Unit at Westwyck

30 March 2012 ­ – Back in September 2011, BioRegional and the Centre for Design at RMIT University, hosted a two-day workshop that looked at how the principles that underpinned the BedZED EcoVillage could be brought to Melbourne.

At the workshop, some of the brightest minds across the development sector, including property developers, consultants and academics, explored how the use of the One Planet Living principles might be applied in Australia.

One of the development projects that workshop participants looked at, for the potential application of the One Planet Living principles, was the WestWyck EcoVillage located in Brunswick (Melbourne, Australia).

Influenced by world’s best practice demonstration projects, such as BedZED, the WestWyck EcoVillage has adopted a holistic approach to sustainability, through its commitment to delivering ‘sustainable infrastructure’ and its ethos on fostering a sense of community for residents.

The WestWyck EcoVillage occupies the buildings and grounds of the former Brunswick West Primary School located in inner urban Melbourne.

Back in the 1980s the heritage-listed building was threatened to become yet another example of quality inner-urban infrastructure that had lost its original function and faced the bulldozer.

Instead, the WestWyck EcoVillage developers, Mike Hill and Lorna Pitt, purchased the land on which the building stood and set about bringing the site back to life as an urban demonstration of sustainable development and high quality urban design.

The first stage in the development of the WestWyck EcoVillage, completed in 2008, featured key initiatives, such as high levels of social connectivity, and an integrated sustainability package of measures that paid close attention to reducing the impacts of energy, water, materials and waste.

The second stage, with construction scheduled to start in 2012, will aim to enhance these initial measures and initiatives, while at the same time looking to incorporate a strengthened focus on mobility, connectivity and alternative travel modes to round off the range of sustainability issues addressed by the project.

Mike Hill laughs when he is asked what some of the biggest challenges were for the first stage, and if anything has changed for the second stage.

“When we discussed our plans with financiers for the first stage, we were advised to limit several of our proposed social initiative,” Mike Hill says.

“This included a reduction in size of an extensive garden allotment and limiting the number of communal spaces for residents. For the second stage its was recommended that we incorporate those very social initiatives that they had previously advised us not to include or reduce.

” It seems that there is now a greater demand within the market for such initiatives and a greater understanding around the benefits – plus I think we’ve been able to demonstrate it adds value to the property.”

The WestWyck EcoVillage challenged Melbourne’s traditional development model by achieving a high level of social interaction, between residents and the surrounding community, while maximising the ecologically sustainable development outcomes for the project. It is a real example of how a smaller development project can effectively incorporate the 10 One Planet Living principles into the development’s DNA.

The project is set to become one of the first “endorsed” One Planet Communities in Australia.

The WestWyck EcoVillage is part of the One Planet Network, an international network for users of the One Planet Open Source approach to sustainable living. The network has a local working group based in Melbourne to assist organisations and projects using the One Planet principles through the Open Source approach – these include:

Ed Cotter Based in Melbourne. He  is the Australian Representative for the UK social enterprise and sustainability charity, BioRegional. He has been tasked with establishing BioRegional Australia and creating a network of users on One Planet Living through the Open Source project.

His background includes over 10 years of experience incorporating sustainability initiatives into projects within the built environment – including the development of BREEAM Communities, BREEAM International and BREEAM Area Developments (in the Netherlands); guiding the development of the Township Tool for Malaysian Green Building Council; and recently laying the foundation for the creation of Green Star Communities for the GBCA.

email: ed.cotter@bioregional.com

Some additional details from the Westwyck website

Mike Hill and Lorna Pitt

Cupboards are made from salvaged timber wainscotting (lining boards) and bench tops are made from recycled timber. Chimneys have been reconstructed using Salvaged lining boards from the old school building have polished up beautifully.bricks from the demolished toilet block and even the science basins are used in one of the bathrooms!

In some apartments steel beams from demolished shelter sheds have been re-used to support the mezzanine areas.

The apartments are all insulated (using low allergenic polyester insulation) to a high rating.

See gallery section of site that shows in detail how the insulation is inserted.

In both the apartments and terrace houses, particular attention has been applied to the use of energy efficient lighting and appliances.

All windows are double-glazed. In the apartments, the old window-sashes have been painstakingly refurbished with double-glazing

Most apartments have Apricus evacuated solar tube hot water systems with instant gas boosting.  These were supplied by Greenworld.  This same solar hot water system delivers heating through hydronic panels.

The terrace houses also have gas boosted solar hot water which doubles as a heating source in winter.  The system is Sun Plus and is supplied by The Environment Shop in Thornbury.  The terrace houses feature impressive passive solar design features, with good orientation, reduced fenestration to the south, a heavy insulation regime, thermal mass eco-cement floors and double glazing.  They are rated up to an equivalent of 8.5 stars.  The terrace houses also generate their own power from an integrated photovoltaic array connected to “two-way” meters.’

Fittings include all gas appliances chosen as the best option for minimising greenhouse gas emissions

Under floor ventilation (in refrigerator cavity) improves efficiency of refrigerators

Original and new windows and skylights (Velux Openable) are designed to maximise airflow and natural lighting

WestWyck Community

WestWyck aims to create community within and to be an active part of the community around it. Many people expressing interest about living at WestWyck or buying into the new dwellings are attracted by the thought of living in a connected but not claustrophobic way to others. We are all escapees from the alienating impact of 21st Century urban living.

A new community of owners is forming as people purchase dwellings being constructed on the site. These people join those already living at WestWyck and those who feel an involvement through their previous contribution to the project.

Designing for Community – Shared Facilities

The design layout encourages interaction within the development. Each residence opens on to a curved landscaped pathway linking communal spaces like the shared outdoor recreational areas, the productive garden, the bicycle storage facility, clothes drying area and the grassed carpark. Sharing resources and sharing support needs are vital elements of traditional communities and WestWyck aspires to be a place of sharing. WestWyck is even investigating the possibility of becoming a base for a carsharing system!

The current northern household membership of eight includes cheese-making wunderkind, Richard Thomas, the peripatetic Anna Sinn, a committed communalist, community worker and grandmother Penny Kerr, barista Tom Glen and his partner Alana, artist, photographer and student Lesley Turnbull, Kiarna Dryden, new workforce entrant and very occasionally, Martin Rolfe.

The project design, its infrastructure and its protective covenant will provide the framework for the organic growth of this new community. Community decision-making through the body corporate will guide the future direction and management of the WestWyck community and its shared areas and facilities.  The body corporate is growing all the time, and changing.