Green developers are getting a toehold in the market.
FIFTEEN years ago, when Mike Hill and Lorna Pitt sought financing for their eco-housing development, WestWyck, the response wasn’t wholly enthusiastic.
“We put up our model for funding and the banks were really sceptical about the shared facilities,” Mr Hill recalls.
The ground has shifted since then. In the planning for the next stage of development, their financiers pushed them to add more communal features.
“They said the most popular aspect of WestWyck has been the shared living,” he says. “They put it down to a Brunswick thing, but we think it’s a broader market change.”
For the second stage, Mr Hill has teamed up with BioRegional, the founder of the One Planet framework – a set of principles to help property developers, businesses and governments reach for the highest environmental and social standards.
While those goals remain well off the radar for most new housing projects, the changing attitude of the banks is a sign of what is becoming possible. BioRegional recently established an office in Australia and it has already held discussions with several developers and councils.
Ed Cotter, from BioRegional Australia, says the One Planet framework springs from an analysis of ecological, water and carbon footprints – figuring out what the Earth can produce renewably and what’s required to for us live within those means.
To help individuals achieve that “one planet lifestyle”, developers must aim to meet a series of targets, including that buildings are carbon and water neutral by 2020, and only 2 per cent of domestic waste ends up landfill (by total weight produced).
The goals are “stretch targets”, Mr Cotter says – even more so in Australia because of our current reliance on coal and cars. But the stretch is necessary. “If everyone lived like an average Aussie, we’d need four planets to sustain our lifestyle.”
For Mr Hill, the framework is appealing because it’s internationally recognised and covers more than the thermal efficiency of the dwellings.
“We like it because it’s a cradle-to-grave set of indicators, from the way in which people work on the project through to post-occupancy – the food people eat and the way they move around,” he says.
Set on the site of the old Brunswick West primary school, WestWyck is already an unusually green development. The first stage, finished in 2008, comprised 12 dwellings – some new and some converted from the old schoolhouse.
The terrace houses were rated up to 8.5 stars, and grey and blackwater treatment systems were built into the site, along with water tanks and landscaping to reduce stormwater runoff. An early study completed by CSIRO found that occupants were using nearly two-thirds less water than average.
The new plans allow for another 18 apartments and extra communal facilities – a shared function area, workshop and a spare room that residents can book for overnight visitors.
Mr Hill says his other major focus is on sustainable transport. He’s aiming to radically cut car use and ownership, and promote public transport, bike riding and walking instead.
Among the incentives will be covered bicycle parking, a WestWyck bus shelter and a designated space for a car share vehicle. Car owners will pay for parking on a sliding scale, with four-wheel drives attracting the highest fee. Electric vehicle–owners will get their spot for free, along with free GreenPower for recharging.