Australian property developer Mirvac on Wednesday announced a plan to build an ultra-sustainable home which will not generate any electricity bills, and is inviting one family to live rent-free in the property for a year.
Dubbed the House with No Bills , the three-bedroom unit will be built in Mirvac’s new development at Jack Road in Melbourne’s Cheltenham suburb, and is part of the company’s efforts to reduce its environmental and social impact by offering affordable, off-grid homes to communities.
John Carfi, head of residential development, Mirvac, said: “We want to reduce the everyday cost of living for home owners and protect them against rising energy and utility prices.” This will also help people live self-sufficiently and sustainably in their homes, he added.
Mirvac’s move is the latest in a series of strides by Australia’s building sector to improve its environmental performance. The green building movement has gained much traction in the country in recent years, with more than 1,000 projects certified under the Green Star programme, a national rating scheme for sustainable buildings.
Romilly Madew, chief executive officer of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), noted that sustainable building designs and technologies have been a mainstay of commercial buildings for some years now. Mirvac’s initiative has the potential to drive the adoption of similar solutions in residential developments, she added .
The house, which will commence construction early next year and be completed by late 2017, aims to be carbon positive - that is, when a home generates more energy from renewables than it uses and sells the surplus back to the grid. In such a home, residents offset any energy costs they rack up by selling renewable power to utilities. .
Mirvac’s project will look like a typical home, but will be kitted out with sustainability features such as rooftop solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and increased roof insulation.
It will also make use of passive design, an architectural technique which maximises use of surrounding environmental factors such as sunlight or shade, to reduce the need for lighting, heating, and cooling.
Mirvac will also install smart meters and energy monitoring systems to help home-owners track their power use and costs.
Carfi shared that the first phase of this project will entail a year-long study of the family invited to live for free to track how average families consume energy and to measure the performance of sustainable technology and design features in the house.
Such a study is an industry first, and will help Mirvac understand how to scale up the construction of homes where resident’s do not have to pay for energy, he noted.
Mirvac is looking for a family of four to participate in this study by spending a year in the house after construction ends. They must be first-time home buyers, and two residents should be children. At least one member of the household should be in a care-based industry such as education or nursing.
The company may also provide the family with electric cars and bicycles for the duration of their stay to help them reduce their transport costs and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Following the year-long study, Mirvac will explore ways to minimise and offset the costs of water and sewage bills in new development sites, noted Carfi, adding that “we will also use the learnings from phase one to identify the potential of going fully off-grid”.
GBCA’s Madew added that Mirvac’s study is an important study in creating affordable and energy efficient communities across the country.
Such a project “has yet to be attempted by a major developer with the potential to make it commercially viable and scaleable,” she said. “It is exciting to see Mirvac taking ownership of this space and leading by example”.