Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Redfern pilot tailored to cut energy needs

by Matthew Levinson
in the Sydney Morning Herald, December 10, 2008

TEN Redfern housing blocks have been torn down to make room for a new era in public housing.

The grim bed-sits will be replaced by Australia's first public housing development to pilot the "Green Star" national standard for energy-efficient residential buildings and the pilot project has implications for up to 150,000 properties owned by Housing NSW.

The new homes will not come a moment too soon, says Mary Perkins, an advocate of low-income housing. Skyrocketing energy costs, especially electricity, are hurting poor tenants.

"People are telling us they've turned off the hot water tank [or] they've cut their soup intake," says Ms Perkins, the executive officer at Shelter NSW. "I wouldn't dismiss anything that reduces their energy costs."

Contractors have demolished 88 units at the Elizabeth Street site to make room for a mix of 246 public and private apartments and houses, with land for 149 private apartments being sold to offset the project's $28 million price tag.

John Gregory, acting director of asset management at Housing NSW, says that in the face of climate change, low-income households will be "adversely affected" if buildings do not operate more efficiently. "We know that electricity prices will go up as carbon pricing works its way through the system," he says.

The new housing at Redfern will have gas-boosted solar hot water, water-saving shower heads, rainwater tanks to supply water for washing clothes and flushing toilets, native landscaping and water recycling for gardens.

There will also be cross-ventilation within residences, insulation and thermal materials that act to reduce energy costs year-round.

Redfern is one of six residential pilots under way nationally.

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