Walking, socialising and outdoor activities are part of the design at Waterfront

13 July 2009 – Japanese developer, Sekisui House’s recent majority purchase of Australian residential developer Payce Consolidated, promises a long awaited sustainable shakeup of the local multi-housing industry in Australia if all goes according to plan.

The company has bought a 75 per cent stake in the Payce’s existing development pipeline at Waterfront in Homebush in Sydney’s inner west, which still has another 1900 apartments to be developed as well as 173 hectares at Ripley Valley near Ipswich in Queensland, together worth around $190 million and replacing Babcock & Brown as Payce’s joint venture partner.

But in separate deals Sekisui is understood to be buying up additional parcels of land throughout Sydney and Queensland.

Payce Consolidated sales manager, Jim Keats, told The Fifth Estate on Friday that it was early days and that the company was still investigating what would be considered the appropriate level of sustainable investment for Australian conditions.

However, the partnership had the potential to bring about a new level of sustainable standards in multiple housing projects, judging by the company’s achievements in its home territory, he said.

“They’ve built the first carbon neutral house in Japan. They have a completely fire proof house,” Mr Keats said.

“They want to bring some of their innovative ideas out here and some of their intellectual property…they’ve started to bring their architectural teams out here now,” Mr Keats said.

“They are very big in sustainability and that’s the reason they’ve bought into our company – because of what we’ve done at Waterfront at Homebush.

At Waterfront, Payce claims its housing estate has staked out new ground as a project that has not only environmentally sustainable features but which also aims for strong social sustainability.

The development is on a 21 hectare site is located on the Parramatta River, opposite the Millennium Parklands, and features parklands, sporting and recreational facilities, walkways shaded by tropical trees, cycleways, shops and sidewalk cafes.

Currently home to 2600 residents, but with potential for more than 5500, the development has water recycling and energy saving designs features.

It complements this with a community bus, an on-site rental car for community use, and a village centre designed to encourage social mingling and walking instead of driving.

Mr Keats said a range of interest groups and clubs has also sprung up.

“Back in October 2007 The Waterfront was the first residential community in Australia to introduce a pooled transport system for its residents.

A community hire car is provided at Waterfront

“Today the A150 Mercedes – which has a 5-star environmental rating from the Australian Greenhouse Office – is rented on an hourly basis, with residents logging onto an internet site to reserve the car.”

Residents pay $8 per hour for use of the car plus 20 cents per kilometre.

“The car has proven popular, with a core group of residents pooling together and sharing the driving to and from their work on different days of the week,” said Mr Keats.

“The arrangement is very cost effective for users, and the car is doing its bit in reducing greenhouse emissions and traffic congestion.”

The Waterfront also has a free community bus for residents which runs Monday to Saturday between the estate and Strathfield train station, Sydney Olympic Park, Rhodes shopping centre and the Homebush Bay ferry terminal, Mr Keats said.

“It is a comfortable 24-seater bus that is very well patronised and runs every half-hour in peak periods.”

According to Mr Keats, The Waterfront is in many ways, is a “return to the common sense principles of Sydney’s traditional neighbourhoods.”

“We’re all about turning strangers into neighbours,” said Jim Keats

“The close-knit, friendly atmosphere helps people feel secure and comfortable, and there is a great level of enthusiasm and involvement among residents in activities, functions and social events. They have given the estate its character and community spirit – just like a traditional neighbourhood or a small rural village.”

Residents have formed their own special interest clubs, ranging from photography to child-minding, as well as a business network association which has more than 100 members, Mr Keats said.

Japanese Sekisui House was attracted by sustainability features at Payce Consolidated’s Waterfront project at Homebush in Sydney’s inner west

Among environmental features are:

•    building orientation to maximise low winter sun and utilise substantial overhangs to maximise shade in summer.
•    Waste stormwater and recycled water from Sydney Olympic Park is used on the extensive gardens and parklands.
•    A sophisticated irrigation system has the capacity to tailor watering depending on need and weather conditions, including around 750 pop-up sprinkler heads, controlled via a computer screen, with a sensor switching off the watering system when rain falls.
•    Permaculture initiatives such as edible vegetation, home gardens and a worm farm.

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