affordability is key for us. And therefore, we work closely with our clients and the builders right through the design process. Making sure the houses can be built in the most cost effective and simplest way. Using off the shelf products and materials, rather than getting everything custom made.

To make sure the money can be spent on actual performance of the house, rather than the bling. Quality over quantity. Less is more.


However, nothing makes us happier than getting a call from a former client. Or even an email from someone who followed our blog post. Telling us how well their home performs. What a difference it has made.

This is why I started this journey in the first place. To help others live a more sustainable life.

I’m passionate about sustainable design. Because sustainable design can and must be affordable for everyone. As a matter of course this needs to be integrated throughout the whole design process. Rather than designing something and trying to make it sustainable later.

Our mission is to make energy efficient homes a staple in the Australian landscape. Everyone should have the right to live in a comfortable house that does not cost the earth!

Our team has diverse skillsets and backgrounds with one thing in common, a passion for sustainability and the environment.

The close colaboration with builders is important to us. Right from the design through to the construction documentation where possible.

Making sure that our designs are beautiful and energy efficient, but also affordable.


 When it comes to building an energy efficient and healthy home, there is no way around the passive house standard.

If you haven’t heard about it yet. I can recommend watching this video on YouTube called Passive House in 90 seconds.

Once you’ve looked into it, there is almost no turning back. It makes so much sense and you will wonder why everyone is not building to PassiveHaus standards.

Most of our current projects are passive houses. Some of them going for certification, others following the same passive house principles.

But we are also doing some small renovations and retro fits and town house developments. 

No matter how big or small a budget, you can always improve the efficiency of any home.

We always try to incorporate as much of the good things into each project as we can. We go as far as the budget allows. 

As you’ve gathered by now: Affordability is important for us.


We know that building a new home or doing an extension can be daunting. It can be scary to sign up a designer or builder.

Because you don’t want to end up paying lots of money in fees to find out that what you want is way above your budget.

Over the years I’ve spoken with so many families who wanted to build their dream home or do an extension. But they were too scared that they couldn’t afford what they wanted to achieve.  

Keeping them stuck in limbo, often for years.  

To overcome this uncertainty and give you some peace of mind we now offer a Feasibility Design Review.

We first prepare some simple concept sketches. According to your needs and requirements.  

We then get estimates from a few builders or from an estimator.

Once we have feedback about the potential build cost, we come up with a masterplan. 
A summary of the things you can achieve, in cooperation with you. A rough sketch and scope of works on what you can do within your budget. Before embarking on the full design and build journey.

This process ensures you can afford your dream home. Instead of wasting money and time. Only to find out after the tender process that you can’t afford your home.


My family is also on our own journey to building a passive house / our family home.

We call it The 20/20 House.
I’ve started a blog post, so you can follow 

Please check out my latest posts below.

The 20/20 House Part 44 – Living in our very own Passive House

The 20/20 House Part 44 The Gruen Eco Design blog about how to convert your dream of an energy efficient home into a reality. Living in our very own Passive House Where has the time gone? We have been living in our house now for a bit over 3 months. The boxes are...

THE 20/20 HOUSE PART 43 – Moving into our very own Passive House

The Gruen Eco Design blog about how to convert your dream of an energy efficient home into a reality. Moving into our very own Passive House Yes, we’ve made it We’ve been living in our new house now for about 3 weeks. And it has been great. It is still a huge mess,...

Because I’m going through the motions myself, I get it. Designing and building your home can be very overwhelming and scary at times.

So, I hope this can inspire you, while informing you of the highs and lows of building your dream home. 

When you have a look at our own home and our project page you can see a wide variety of projects and styles.  

We have come up with lots of different solutions and designs. Depending on your individual tastes. Ultra-modern, Hampton Style, Eco-Shacks. You name it.  

Because we believe in design flexibility. No matter what style or finish you are after. We can handle any style and turn it into an energy efficient, sustainable and healthy home.

One of our projects have just been sold. Winner Sustainability Award 2019. Please check out the video below.



We are here to help guide you through the building maze. To make sure your design is not only beautiful and energy efficient but also affordable. 

We would love to do the same for you. 

Do you want to get started with your dream home?

Or do you want to know more about our design philosophy? Want to have a chat about whether we can help you to achieve your dream home?  

