The next level in sustainable apartments

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 14/02/2013

A residential apartment building that combines eco-friendly living with a sense of community might feel like a rare find for the average inner-city dweller, but a development in Brunswick is about to change all that.

Featuring highly efficient building design, stacks of energy efficient technologies and unique transport options, The Commons is expected to set new standards for sustainable city living when completed in 2013.

“At the heart of the project is the idea of building a community for the residents in an environment that pushes the boundaries of sustainability”, says the building’s designer, Jeremy McLeod, director of Breathe Architecture.

“It’s a zero carbon, zero car project providing social, economic and ecological benefits”.

Located six kilometres from the CBD, the 24-unit apartment block is being developed by Adam Borowski of Melbourne company Small Giants.

“The project offers a more sustainable way of constructing medium density housing in Melbourne without losing commercial viability”, says Borowski.

“The intention is that residents will have an ecological footprint of one-quarter of a typical two-bedroom suburban house”.

With an 8-star energy efficiency rating – among the highest in Australia, The Commons has the potential to reduce heating and cooling energy consumption by up to 90 per cent. Combating rising energy costs as well as the carbon footprint.

“The Commons will have all you would expect of an 8-star energy rated building including solar hot water, solar photo-voltaics, grey water system for toilet flushing, rainwater tanks and hydronic heating”.

Each open plan apartment has been carefully designed to promote high-levels of natural ventilation and eliminate the need for air-conditioners.

To reduce the embodied energy of the building, finishes will be raw and exposed. Recycling floorboards and bricks will contribute to the target of 60% waste recycling during construction.

“The exposed finishes and use of recycled materials is really exciting and groundbreaking. We have demolished the old brick warehouse that was on the site previously, and we will be using some of the old bricks as cladding for the new façade”.

A rooftop garden promoting shared activities has been chosen over typical inner-city apartment luxuries like gyms, pools and tennis courts.

“The green roof on The Commons is unique in that it will act to naturally cool and insulate the building, whilst providing a space for residents to interact, BBQ and grow their own produce”.

The rooftop will also house a communal laundry of 8 energy efficient washing machines, contrasting the one per unit of a typical modern inner-city development. Residents will use external clotheslines rather than clothes dryers.

But it’s the approach to transport that is perhaps the most intriguing.

“All residents receive yearly public transport passes and a car-share membership as part of their owners corporation fees”.

Car parking spaces have also been traded for an inviting ground floor environment of bike racks and visitor showers.

“The development responds to Anstey bike path – a key thoroughfare for commuters into the city. We’re adding landscaping and rest areas along the bike path, to be enjoyed by residents and daily commuters”.

“It really is a car-free development, which is rarely seen outside of the CBD”.

And the commitment to sustainable living will not fade once the building is complete, with the project team taking steps to ensure initiatives are maintained for the life and operation of the building.

“We have taken the standard owners corporation rules and added a decision-making protocol, so that critical decisions made by the owners corporation pass through a sustainability filter”.

Playing an important role in the ongoing sustainability of The Commons is not for profit organisation Moreland Energy Foundation (MEFL).

“MEFL have created a comprehensive document outlining how the project will deliver sustainable outcomes from design through to construction and ongoing operation”, says MEFL coordinator urban development, Peter Steele.

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