Defence Housing Australia wants to add a new sustainability milestone to its property portfolio, by targeting One Planet Living Community certification for its Liv Apartments development in East Fremantle.

“Our aim is to be the first apartment development in Western Australia to achieve recognition as a One Planet Community and help to lead the industry into more sustainable construction and development in the future,” DHA managing director Jan Mason said.

The OPL Framework is based on 10 principles covering areas including carbon, waste, transport, food and water. Bioregional Australia Foundation manages OPL certification in Australia.

If DHA succeeds, Liv will be the fifth OPL-endorsed community in Australia, according to Bioregional Australia Foundation executive director Suzette Jackson.

DHA has also worked closely with council’s sustainability team during the planning phase, and will continue to work with it as the project progresses.

Ms Mason said that as a One Planet Living council, City of Fremantle had strongly supported the project.

Direct benefits for residents, owners and community alike

Ms Mason said the organisation saw direct benefits in certification for eventual Australian Defence Force residents, private purchasers and the local community in general.

“OPL is an end-user focused scheme that targets not only sustainable fixtures, fittings and building materials, but also seeks to improve the mental health and wellbeing of residents through community building and connection to local goods, services and surrounding communities.

“The benefits are tangible for our Defence residents. Better quality housing in highly sustainable communities just makes good sense.

“The same applies to members of the public who buy our homes to live in or as an investment. Additionally, happier communities are integral to lively and thriving retail hubs.”

Ms Mason said targeting certification was encouraging the project team to place continued emphasis on holistic and collaborative design.

“This has been a new process for the majority of the development team working on Liv Apartments so it’s been a valuable learning curve.”

Areas catering to the community and the natural environment

Initiatives include communal areas to foster interaction and engagement, an edible garden, and native landscaping to improve site biodiversity. A “place maker” has been engaged to develop events and activities to encourage community participation.

Ms Mason said the retail area would have a preference for small to medium-sized enterprises to encourage equity and a local economy. The development also provides easy pedestrian access to the Fremantle Markets and nearby farmers’ markets.

To reduce waste, DHA aims to incorporate a dehydrating unit for retail food waste, with the resulting compost potentially re-used onsite for gardens.

The facade has been designed for energy-efficiency, and the building will have roof-mounted solar PV to contribute to the potential for 100 per cent GreenPower usage.

Ms Mason said the process has definitely resulted in lessons the organisation can apply to future projects.

One clear learning is that the sooner OPL or any sustainable design principles can be integrated into project visioning, the better, she said.

The framework also shows how sustainability can “reach beyond energy reduction to create wider impacts and benefits”.

The involvement with OPL has also created “tremendous interest” from potential buyers.

“The potential for some of the OPL initiatives to realise energy and water savings for the buyer has been received as positive news in the marketplace but the overall philosophy has also really struck a chord.

“It’s all about living smarter by living with a lighter footprint.”

It’s a big portfolio with strong targets on environment

Currently DHA has about 50 development projects in the pipeline worth over $2.5 billion.

As of June 2016, it was also managing 18,767 properties around Australia that house ADF personnel and their families.

In the 2015-16 financial year, it returned a profit dividend of $62.7 million to the Commonwealth’s coffers.

Ms Mason said that there are five key areas focused on in terms of designing and construction sustainable properties and communities – low energy consumption, low water consumption, effective waste management, human wellbeing and biodiversity of local flora and fauna.

Where possible, all new housing complies with Silver Level of the Australian Government’s Liveable Housing design guidelines and the requirements of the UDIA’s EnviroDevelopment certification to 6 Leaf level.

To date eight developments have attained UDIA 6 Leaf certification – Wirraway in Thornton NSW, The Landing in Brisbane, AE2 in Sydney, Crimson Hill, Bluewattle in Townsville, Bayriver in Adelaide, Warner lakes The Reserve in Brisbane and Breezes Muirhead in Darwin.

Breezes also won an UDIA award for environmental excellence.

It has also achieved a 6 Star Green Star Residential rating from the Green Building Council of Australia for Prince’s Terraces Adelaide and Crimson Hill Shout Ridge Precinct in Sydney.

It is a priority also to work with local providers for building materials and landscaping supplies to reduce the environmental impact of transport and build links with the local community.

“We use materials that are in line with the local building code of course, but also in line with climate and lifestyle,” Ms Mason said.

In tropical locations such as Darwin and Townsville, for example, large eaves for sun protection and light-coloured walls and roofing to reflect heat are typical. Design also makes use of natural airflows and solar orientation to reduce the need for artificial heating or cooling.

Ms Mason said the organisation is also researching new sustainable technologies including off the grid housing, and is incorporating them in its construction and development activities where possible.

“Committing to, and achieving, high sustainability benchmarks provides numerous benefits. It demonstrates that DHA is an innovative and progressive developer. It provides cost savings for Defence families. It creates communities of choice for both Defence families, and for the general public purchasing DHA land or homes.”

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