Please follow the link below and book in a Free Discovery Session with me. (valued at $200). 

Would love to hear from you.

book in a free discovery session

Simone Schenkel, Degreed Engineer (Architecture), Germany
Diplom Ingenieur Architektur

dipl ing (eng + arch) Germany

Certified Passive House Designer

Australian Passive House Association
Victorian Chapter Lead

Registered Building Designer with the Building Commission
Registered Building Designer with BDAV Victoria

Australian Passive House Association Member

As seen on:
Click on image for video


We are based in Victoria, both Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria but over the last few years we have started to venture further. Our team are flexible and we have been enjoying extending our reach beyond Victoria to other states around Australia.



  • Passion:  We have a passion for considered design with a focus on Health & Sustainability.
  • Fun:  We love what we do.
  • Distinctiveness:  We differentiate ourselves through our wealth of expertise in Passivhaus and sustainability, which sets us apart and provides invaluable worth to our clients
  • Creative:  We use our collective creativity to resolve complex design challenges.
  • Innovative:  We are innovative and embrace the latest building science, new technologies and building techniques
  • Collaboration: We focus on each client’s design brief and budget constraints, and involve them in the design process.  Early involvement with an extensive project team and consultants is essential to having a 360 approach to all projects.
  • Courage:  We are not afraid to take action and keep learning and growing.**
  • Resourcefulness:  We recognize that while we may not have all the answers, we possess the ability to identify where to seek solutions or who to approach for assistance.**
  • Compassion:  We are family, we support one another and value our work life balance.
  • Impact: Through our designs we aim to bolster a sustainable and healthy environment for all, while educating and inspiring others to do the same
  • Accountability: We promote work efficiency and embrace the responsibility to drive success and foster a culture of excellence.
  • Inclusivity:  We embrace diversity, practice empathy, foster a welcoming environment, and are open-minded to create a culture of inclusion and collaboration. We treat everyone with respect, empathy and dignity.
  • Integrity:  We prioritise transparency, and cultivate enduring relationships based on trust and credibility.


Highly Commended – Sustainability Awards Single Dwelling New 2023

Recognized Leader in Sustainable Home Design 2022 (Australia)

Recognized Leader in Sustainable Home Design 2022 (Australia)

Best Passive House Designer 2021 (Australia)

Passive House Designer of the Year 2020 (Australia)

People’s Choice Making A Difference Environmental Award 2020

Winner Sustainabilty Excellence Award AusMumpreneur Awards 2023


Design Files 2023 – A Family’s Sustainable Sanctuary, Built From Biodegrable Material

Sustainability Awards 2023 – Binowee Hemphaus

Home Beautiful – Our Hempcrete Passive House Featured in Home Beautiful Magazine

Sanctuary Magazine Issue 63 – Hempcrete Passive House

Buildher Podcast Interview – Buildher Podcast

Build Architecture Awards 2021 – Best Passive House Designer 2021

Build Architecture Awards 2020 – Passive House Designer of the Year 2020

Designing the Future: Melbourne Weekly Cover Story

LEG Preis 2006: Architecture Competition

Case Study: Energy Renovation: Sanctuary Magazine issue 43

Berkley College of Music (Valencia/Spain): e-architect

Our Gruen Renovation featured by The Fifth Estate: Sustainable House Day: Comfort doesn’t have to come at a big cost

Outside the Box: An Energy Efficient Addition: Sanctuary Magazine issue 33

BDAV 10 Star Winner Announced2018 BDAV 10-Star Sustainable Design Challenge Winner Announced

The Fifth Estate: :10 star design comp winners putting sustainability theory into practice

Renovate on any budget – Sanctuary Magazine issue 46

How to avoid common sustainable design mistakes – Sanctuary Magazine issue 38

Built Environmental Awards 2019 Winners – Whitehorse News July 2019

SBS Radio German – Passionate about Sustainable Design

Avoiding the Winter Cold – Sanctuary Magazine issue 52

Winner of BDAV (Design Matters National) 10 STar Sustainable Design Challenge – Green Magazine 2018

