28 April 2010 – A small Perth home design and development company has pioneered possibly Australia’s most sustainable house from a rock bottom price of $205,000.
Right Homes says the house, Jade 909, a new display home at Vale about 22 kilometers north-east of the Perth CBD will have a carbon neutral 9-Star rates home under the BERS system (or Building Energy Rating Scheme, a national scheme derived from the Building Code of Australia.)
It will use 119 per cent less energy and 76 per cent less water than the average Australian dwelling.
Opened on 23 April the house is located on a compact 299 square metre block at Vale, a master planned community developed by Multiplex Living, the residential property division of global property company, Brookfield Multiplex.
The home is Perth’s first 9-Star rated display using the BERS system. According to Jade Projects, which assisted in the design of the home, the rating is derived from a computer program called BERS Pro that can simulate and analyse the thermal performance and energy use of a house within a particular climate.
“Instead of using the Deemed-to-Satisfy system, which is easier to achieve a higher rating with, the house uses BERS, which bases its rating on the orientation, ventilation, insulation and thermal mass of the house, and which is much harder to achieve a higher rating with,” Mrs. Wright said.
“The display home in Vale was a joint project between us and Jade Projects, who we’ve been working with for three years and who previously built a home in Seville Grove (east of Fremantle) which has an 8-Star rating and which BERS uses as a national benchmark.”
Ms Wright said that major sponsor of the project Think Brick Australia provided a lifecycle assessment of the house as well as specifications on thermal mass, “which is a big part of the sustainability of the Vale house.”
According to Mrs Wright , since opening in 2006, Right Homes’ objective has been to provide sustainable houses in a way that is both affordable and adaptable to home owners’ lifestyles.
“We are amazed that it’s taken so long for people to do this, especially when it’s hitting their back pocket with water and energy costs rising. We think that if you’re going to build a new home, you should do it the right way the first time.”
And the cost need not be excessive, she said.
“There is a misconception that you need lots of money to have a sustainable property. The home in Vale can be constructed for just 2 to 5 per cent more than a standard dwelling, and is available on a design and construct basis at a sale price from $205,000 and with a standard specification from $225,000.
“We want to give everyone the opportunity to live in a sustainable home that won’t cost an arm and a leg.”
Mandatory disclosure for residential properties, which according to the Property Council of Australia is expected to be in place after mid-2010, will be a strong incentive, Ms Wright said. But even though she does not believe it is as clearly set out as it should, the policy, which will require home owners to reveal the energy efficiency of their homes when they put them up for sale or lease, will have a positive effect on the property industry.
“I think that people know about mandatory disclosure, but not everyone understands what they need to do. I think that it could have been better publicised. I personally don’t know if the government is going to send out people to evaluate properties when building or selling.”
One of the main attributes that Right Homes incorporates into its housing design is solar passive design which has significant energy saving potential.
“We’ve built a number of houses for individual clients who want to incorporate a solar passiveness to their home, according to their budget and lifestyle,” Mrs Wright said.
“The basic concept of solar passive design is to place living areas on the north side of the house and bedrooms on the south side. With this clever thinking in design we are able to take advantage of sunlight and reduce energy costs.
“Working with Think Brick, we’ve learnt that it’s always important to design your home for the climate zone that you’re living in. For example, a double brick and tiled house would be suitable for Perth, but wouldn’t be for Darwin. We try to use materials that are available locally, and it’s important to bring thermal mass into your home, and to do that brick is the way to go. Once you have designed for your climate, then you can incorporate a solar passive design.”
With the success of the Jade 909, Right Homes is already facing new sustainability challenges and can see growth period for the company.
“At the moment we are working with ten clients who require homes built with solar passive design. We work to their specified budget and then if they can afford it, we incorporate extra sustainable features.
“We currently have five staff working for us, soon to become five as we look to move into an office premises later in the year, as at the moment we are working out of a home office. Towards the end of the year we will look at hiring a couple more people as we expand.
“We’re not looking to become very large. We would like to stay at 50 homes a year because we want to continue to offer an affordable, personal service to clientele, and when you become too big and employ more people, you lose that personal touch.”