Artist's impression of White Gum Valley

Perth is celebrating a new benchmark in sustainable living with the launch of the state’s first One Planet Living residential community in Fremantle.

White Gum Valley, a two-hectare residential precinct due for completion in two years and set to be home to 150 residents in about 80 dwellings, will feature homes with a number of environmental, energy and water saving initiatives expected to slash household bills by $1200 a year, cut grid energy use by 60 per cent and mains water use by 70 per cent compared with the Perth average.

WA Lands Minister Terry Redman said state development agency LandCorp’s “innovation through demonstration” development would showcase the benefits of smart, affordable and sustainable building.

“The problems of a growing population, competition for water supply, power generation, housing affordability and social alienation are all issues addressed by this project,” Mr Redman said.

“Once built, WGV will showcase a groundbreaking house designed specifically for future generations, the latest energy, water and climate-responsive initiatives and unique community building programs.

“It will address infill by providing a diverse range of housing styles and options, including apartments, townhouses, maisonettes and single home sites.”

A One Planet Living commitment

One Planet Living communities must aim to produce just 0.8 tonnes of carbon a year per person by 2050, have an ecological footprint of 1.25 global hectares a person by 2050 (the Australian average is 7.7 gha) and avoid any damaging pollution to air, land or water as a result of activities at the construction or occupation stage.

This is achieved through meeting criteria on the 10 One Planet Living Principles, which cover Energy and Carbon, Waste Management, Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Materials, Local and Sustainable Food, Sustainable Water, Land Use and Wildlife, Culture and Heritage, Equity and Local Economy, and Health and Happiness.

Key energy efficiency measures include solar power, a minimum seven star NatHERS energy efficiency rating in the design guidelines, climate responsive and solar passive design, solar hot water systems or heat pump technology, energy efficient electrical appliances, energy efficient lighting, and low energy space heating and cooling systems. Innovations such as domestic battery storage technology will be demonstrated and will contribute to savings. For houses that use a sustainability rebate package, it is expected they will take zero net annual energy from the grid.

Key water efficiency measures include a community bore irrigation system installed in an area of public open space to provide irrigation for the precinct, integrated stormwater management, rainwater harvesting systems, water efficient fixtures and appliances, real-time monitoring and low water use landscaping. The design guidelines for the precinct also require all single residential dwellings be installed with dual-plumbing, including accompanying pipework and roof plumbing. Plumbed rainwater tanks will also be installed to provide a supply of non-drinkable water for toilet flushing and washing machines through the sustainability rebate package.

On community initiatives, the development will feature community gardens, 30 per cent edible trees, diverse dwelling types to ensure right-sizing and a vibrant intergenerational community with youth, affordable and artist housing, access to alternative transport and recreation activities, and public open space.

Of course, reaching the lofty One Planet goals will require commitment from the residents, as without sustainable behaviour the full potential of the development won’t be reached.

To make sure this happens, LandCorp has teamed up with the City of Fremantle and community groups to help residents fulfill their sustainability potential. This will include being provided with a welcome pack that details how residents can:

  • operate their home efficiently to reduce running costs
  • grow and eat healthy and sustainable food
  • access sustainable transport options
  • access the services and opportunities available in the local community and through the council
  • reduce the impact of the other services they rely on – schools, hospitals, shops

The project will assist researchers identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency and design new technologies, with an open source website to share the lessons of resource efficient building with the industry and community.

Josh Byrne & Associates is landscape architect and sustainability consultant for the project, with other key sustainability input from Access Housing, Bamford Consulting Ecologists, the City of Fremantle, Project architects CODA, Aborcultural consultants Paperbark Technologies, Sustainable Housing for Artists and Creatives, Consulting engineers Tabec, civil contractors All Earth Group, Arborists Tree Surgeons of WA, town planning urban design consultants Urbis and Precinx sustainability analysis from Kinesis.

Artist’s impression of a Gen Y House

Gen Y housing

The development will also host the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project, which provides sustainable, flexible and affordable dwellings designed to suit new modes of living sought out by younger people.

The Gen Y House can transform as its inhabitants do – starting as three one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments that can be converted to a family home if needed. It provides an affordable entry point for young people looking for their own home with the option to upgrade as family needs and income change.

CRC for Low Carbon Living research

The Gen Y demonstration project will also feature a solar power and battery storage technology research trial in the home’s shared strata setting, conducted by the CRC for Low Carbon Living along with Curtin University, Balance Group and the CSIRO.

According to Curtin University’s Jemma Green, while 1.4 million households across Australia have solar PV, only a fraction of them are on strata housing or apartments.

“Just a few developers are offering solar PV systems for apartments,” Ms Green said. “But they are individually wiring each solar panel to each dwelling. This limits the potential for sharing electricity from dwelling to dwelling or apartment to apartment, resulting in higher electricity bills, due to the difference in prices for selling solar PV (around 7c/unit) and buying electricity from the energy retailer (+25c/unit).”

