Zero-emissions sustainable housing is poised to enter the mainstream property market, a cutting-edge sustainability seminar heard at Mount Duneed last week.
Negative power bills, fully self-sufficient water systems, 10-star energy ratings and more drew the attention of some 60-plus developers, builders, water authorities, government and community players at Club Armstrong.
The Villawood Properties/Barwon Water-led seminar, Putting Sustainability into Practice, detailed design advances, energy and water technologies, building techniques and materials, pricing and investment returns in an intriguing glimpse into the future of how Australians will soon live.
Ground-breaking advances by Australian Ecosystems’ Brendan Condon at The Cape project near Wonthaggi – together with moves by Barwon Water at its Salt development in Torquay and Villawood Properties’s Aquarevo in Melbourne – are paving the way for a ‘negawatts’-focussed housing revolution.
The Cape’s Mr Condon stressed the need for new housing to handle rising temperatures, citing increased heatwaves in major cities and pointing to 48-degree days last summer in cities such as Adelaide.
His Cape houses have been able to maintain temperatures in the low-20s throughout summer heat and winter cold while generating more energy than they use.
“I had one bloke complaining that he had a $52 winter bill,” he said.
Mr Condon said the flipside of the need for zero-emissions housing was a “massive opportunity” for industry and the community.
He talked of residential “power stations” supplying electricity to surrounding areas.
The seminar heard from speakers including TS Constructions’ Tony O’Connell, Barwon Water’s Tony Belcher, Villawood’s Rory Costelloe and South East Water’s Terry Dalgleish.
They outlined a raft of elements ranging from solar, seals, draft-proofing, thermal mass and product/appliance selection to design, water, urban food production and costings.
They highlighted studies undertaken in tandem with universities and industry groups, declining rainwater resources, gas-free communities, heat-pumps, multi-purpose water/energy/activity apps, ground permeability, stormwater treatments, affordability and more.
“We’re talking generational change,” Mr Condon said.
“It’s happened, we’ve broken through and it’s now ‘Go, Go!’
“We have councils and senior council staff now promoting how good these changes are, and holding workshops at our sites.”
Villawood’s Rory Costelloe said the notion of sustainable housing was rejected widely in even recent years.
“Now, however, it is clearly high on the agenda of governments, authorities and industry.
“Five years ago, people weren’t so brave. Three years ago, they were a bit braver. Now it’s ‘Have a crack!’.”
Mr Costelloe suggested water authorities were well poised to step into the space of energy provision, shifting the power base from overseas parties not primarily focused on residents’ interests.