Cameron Rosen

4 May 2011 Developer Cameron Rosen, who has built a highly sustainable house as his family home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, is on a six month national tour to promote the concept.

Rosen built the family home for his wife Daphna and three children, but also to demonstrate what a truly sustainable house looks and feels like. The house is one of four built by his development company, Australian Living, to showcase sustainable achievements. The homes are constructed with materials that consider embodied impact – how much energy they take to make.

Rosen, who has been presenting his ideas on sustainable property for the past 16 months to more than 1000 architects and industry professionals, will visit every state and territory, supported by the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors, the Master Builder’s Association, and the Builder Designer’s Association of Australia.

“We take sustainability to the core of our homes,” he said. “Sustainability should be respected and not treated as an add-on. There are many misconceptions out in the marketplace, which is why consumers are confused and lack confidence. Building industry associations and the project home industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to sustainability.

Well-known sustainable architect Caroline Pidcock of PidcockArchitecture Sustainability who designed the house said: “This house is a powerful case study in demonstrating the importance of an integrated team in delivering well designed sustainable homes, the value of which has been carefully developed through the contribution of all.

The sustainable home

“Every decision on the design and materials for this home was guided by aesthetics, intelligent research and knowledge on buildability and cost. Achieving well in all areas ensured a great, sustainable outcome – a home that shows a positive desirable future is achievable.”

The home is rated at an impressive eight stars for thermal comfort.  Rosen said: “We achieved this high rating through clever design, thermal comfort assessment and zoning, thermal performing glazing, smart insulation strategies, thermal mass control and material choice.”

Rosen completed a building management degree in 1994, majoring in property development at the University of New South Wales and since then has worked on multiple projects in the commercial and residential markets. His experience, passion for sustainability and eagerness to provide consumers with the confidence to build sustainably led him to starting Australian Living in 2008, he said.

He is also developing two more houses, one in Randwick and the other in Yowie Bay. The Yowie Bay eight star house would minimise the use of chemicals and use materials such as benign adhesive glues and paints.

The Rose Bay home was constructed with innovative sustainable building materials and techniques, is energy and water efficient, and boasts permaculture, which completes the sustainable circle. No bricks were used in construction. “Instead the main product to build the structure was a prefabricated hollow walling system which enabled us to use recycled concrete for our slabs on the ground and our first floor slabs, and also in our two walls,”  Mr Rosen said.

“The structure was mixed light and heavy weight. The heavy weight was used only where thermal mass was required and light weight where it was not. We opted to use recycled concrete for our floors, ground and first floor, and also for our walls. A hollow core walling system, acting as sacrificial vertical formwork, enabled us to do this. The system also became the finished internal face, that when painted appears as we expect a wall to be”.

By using sustainable building materials with a high level of recycled content the material was kept alive. As he explained: “sustainable materials are also new products, however many of them contain recycled ingredients to create them as new. Therefore, there is the prevention of land fill and also, as in the case of plasterboard for example, the original material is broken back down to reuse and made into a new piece of board.

“Our whole building comprises about 40-45 per cent of recycled materials, all with the new appearance as we expect. There is a slight exception of the recycled timber columns, reclaimed from a Percy Allen designed 1922 footbridge, acting as aesthetic structural elements, that do appear old, but that’s the beauty of this.

“Concrete itself is a very high greenhouse gas producing product. We had to remove a certain amount of cement to create a concrete with reduced embodied impact. To eliminate cement we used industry waste to create a new product.

“Boral’s enviro60 recycled product replaced 40 per cent of the content of cement within concrete with industrial waste from the steel industry, preventing land fill by refining the waste to produce a replacement for cement.

“We used 60 cubic metres of concrete or cement  and saved 13 tonnes of greenhouse gases which would be generated in making standard concrete – , equivalent to the gases that we all generate in a traditional 3-4 person family home.  Changing the label or the profile of concrete cost $4 a cubic metre more than normal, or $240 extra cost.”

The best performing homes had a reverse masonry structure, insulated on the outside, and thermal mass on the inside, he said.  Building was by its very nature was a selfish act as it was all about the needs of the developer, whether the property was for sale, lease or a place to live.

“If we take a step back and think about all the products that are required to construct a home, we begin to realise that the impact zone can extend across the globe, much larger than the property location. We can really reduce this by considering what we buy and where we buy it from. Low toxins, low energy, low water, local (LLLL).

Mr Rosen believes sustainability really comes into its own in this type of construction.  Choosing pre-fabricated materials requires less management.  By not using bricks sustainability goes up faster. For him, the project represents good vision,open-mindedness and willingness to experiment.

Other features of the home include:

  • Three water tanks storing a combined total of 6600 litres
  • Grey water diversion
  • Irrigation system feeding citrus trees, lawn, herbs, olive trees, banana trees, and passionfruit
  • Energy efficient appliances; light emitting diodes throughout the home; garden wall; insulation that sits externally, internally, under the concrete slab and on the roof via a combined roof panel
  • High water efficiency labelling and standards rated shower heads, taps, and dual flush toilets; a three kilowatt PV solar system; sustainable interiors; double glazed windows only where required;
  • All timber used is certified plantation or recycled while columns in the internal courtyard came from a truss bridge in Coffs Harbour that was built by Percy Allen in 1922 and demolished in 2009
  • Timber windows, green concrete used during construction, pre-fabricated walling system, plasterboard with a high content of recycled material.

Total cost for the 270 square metre house on its 430 sq m land area was $3500 a square metre.

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