Fiore by Psaros

Ahead of Sustainable House Day, being held across the country on 11 September 2016, we’re taking a look at some of the best homes on display.

The annual nationwide Sustainable House Day line-up is showing a new trend, with multi-residential developers and spec home builders among those opening up properties to the public.

Chief executive of the Alternative Technology Association, Donna Luckman, says the multi-res properties reflect the different ways people are responding to the question of housing affordability.

They range from low-rise apartments that have included elements such as solar power, bike racks and communal vegetable gardens through to Fiore, one of the latest sustainable luxury apartment projects by Perth-based developer Psaros.

Luckman says research conducted after last year’s Sustainable House Day shows there is a growing market for green homes.

Survey shows growing interest in home sustainability

Over 500 attendees completed a post-event survey done in conjunction with CRC for Low Carbon Living research associates at Swinburne University. The results showed that within one month of attending the open day, 31 per cent of people had already included sustainable design, features and appliances in renovations or builds, 59 per cent intended to do so in future and 92 per cent shared what they learned with family and friends.

Of those visiting homes, 24 per cent were planning to build a new house, 22 per cent were renovating their own home, 17 per cent were planning a renovation and 15 per cent were already building a new home. More than half of attendees wanted ideas to make their home more sustainable.

Attendees were most interested in learning about sustainable products, particularly windows and window treatments, building materials, insulation, heating and cooling, solar, orientation, water saving products, gardens, lighting and energy-efficient appliances.

Seventy-eight per cent of those surveyed said they believed sustainable design, features and appliances added to the value of a home.

Strom House in the ACT

Variety of homes on display

This year, visitors have around 142 properties to choose from around the country.

There are homes made with hempcrete, straw bale off-grid houses, urban homes with battery storage and homes with hydroelectric or wind power.

There are renovations done on a shoestring like Sydney’s Second-Hand Cottage, intentional communities with a green focus like Brisbane’s Equanimity Foundation, new homes with all the technological bells and whistles including geothermal and solar like Strom House in the ACT, Passive House certified homes, lower tech high performance adaptable homes like TS4 in Lochiel Park South Australia and display homes in new developments like The Cape eco-village at Cape Patterson in Victoria.

Luckman says they have seen a lot more display homes coming through this year. These are all “exemplar” homes she says, that are thermally high performing and energy-efficient.

Cutlers Cape Patterson Display Home

“A lot more of the industry is getting on board with sustainability; we are starting to see that come through,” she says.

Sustainable House Day gives builders and developers a chance to open the properties up and an opportunity to get their product in front of a target market that has an active interest, Luckman says.

There are also a number of up-and-coming designers showing work they’ve undertaken on their own homes, she says, like the low budget Gruen renovation, which also addresses the aspect of affordability.

On the apartment front, Luckman says the work done by residents of a block in St Kilda is a “really beautiful example for other apartments” of what can be achieved.

In Western Australia, the difference in planning laws compared to other states is apparent in the properties, she says.

“It is easier to do shared space and have multiple properties on the same title,” which results in outcomes that are both sustainable and affordable.

“It is interesting in WA how they are doing the multi-residential. It is easier to do secondary dwellings, and there are some quality granny flats [that have been built], while also keeping the greenery and trees [on the block].

“That means people can stay in their homes as they age and have multi-generational families living together.”

Equanimity Foundation in Queensland

Tapping into people’s desire to stickybeak

Luckman says the day taps into people’s love of looking in other people’s houses. It also gives people a feel for things that can only be known from experience – like how thermal comfort and acoustics improve in a well-insulated home.

She says people get ideas about how to make their homes more liveable and comfortable and lower the energy bills, and that in the process of getting there, sustainability is the outcome.

Homeowners opening the doors are encouraged to be honest, and give the “warts and all” explanation of what they’ve done, and why and how and what got learned along the way.

Luckman says that when something is new or different, it is through “trialling and error-ing” that progress happens.

She says some of this year’s homes are people who were visitors a few years ago, and have undertaken work they are now ready to share.

“People keep pushing the boundaries.”

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