The eco-friendly estates that are leaving a lighter footprint

Environment Friendly Living

Supplied photo of The Cape estate at Cape Paterson

IT’S rare to find an estate these days that does not incorporate some form of “green” living.

From open spaces and rehabilitated natural environments to energy-efficient homes, eco fundamentals are being put front and centre by developers. But it wasn’t always this way.

According to Matthew Dean, project director of Woodlea estate, in Rockbank, by Victoria Investments & Properties and Mirvac, the development of estates was a different industry two decades ago.

Supplied photo of Woodlea estate for a HS Realesta

“It used to be about clearing the land, building the estate and getting out,” Mr Dean said. “Now it’s about looking after the environment and creating a sense of community, and that was something that started to shift about 15 years ago and has really come along in the last five or 10 years.”

Dacland general manager of design Jonathon Fetterplace said green initiatives at estates were “almost a given”.

“These days, you have to demonstrate your credentials to buyers; you have to demonstrate the way you’re going to work with the land,” Mr Fetterplace said. “It’s not about simply cutting up the land and constructing houses.”

Nature nurture

Mr Fetterplace said one of the first considerations when designing a new estate was to “understand the context of the land”.

“We look at the eco system that was there previously,” he said.

At Dacland’s Mitchell’s Run estate in Doreen, for example, the community was built around the old river red gums, which formed a critical part of the flora and fauna. Conversely, at Dacland’s Rothwell estate in Tarneit, there are no river red gums and the watercourses had run dry.

“So we now collect stormwater run-off, which is funnelled into a rain garden that filters the water to then flow through the watercourse,” Mr Fetterplace said. “It’s about a transition from an environmental ecosystem to an urban ecosystem.”

Supplied photo of Mitchell

Mr Dean said the natural environment had become fundamental to new developments. “Developers now see the established environment as an asset, whereas in the past it was a liability because there was land there that they couldn’t transfer into residential,” he said.

“We look at the established environments as assets that residents can enjoy from day one.”

At Woodlea, 30 per cent of the estate is dedicated to open space and every home is about two minutes’ walk to a park. It has also been certified as an EnviroDevelopment by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).

EnviroDevelopment is the UDIA’s independent assessment scheme that awards certification to communities that meet green standards across the areas of waste management, energy, water, community wellbeing and eco systems.

Mr Dean said many developers were regenerating woodlands and waterways in the early phases of the project, rather than waiting for the authorities to do so at a later date. “It means that you can regenerate the environment straight away, so it’s there to enjoy when residents move in,” he said.

Star player

The Cape, at Cape Paterson, 132km southeast of Melbourne, is billed as Australia’s most energy-efficient housing estate.

The estate’s director, Brendan Condon, wanted to build a community that set a new benchmark for comfort, sustainability and ultra-low running costs.

“Compared to other countries, Australia seems to lag behind in terms of energy efficiency,” said Mr Condon, who has overseen a range of biodiversity, stormwater, wetlands and urban food production projects in his role as managing director for Australian Ecosystems.

The requirement for all new homes built in Victoria is a six-star energy rating, but each home at The Cape, a 220-lot development, is at least 7.5 stars, with the average coming in at above eight stars.

Supplied photo of The Cape estate at Cape Paterson

“We start, first and foremost, with passive solar design, making sure that the home is orientated correctly on the block to make the most of summer and winter,” Mr Condon said.

The entire community, by development company Cape Paterson Ecovillage, is solar-powered and built with carbon-neutral materials. Each home has rainwater storage, energy-efficient LED lighting, double glazing and an Eco hot water heat-pump system by Sanden.

“The energy bills will come out at about $500 a year, as opposed to the thousands that people usually pay,” Mr Condon said. “The homes are beautifully comfortable in all weather conditions, including hot spells.”

Stage one of The Cape is complete and the first residents have moved in. Buyers can choose from one of 10 home designs or work with a builder to customise their home. There are two display homes to inspect.

Homes start at less than $300,000 for a two-bedroom home with study and ensuite, and from $400,000 for a double-storey, four-bedroom home.

“The premium on such an energy-efficient home is quite low, at less than 3 per cent,” Mr Condon said.

Supplied photo of The Cape estate at Cape Paterson

The community will feature high-speed broadband to all homes, a cafe, conference centre, gardens, wetlands, fitness stations, restored habitat areas, electric-vehicle charge stations and kilometres of walking paths overlooking the beach.

“With direct beach access and more than 50 per cent of the land dedicated to open space, it’s just a beautiful place to live,” Mr Condon said.

Cream of the crop

One of the big selling points of The Cape is its water-efficient community garden by Biofilta.

The garden is watered via a rainwater-harvesting system that collects surplus rainwater from homes.

And it features raised “wicking” garden beds that water plants from below, rather than above — each garden bed holds a reservoir of water in its base, and moisture is drawn up through the soil via a process called wicking.

Mr Condon said the watering method was ultra-efficient and had reduced watering and weeding requirements to a fraction of conventional food gardens.

“The garden is set to produce around $140,000 of produce per annum for residents who are interested in gardening, and we will be developing a food-box scheme for those who don’t have time but are keen on the produce,” Mr Condon said. “We produced half a tonne of organic tomatoes this summer for our residents.”

Supplied photo of The Cape estate at Cape Paterson

Water works

Other developers are also looking to reduce household water and energy use. At Villawood’s Aquarevo estate, in Lyndhurst, household demand for mains drinking water will be cut by up to 70 per cent.

As part of a collaboration between Villawood Properties and the Victorian Government’s water utility South East Water, each home in the 460-lot community will have a clever water system that will draw on three water sources: Class A recycled water; mains drinking water; and rainwater.

The Class A recycled water will be used for toilets, washing-machine cold taps and outdoor taps. It will be supplied by a water-recycling plant within the estate, which will receive wastewater from homes via an intelligent pressure sewer.

Drinking water will be used for kitchen taps and, if residents choose, for laundry cold taps. Rainwater, stored in each home’s rainwater tank connected to a hot-water system, will deliver hot water for showers, baths and laundry hot taps.

Another enviro-friendly feature will be Tank Talk. The innovation will use weather-forecast data to ensure rainwater tanks are topped up with the freshest rainfall and release older water to feed local wetlands and parks, reducing the risk of stormwater flooding.

Homes will also be fitted with the OneBox system, which tracks water and energy use and displays the details to homeowners via an app. Homes will also feature 2.5kW solar panels and be ready for battery storage and electric-vehicle recharging.

Villawood Properties executive director Rory Costelloe said Aquarevo was one of the company’s most successful developments so far. “We had 70 groups lining up recently to camp out for 44 lots,” he said. “We expected camping out, but not that many people.”

Aquarevo, Lyndhurst - for Herald Sun realestate

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