Mike Enslin

Perth developer Psaros has used lifecycle analysis to cut the impact of its latest high-density residential development in half, and another development is providing two kilowatts of solar to each of its 86 apartments. Managing director Mike Enslin explains the sustainability push.

Everything in life leaves a carbon footprint: you, me, our cars, our homes, even our pets.

But unlike the muddy prints left behind on a carpet by kids or dogs, the full impact of our carbon footprint won’t be felt until long into the future. Our kids’ kids will be the ones dealing with it. While we can now look back with the benefit of hindsight, we also carry a greater responsibility to limit the impact we have.

Even within large-scale residential design, new initiatives are emerging to introduce green, sustainable building practices to help reduce parts of the building’s environmental impact. However, very little consideration has been given to a development’s complete environmental footprint over its lifecycle. I think for some, these kinds of issues were thrown in the too hard basket. Also, conversations about reducing carbon footprints have typically been held at a political and industry level. But that needs to change because, put simply, there really are no excuses anymore for developers not to.

The fact is, with the full range of technologies available to residential and project builders, everyone can adopt construction practices that are mindful of and aimed at sustainability.

Our industry, like every other, must lead by example.

Let me give you a practical example.

We have just completed the first apartment complex in Perth with its lifetime carbon footprint mapped out prior to construction commencing. The project is forecast to have half the impact on the environment as other Australian homes. That’s an incredible statistic but it doesn’t have to be one in isolation. Sustainability is everyone’s concern. More importantly, it’s within the reach of all builders, regardless of size.

From the initial design stage, we used lifecycle design software – eToolLCD – which had been developed in 2010 by two Perth engineers looking to better quantify and improve the sustainability of buildings. The right technology is here in own backyards – even more reason to use it.

By engaging the technology from the outset, we were able to put our project through a full lifecycle assessment to calculate the environmental impact of every component of the development, and ensure the optimum sustainability of every function and feature.

The project is the first high-density residential design in Australia to achieve an eTool Silver Rating – meaning it has a forecast carbon footprint per occupant per year, of less than half that of the average Australian home.

This is what we should all be doing. The technology is there. For those who argue buyers are put off by the perceived costs added by green initiatives, this perception needs to change, as at Psaros these initiatives are included in the purchase price.

The technology available also allows us to remove the guess work. We know what the impact will be. We can tell our customers – an increasing number of whom want to know – what their carbon footprint will be and what the savings mean to their day-to-day cost of living. It is about their bottom line as much as it is about our responsibility to lead change.

Buyers, ask your builders what they can offer in the way of sustainable building practices. Ask what kinds of savings you can access throughout the life of your home or apartment.

It’s good for the industry, for everyone. Research is telling us it’s what the market wants.

Consumers are increasingly looking to future-proof their property investment. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents to a survey we commissioned said they wanted to see more eco-friendly developments, wanted to be able to generate their own renewable energy and incorporate energy and water efficient elements into the design. They get it.

The beautiful but perhaps inconvenient truth is that sustainable design can no longer be viewed as an optional, luxury extra. Especially as there is simply no longer any need to compromise, or choose between, high-level luxury and sustainability. In fact, sustainable initiatives, if done right, should result in financial benefits and savings for the end-user, with reduced overall operational and maintenance costs.

Mike Enslin is managing director of Psaros.

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  1. Great article Mark. Have there been any thoughts on using CLT/glue-lam timber to build? Will the carbon sequestration in the timber allow the possibility of a negative carbon footprint building?