Artist's impression of Mirvac's The Fabric net zero residential development.

Mirvac is poised to deliver a $350 million exemplar of how to achieve net zero, high performance, energy efficient and affordable housing in Altona North in Melbourne.

New masterplanned community The Fabric will be trialling net zero homes across the entire first stage of 49 townhouses. ARENA is contributing $784,000 in funding to support the trial.

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller says it will hopefully encourage a “step change in the housing industry”.

“Through this project, Mirvac will be able to offer home buyers features that will help reduce energy use, energy bills and emissions from the beginning,” he says.

“The Altona North site will provide the perfect test case in pushing to create change in the building industry and also inform potential buyers about the benefits of owning a net zero energy home.”

The homes will achieve a NatHERS ratings of at least seven stars and operational net zero for energy, which is expected to deliver annual savings of up to $3000 on energy bills for occupants.

Gas will not be connected, and the all-electric homes will feature five-kilowatt peak (5kWp) photovoltaic solar panels and 10 kilowatt hours (10kWh) of battery storage, smart-home energy monitoring, high-performing lighting, heat-pump hot water systems, all-electric appliances, roof ventilation, efficient reverse-cycle airconditioning, and EV charging.

High-performance double glazed windows, thicker than standard walls and upgraded wall and roof insulation will improve the overall thermal performance, reducing the need to use aircon for heating or cooling.

“Driven by a desire to reduce environmental impacts and improve operational affordability for The Fabric’s future residents, we have committed to an extensive trial of the net zero energy homes sustainability model, where the goal is to create net zero energy homes by incorporating low-energy-use and renewable-energy power,” Mirvac’s general manager of residential Victoria Elysa Anderson says.

“Net zero homes at The Fabric will offer both environmental and economic benefits. Lower energy consumption enables families to spend less money on their utility bills; it is also the most responsible and sustainable choice for future generations.”

As well as accelerating the net zero energy concept throughout its portfolio, the property company wants to illustrate cost-effective design opportunities to the wider industry.

Live market testing will also be undertaken to gauge consumer acceptance of net zero and all-electric homes.

The development will also generate funds towards the Big Issue’s Homes for Homes initiative, with 0.1 per cent of the sale of every home going towards funding more social and affordable housing in Victoria.

Anderson says buyers will also be encouraged to contribute a further 0.1 per cent of all future resales.

In addition to the townhouses in stage 1, the 11.5-hectare site is planned to include mid-rise apartments and a local park.

An evolving trajectory

The development is the next stage in the developer’s net zero testing and delivery, and builds on insights and learning acquired from previous projects including the prototype  House with no Bills.

Energy use has been monitored for the past 12 months at the solar-equipped and energy-efficient home. The data shows it has given the occupants 146 days of free electricity in total, and over the past six months, the solar panels and battery have provided 68 per cent of all power.

In Perth, the company has just launched what it calls an “Affordability Experiment” in partnership with energy provider Synergy and Keystart, a WA government-supported provider of low-deposit, shared ownership home loans.

The experiment will use a home design developed using insights from a workshop with the CRC for Low Carbon Living, Curtin University and CSIRO to review the home design so it can be a net zero dwelling.

The result of incorporating some simple and cost-effective modifications was also to raise the expected base NatHERS rating from 7 Stars to 8.4 Stars.

A Western Australian family will be selected to live in the terrace home for 12 months, during which time energy consumption, lifestyle impacts and spending and savings patterns will be monitored. Rental payments will be set aside and saved by Mirvac with the goal they can then be used by the family as a deposit at the end of the project to purchase the home.

The project was launched last month by WA minister for housing, Peter Tinley, and is believed to be a first of its kind for the state.

The 165sqm home on a medium density lot at Iluma comprises three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage and additional sustainability inclusions such as solar panels and batteries, home automation, water efficient garden and energy efficient appliances. The whole house and land package carries a price tag of $415,000.

“The Affordability Experiment aims to showcase medium density terrace housing as a viable alternative with both lifestyle and financial benefits,” Mirvac’s general manager residential WA, Paige Walker, says.

“It also seeks to empower our customers through education on how to make better choices in the upfront purchase that can have a long-lasting positive impact on their finances.”

The company also hopes to take away lessons around energy, water, landscaping, technology, automation and finances that can then be applied at a precinct scale in future developments.

Synergy chief executive Jason Waters says his organisation is proud to be involved in a project that harnesses the benefits of renewable energy.

“Solar energy continues to be one of the most immediate opportunities for our customers to reduce their electricity bills and contribute to a cleaner electricity supply chain.”

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