Lilyfield housing redevelopment

6 May 2010 – NSW Housing Minister David Borger sounded a clarion call to the property and construction sector recently.

Speaking at the Green Building Council of Australia’s “Meet the Stars” breakfast on 21 April, Minister Borger said if Housing NSW can build 5 Star Green Star residential developments on a small budget, then there’s no reason why the private sector can’t too.

“We’re designing housing for people on very low incomes and we don’t have much money to do it,” Minister Borger said.  “We can’t afford to waste money.  We can’t afford to ‘gold plate’ buildings.  We can’t afford to use the newest technology if it’s going to compromise actually providing another unit of housing for a disadvantaged person.

“If we can [build Green Star] with all those constraints, there is absolutely no reason why the private sector – with their greater potential for resources and [ability] to pass on costs to the end consumers – can’t do it.”

Minister Borger has good reason to challenge the industry.  Both Housing NSW’s Lilyfield and Redfern redevelopment projects in Sydney achieved 5 Star Green Star ratings under the Multi Unit Residential PILOT in 2009.

Not only are they the first social housing schemes in Australia to obtain Green Star ratings, Lilyfield was the first development on the East Coast to be awarded with a Green Star residential rating.

Representing “Australian Excellence” in environmentally sustainable design, both projects for Housing NSW set a new standard for social housing developments, and demonstrate that the ‘triple bottom line’ of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable outcomes is achievable.

For instance, as the 88-home Lilyfield site is close to public transport, the project team was able to steer away from typical large-scale basement car-parking for the building.  Minister Borger told the audience that less than 10 per cent of social housing tenants have cars – so often 90 per cent of a car park is never used.  At the same time, car parking can often cost up to 25 per cent of a building cost.

Redfern housing project

The cost savings that we made by not providing that onsite parking allowed additional money to be spent on environmentally sustainable initiatives such as gas-boosted solar hot water systems, with 267 square metres of solar panels and a 4 kilowatt photovoltaic system to power common area lighting,” he said.

“The gas-boosted hot water system caters for 60 per cent of hot water consumption and delivers annual savings of $19,000 – or $213 per unit – meaning the annual electricity bill for households will decrease by 25 per cent.”

Smart investments such as these deliver real value for the people who live in the buildings, as does incorporating the common sense principles of good passive design.  By optimising site orientation and layout of buildings to achieve high levels of solar access, cross ventilation and access to views all enhance the living experience for tenants at both developments.

Minister Borger’s message was clear: green residential buildings – and Green Star – can be for all people, not just the wealthy.

By Romilly Madew, chief executive officer, Green Building Council of Australia