Homes of the future

With world environment day still fresh in our minds, CyberShack turns its attention to the idea of sustainable living

With world environment day still fresh in our minds, CyberShack turns its attention to the idea of sustainable living – what actions can you take to lessen your environmental footprint? What ways are architects and designers working together to make development projects more environmentally friendly and what will homes of the future look like…

First stop on our trip is the K2 housing project in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor. K2 was the first multi-level sustainable public housing project to be undertaken in Victoria. The 100 unit medium density housing block is a model of energy conservation and sustainable building design. Key objectives of the design were to minimise greenhouse gas emissions; make use of reusable and recycled construction materials and minimise habitat degradation through efficient water use and pollution control.

The sustainable design of the K2 project was the focus of a mammoth competition run by the Office of Housing in 2000 that was open to architects registered in Victoria; with the winning design team picking up the tender for the project.

Some 47 architectural firms anonymously entered the competition, with Melbourne’s DesignInc coming out as the ultimate winner. The company is not new to sustainable living concepts they also worked on CH2, Melbourne City Council’s new sustainable office building however the K2 project would deliver its own special challenges for the firm.

Finally completed in February 2007 and fully tenanted by the next month, the project was seven years in the making… Sure, Design Inc had come up with a winning design – but the difficult part was putting that design into practice. The firm focused on ‘passive design’ techniques to achieve many of the key features of the housing project’s sustainability.

…buildings were orientated north facing so they would get sunshine all year round…

Project Manager John Macdonald explained that building orientation, height and construction were key elements to achieving the project’s sunny aspect. The buildings were orientated north facing so they would get sunshine all year round with the height of the building at the front limited to four stories to accommodate light into the back building (eight stories high).

Building materials for the structure focused on products that could achieve the building’s proposed 200 year lifespan. An emphasis has been placed on the use of recycled materials. Fly ash was used in place of cement and the steel reinforcements of each unit were made from recycled steel. Plantation timber were also used for all non-load bearing internal and external walls.
It doesn’t stop there… Flat plate solar collectors and photovoltaic panels were mounted on the north-facing roofs and pod facades, to deliver at least 50 per cent of the domestic hot water demand, and 10 per cent of the base building’s energy load. The apartments boast efficient lighting systems, and energy efficient lifts contribute to reduced consumption.

To reduce the domestic water use, water is collected from the roof surfaces and stored in tanks in the internal courtyard. Water efficient fittings and fixtures with a minimum AAA-rating were installed in the dwellings to help reduce consumption indoors. Grey water is collected from the showers and hand basins of buildings 3 and 4 and treated for reuse in toilet flushing and to water the gardens.

The architects even made use of the breeze from nearby Port Phillip Bay with windows strategically placed to allow for cross ventilation. Macdonald says there is also very little need for heating as the buildings are so well insulated.

The project cost the Victorian government some $29 million. Around 10% higher than a typical public housing project of the same size – however the Victorian Government expects the building’s low maintenance costs will easily make up for the bigger budget in the coming years. Tenants will also reap the benefits of lower utility bills.

CyberShack’s ten tips to help you on the way to a more sustainable future:

Take reusable bags when you go shopping and refuse plastic bags.

Install or top up insulation in ceilings.

Start a compost heap.

Take shorter showers – keep it to under 5 minutes instead of the average 8 minutes.

Switch appliances off at the power point wherever possible.

Use your recycling bin and make sure you know what can be recycled.

If you have air conditioning set the thermostat to 18-20 in winter and 23-26 in summer.

Buy products with less packaging.

Install a AAA rated showerhead and a dual flush toilet.

Purchase energy efficient appliances.

By Cec Busby

Listen to our interview with John Macdonald

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Homes Of The Future

Have you ever wondered what homes of the future will be like? We’ll take a look at that plus a new game where the world is under threat from a terrorist invasion. All that plus news, prizes, and a whole lot more. It’s the CyberShack.