Buildings are a focal point in the community where all other sectors of the ZEB project (energy, land use, waste and transport) come together. Buildings are also a hub for social interaction, communication and education. Because they are central in our lives, buildings can set examples for the wider community.
As designed today, buildings are not sustainable. Even though progress has been made in improving efficiency, development still has a negative impact on the natural environment. This is because resources have to be extracted to provide materials and energy is used for heating, cooling and operating equipment, not to mention the energy used to transport people to and from buildings.
ZEB are creating a framework to create holistic, sustainable buildings that aim to go beyond zero emissions towards net positive contributions to nature. This means that we will be considering the full life cycle of buildings and integrate social, ecological and economic benefits to create viable solutions for everyone. Especially the crossover between the five groups and communication between them makes the ZEB project unique. Together, we are committed to building a model that inspires other communities to join us on our path towards zero emissions economies.
Our strategy is to focus on the overall goal of reaching zero emissions and beyond for Byron Shire. We are identifying opportunities for positive contributions rather than a detailed calculation of emissions in order to keep the data at a manageable scale. For example, the energy embodied in the production process will only be considered in new buildings and not in existing buildings to limit the scope of the project.
Our work is based on the internationally renowned research by Beyond Zero Emission (BZE), supported by other leading concepts in international building research such as regenerative design 1, Cradle to Cradle 2 and net Positive Development 3. Above all, we aim to deliver a clear assessment strategy, full transparency and value our collaborative approach.
We are known in the Byron shire for our unique, holistic approach to sustainability and community values and were the first shire that BZE approached to apply their zero emissions strategy in practice. There are some great initiatives in the shire already that form a fantastic ground to build on. Some of these include:
- Sustainable House Day and Expo http://www.sevenonsibley.com/shd2015/
- Green Building Centre and Painted Earth http://greenbuildingcentre.net.au
- Byron Bay Master Plan – http://byronbayvision.com
Translating to solutions
The most obvious starting point is to reduce the impact from buildings as much as possible. The remaining impact will then be offset during the building life cycle by other means to zero or beyond. This includes:
Retrofitting opportunities – identifying cost effective retrofitting strategies most suited to our sub-tropical climate. Retrofits are the preferred option to minimise resource consumption.
Setting the bar on new buildings – working with local councils on sustainability guidelines to encourage our community to adopt comfortable, healthy, self-sufficient buildings. These are based on passive solar design strategies combined with efficient active technology.
Power from the sun – Solar power is still only used to a fraction of its potential in Australia, although the uptake is increasing because of clear cost savings. According to BZE’s initial modelling, residential buildings in the shire have the capacity to generate 13 per cent more electricity than required for their annual operation. The Byron Shire Council is starting some innovative virtual net metering prototypes that will enable us to share resources in the community through net positive energy buildings.
Creating holistic, sustainable design – Our collaboration with the other ZEB working groups ensures that not only energy is considered but also the ecology and society in the process of transitioning Byron to a zero emissions economy. We will be using our findings to inform the decision making process by demonstrating cost effective zero emissions strategies for buildings in our local environment.
Community spirit – Self-sufficient buildings are only the red flag – our aim is to inspire others, create meaningful places for people and enhance the community spirit of Byron. Join us on our journey to create a unique and future-proof community that gives back to nature!
1 ‘Regenerative design’ was first introduced by John T. Lyle in 1994 and focuses on design as a co-evolutionary, partnered relationship with nature, based on strategies of adaptation, resilience and regeneration.
2 ‘Cradle to Cradle’ or C2C, originated by Mc Donough & Braungart in 2002, is a circular metabolism model wherein wastes are turned into resources in new cycles.
3 ‘Net Positive Development’, published and taught by Janis Birkeland since 2003, is an open system approach that suggests how infrastructure, buildings, landscapes and products can be retrofitted to become a net-positive living environment that actively increases ecological carrying capacity and ecosystem services, as well as natural, social and economic capital.