Box Hill South Residence by Gruen Eco Design – Architectue & Design

How to avoid common sustainable design mistakes – Renew

Podcast Interview – Passive House Podcast

Post Growth Australia Podcast – Better Housing for a Better Plant 

CSR Association of Australia – Vimeo Video



Gruen have been working with us at Older Women in Cohousing [WINC] on and off for a couple of years now. They’ve helped us investigate several potential development sites until we’ve finally purchase land for our 32 home, sustainable, accessible cohousing community in Castlemaine. Gruen have been very responsive and so easy to work with. Janine, their senior designer demonstrates that she has a deep understanding of participatory design. She knows how to listen, ‘gets it’ without us having to go into lengthy explanations. We’ve tried other, big name architectural practices and were tired of being ‘mansplained’. We find Gruen to very well aligned with our way of working and our aspirations for highlyt thermally efficient homes that are still affordable and not necessarily registered as passive houses.


Euan Stoddart

Mellissa was very informative, knowledgeable and extremely helpful. If you are looking for an eco-friendly or a high performance house I would recommend you give Gruen Eco design a call.



Wonderful personalised eco-friendly design. We love our new passive house!



We are so pleased with how the renovation has turned out, and owe you a huge credit for all the work you put in to help us transform our house. We are really grateful – we were a couple of newbies to the world of house renovation and you helped make what was a fairly intimidating project at the start (despite its modest scale!) a really enjoyable and stress-free process, so thank you for your patience, advice and great design!

Hi Marian,
I just want to say thank you so much for all your efforts and I’d like to acknowledge all the extra work you have put in. It has not gone unnoticed and we are both very appreciative.
You have been wonderful and easy to work with and are full of green, creative and practical solutions and we would not hesitate in recommending you to anyone looking to renovate/extend.
I wish I had been more present throughout the process but I was finding life a little difficult to balance during that period.”

Simone and the team at Gruen Eco Design are highly knowledgeable where it counts in terms of good solar passive design and the ability to achieve the highest possible star rating of 10. 

We have worked with Simone on several projects to date and she takes a very customer focused approach by engaging the client and their design brief and is happy to further develop client sketch ideas into a cohesive structure. This pared with expertise in the use of highly efficient building materials sets Gruen Eco Design apart as a unique design business. The use off 3D CAD modelling is highly effective and really helps each client to visualise their project above and beyond a standard 2D elevation. 

I have also engaged Simone for a personal project being the development two dwellings on a highly challenging sloping block in Eltham. Having tackled the challenge of driveway cut, retaining walls and dwelling orientation to follow the fall of the land as well as take advantage of the solar passive benefits of a North facing rear yard, Simone rose to the challenge and we are currently working through the complexities of planning law.

It is without hesitation that I recommend Gruen Eco Design for your new home or renovation, especially is you seek the benefits of good solar passive design, energy and thermal efficiency.

If your after a sustainable house both in design and materials then Gruen Eco Design will help. Really passionate and knowledgeable about homes designed to be eco-friendly. As we are an eco business who assess and retrofit existing housing stock to become energy efficient, we needed someone who was as passionate about energy efficiency as we are to look after our clients who want to build new or add extensions to their homes.

K. Lau
I can’t say enough of the quality of service and work provided by Gruen Eco Design. 

As per the name of the company, the key focus is on energy efficiency and self sustainability, without the compromising the design and your personal taste.  Gruen Eco Design is also very creative in providing solutions to the complex building designs in order to meet your requirements.

The director of the business is extremely professional and quick to answer all your questions and concerns.

I give a 5 star to this company and if we build again, without any doubt will not use any other company but Gruen Eco Design.

C. Sandford
At this stage through our project Gruen Eco Design have lived up to their high reputation. Their knowledge in thermal efficient design is what we were looking for, and we are very happy so far with their advice, design and planning. We look forward to our continued relationship as building gets underway.

Custom Home Designs
Simone and her team (at Gruen Eco Design) have been associated with and working with my company, (Custom Home Designs) for the past few years In Victoria, and in this time I have found her to be meticulous with detail, always returning emails and calls on time and assisting my clients with all facets of design and consultation work. She specializes in the best use of thermal and solar applications to help maximize the homes comfort and yet decrease the use for artificial energy into the home.
I have no hesitation in recommending Simone and her team and look forward to continuing our ongoing business association.

I have to say WOW!!  It looks even better in person than on paper, but especially due to the amazing design skills you guys brought to the project – best investment ever.