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.
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.
- See our article from last year LandCorp’s Gen Y house comp aims to open up WA property market
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.