Buyers investing in green, without really knowing it

A luxury residential apartment project in Melbourne’s upmarket suburb of Toorak has taken steps towards  sustainability, mostly without the buyers even realising it.

Marketing for One Irving Road, developed by Jack Gringlas’s Jadig Group, includes an emissions-free electric BMW i3 for the first five buyers.

Asking prices range from $1.55 million to $4.5 million, and so far three apartments have been sold for around $4.25 million, $2.8 million, and $2.3 million.

Apartments have a range of sustainability features including solar energy for the common areas,  double glazing and a high thermal rating. But selling agent Mark Wridgway, a director of RT Edgar Toorak, said the market was not explicitly looking for these attributes. Though the project had more sustainability features than the average luxury project, Mr Wridgway would not describe the project as “a green building”, but as a “step towards it”.

Designed by Ron Unger Architects, the development’s 18 apartments all have NatHERS ratings of close to seven stars,  above the Victorian Building Code’s minimum six-star requirement. Thermal mass has been a contributor to the energy rating, with the exterior and party walls all solid brick, masonry or core-filled blockwork.

Double glazing has been used for 99 per cent of all windows and glazed doors throughout, and solar photovoltaic panels have been installed to generate self-sustaining electricity for common area lighting. All lighting in both common areas and individual apartments comprises energy-efficient LEDs.

A rainwater harvesting system has been installed with 40,000 litres of storage, with the water reticulated for ground floor courtyard landscaping and balcony planter irrigation and all toilet flushing.

The development’s car park – which provides up to three bays for each apartment – is wired for electric vehicle charging for two bays per apartment.

The standard provision is a 10 amp charging unit, and as part of the BMW offer those buyers will receive the car manufacturer’s own 15 amp charging unit, which can be accessed by owners via a phone app to monitor charge levels or carry out actions such as start the heater before the owner heads down to jump in.

One Irving Road, Toorak

Mr Gringlas said the car charging points did not require sophisticated charging systems or individual meters.

“It was actually simpler to just run a 15amp circuit directly from each apartment to their respective car-spaces [which are on the apartment title] much the same as you would do in your own home,” Mr Gringlas said.

Because the cost of car charging forms part of the owner’s overall apartment electricity bill, Mr Gringlas said this also enables them to negotiate directly with energy providers rather than having an “embedded” supplier for the car charging, and a different one for the apartment.

Mr Wridgway said the offer of the electric BMW “got the phone ringing”.

The car was recently awarded the Australian Good Design Award 2015 in the Sustainability category for innovations including the use of 100 per cent wind power for manufacture, use of a material manufactured from weeds in the door panels and recycled materials for the body shell.

However, sustainability is not top of mind for buyers at the top end of the residential property market when they are making a decision, he said.

Generally, people purchasing these types of apartments are downsizing from the family home, he said.

“They are looking at other things, like the size – is it big enough? And the lifestyle, whether an apartment lifestyle will suit them. There are a lot of other questions [for those buyers] other than sustainability. There is a lot of uncertainty [that comes with downsizing] and a lot of questions around that choice.”

Mr Wridgway said that if “all the other boxes are ticked” around space, design, lifestyle, location and amenity, “some people will think, ‘oh yes, and I want green too’.”

Mr Gringlas previously controlled electric motor business CMG.