Apartments of up to four-to-five storeys have the potential to provide all electricity needs from solar PV, she says, but developers are not including them for a number of reasons, including:

  • the electrical system design being more complex than to a business-as-usual design
  • strata properties typically being investor-owned and tenant-occupied, creating a split incentive
  • developer risk
  • a lack of available and viable storage technologies for housing developments in the past

In order to break down the barriers, the researchers have developed a “governance framework and micro-grid system design for solar and batteries to be installed on strata”.

Under the system, solar PV provides the majority of electricity needs to residents, with a billing system being handled by the strata company. Tenants then pay their electricity bill to the strata company, instead of the energy retailer, which provides an additional revenue stream for property owners to justify the solar capital investment.

The research, Ms Green said, intends to “overcome some of the challenges to the uptake of renewable energy infrastructure on strata, so that as the price of solar PV and batteries continue to decline, and the price of grid-based energy continues to rise, this approach to energy infrastructure on strata will become the mainstream”.

Josh Byrne also involved

In his capacity as a Curtin University research fellow, JBA director Josh Byrne will be the chief investigator in another four-year CRCLCL research project to monitor and assess the design performance, impact of technology choice and occupant behaviour on energy use and carbon emissions across the entire White Gum Valley development.

The research will also explore the relationships between developers, local government, builders and purchasers regarding low carbon development.

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  1. What a fantastic initiative by LandCorp. Really looking forward to seeing how the project performs in operation so we can compare One Planet Living to the likes of Green Star Communities and other precinct sustainability frameworks to inform future planning.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Thank you for your comments regarding the Generation Y Demonstration Housing. I would like to start by providing some detail about the project that will correct the statements that you have made. The Gen Y house is to be constructed on a lot size of 250sqm, not the size of the house. The house is in fact made up of three small apartments ranging in size from 45-50sqm for a total internal floor of 150sqm for three separate strata titles. The end result is a compact house that can contain up to 6 adults. The project is called a house, however technically it is a small multiple dwelling which is where the confusion may have arrived. The house received an overall gold medal for a life cycle assessment by Etool for a reduction in embodied carbon and operational carbon. The house also incorporates many of the great suggestions that you have made. For further information, please visit the Landcorp website for the WGV and go to the Gen Y house fact sheet.

    1. Sorry I didn’t realise this article was describing an MDU, “Artist’s impression of a Gen Y House”. It’s a 2 floor development with car spaces and exterior spaces. It’s clear that my assessment of the total floor of the building area being around 250 sq m was accurate, I compared the road area to building to estimate this. Apartment sizes of around 50 sq m are suitable for single person or couples.
      In new developments around Sydney buildings of 200-250 sq m on blocks of around 500 sq m are marketed as “first home buyer” properties, all the development money is spent on large sizing rather than sustainable construction, big wide streets are another bizarre feature. Too much land is wasted providing space for cars, that’s not where the future is going.
      I liked the aerated panel/block walls.
      Go to Google Earth and have a look at Burton St Glebe Sydney for turn of the century 2 bedroom double storey terraces occupying less than 45 sq m of land on blocks of around 160 sq m. I lived for a while in nearby Taylor St which had the very best of turn of the century design, they have been demolished for a school car park.

  3. Tacking on a few solar panels and installing a rainwater tank in this Greenwash McMansion development just ain’t sustainable.
    Look at the size of that house, it’s what 250Sqm++++.
    If you are going to be serious about ecological footprint the size has to come down to the house size at the beginning of 20th century when the hose builders knew how to build sustainably.
    The maximum new house size should be legislated to under 100sqm, row housing with shared side walls, double story to reduce land footprint and long sloping roofs facing north for the solar water heaters and panels.
    Mandatory insulation standards, mandatory water tanks, mandatory solar water heating , mandatory solar panels, mandatory insulation standards, mandatory double glazing.
    The houses mandatory masonry so the houses actually last hundreds of years.
    Land sizes to be no larger than 180sqm, narrow walkable streets, no roads (just access ways for trades people, services)Zero car ownership a condition of purchase, no garages and public transport solutions built in prior to development with shopping, schools etc located at the public transport.

  4. I applaud what Landcorp is doing but……..

    We miss an important point in the building of sustainable developments. It is not just about energy saving and better designed homes. We have to also look at how we can create sustainable urban communities. A point lost on most developers. We have to as I say not just a a bums on seats approach to development. We have to have fully integrated approach to our urban environments throughout our cities and towns and that has to include existing urban areas.

    You take the people away from the equation there is no need for cities. So let actually make cities of a human scale. Not bits and pieces constructed in isolation.

  5. A great initiative in WA by LandCorp, Curtin and others. Governance frameworks similar to the one mentioned by Jemma Green may be the biggest door to help apartment dwellers access solar power. It is time for organisations to lobby the WA government to lift the anti-competition legislation for residential electricity supply.