Category Archives: Eco Housing

Welcome to Tesla Town

Less than six months after Australia received its first shipment of Tesla Powerwalls, plans for what could be the world’s first “Tesla town” – a mini-suburb on the outskirts of the Melbourne CBD whose new-build homes will include rooftop solar and Tesla battery storage as standard design features – are being unveiled by local property group Glenvill, as the green development’s first 60 homes go on sale this week.

Tesla Town, Melbourne

The new 16.46 hectare suburb, which will be called YarraBend for its 300 metres of Yarra River frontage, will include around 2,500 new dwellings – a mix of free standing houses, townhouses and apartments with three to five bedrooms, ranging in price from $1.48 million to $2.1 million.

The project is being designed, developed and built by Glenvill, which bills it as a “world first Tesla suburb” for its inclusion “within houses” of the iconic US company’s sleek-looking 7kWh lithium-ion Powerwall batteries, presumably to store energy from the houses’ rooftop solar systems, the sizes of which are not yet disclosed.

Houses in the development will also feature electric car recharging points, while residents will have access to high-speed internet, a “tech-concierge”, and a YarraBend app, that will connect them to a variety of amenities and information within the community, including public transport timetables, home delivery menus, carpooling arrangements and social events.

Read more: One Step off the Grid

Exclusive London New Build Installs 38 Evolt Charge Points

Exclusive London New Build Installs 38 Evolt Charge Points

One of London’s most high-profile and successful new mixed-use developments, Fitzroy Place in Fitzrovia, W1, has installed 38 electric vehicle (EV) charge points from Evolt.

Exclusive London New Build Installs 38 Evolt Charge Points
Exclusive London New Build Installs 38 Evolt Charge Points

The developer of Fitzroy Place, Exemplar, appointed Evolt not only to supply and install single outlet AC wall mount charge points, but also the latest load distribution technology.

The latter ensures the total power to all charge points is consistently available, evenly distributed and prevents overloading. When an EV is fully charged, its power usage is re-distributed to the other EV’s so that they can achieve a full charge in the fastest possible time.

The charge points are split into four groups, with each group being controlled by a distribution board. They are also connected to a centralised server, which manages the entire system and provides a real-time reporting function for operators. The server also has a failsafe mechanism in case of a local power outage, where it ‘instructs’ the distribution boards to continue charging vehicles at a default setting.

Michael Bucknell, Development Director at Exemplar says:

“Evolt’s installation of car charge points was a key contribution for us meeting our demanding sustainability objectives at Fitzroy Place.

“As we see Central London’s air quality moving up the political agenda, encouraging residents and occupiers to embrace electric vehicles will become increasingly key to tackling this very serious health and environmental issue”.

Justin Meyer, General Manager of Evolt, says that EV’s are fast becoming an essential part of city life:

“Charge points at new builds are becoming commonplace, as an increasing number of city dwellers and office workers are increasingly environmentally conscious.

“We are visibly seeing the demand for AC charge points at new builds,” he continues, “and it is important to install technology that manages power distribution, otherwise a site’s charge point network may never effectively charge numerous EVs simultaneously”.

The recently completed Fitzroy Place development provides 235 private apartments, 54 affordable homes, 20,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space, 220,000 sq ft of commercial office space in addition to health and education facilities, and public open space.

The welcoming entrance of Disney’s magic kingdom (Image: L. Larkum)

How Far Behind is the US in General, and Disney in Particular?

Culture Shock

With apparently ever-increasing globalisation most of us have an expectation that we can travel to other Western countries and find facilities and a culture similar to our own – after all, a McDonald’s Big Mac bought in Paris is recognisably the same as one from New York.

Occasionally, though, we find things to be suddenly different from what we expect. The difference is marked because it is not just a different food or architecture. It is marked – a culture shock – because it arises from very different assumptions about how a culture should be. I had such a feeling twenty-five years ago when, as a member of the British armed forces, I moved into married quarters in Germany. For the first time ever I encountered a culture with sustainability as a core value – we found recycling facilities all along our street, and were given full instructions on how to recycle our waste as part of moving in.

Such an approach was entirely absent in the UK, there we were still wondering whether we should consider starting to recycle some waste, and so returning to the UK felt like going back in time. Of course, since then the UK has caught up, at least to a large extent. For example, there are weekly collections of plastic and metal/can containers, of paper and cardboard, of glass, and of food waste, plus fortnightly collections of garden waste.

I write this as I approach the end of a vacation in Disney World and Florida, having experienced another such step back in time. Things are so far behind here it has been another culture shock. We last visited twenty-five years ago and it seems that the culture in general and Disney World in particular are virtually unchanged over that time.

Conspicuous Consumption and Pollution

It began with our accommodation – a lovely rented villa in a community estate in Davenport, half an hour outside Orlando. It’s huge and well-appointed with a very nice small pool and patio. However, it feels like living in a ‘consumption machine’. I write this in the open-plan kitchen/lounge area. Behind me upstairs the air conditioning system rattles away providing welcome cooling throughout the house – but it seems to be on permanently, 24/7, set to a temperature of 76°F (24°C). The energy consumption must be enormous, but its controls are locked away so we don’t have the choice to turn it off and save energy.

Behind me just outside the wall is the monstrous pump and filter system for the pool, whirring away. In front of me is a massive fridge which almost never goes quiet. Later today we’ll have men coming round making noise along the road (strimmers, leaf blowers, etc.). This evening we’ll have the sprinklers coming on to disturb our sleep. Not just carbon pollution, but noise pollution seems to be an accepted part of life here.

Even the cars of our neighbours coming and going seem inordinately loud, and why must they beep their horns every time they lock the doors? Everything is just so noisy (in this house we even watch TV in the same large living space as the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer). The whole concept of noise pollution seems alien here, as though it were something to be embraced rather than avoided. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to try and get some peace and quiet. Yet in the UK people put a premium on quietness whether it’s buying a quiet car (such as an electric) or a house in the country – here the preference seems to be for cars and houses that are as big and noisy as possible.

The big irony, of course, is that the massive carbon footprint of this house is entirely unnecessary. A big chunk of it is for air conditioning because of the powerful sunshine here, yet it is precisely that excess of solar power that could be powering the house with solar energy for free. Instead, it is using fossil fuels and their associated carbon emissions to try and offset the energy being dissipated on the roof. I’ve only seen one house in the area with solar panels, and I noticed that precisely because it was an isolated example in a sea of blank rooftops.

Part of that irony is that we have solar panels on our home in England, even though we are at a much higher latitude than Florida and so get correspondingly less solar energy. Nonetheless, even with our supposedly cloudy and rainy climate the panels produce more than half the energy used by the house over the course of a year. In Florida a similar setup could potentially power the entire house, and with some left over going into the grid to reduce its overall footprint, or used to fuel an electric car.

It was good to see that our housing estate had a weekly recycling collection, even if it was just a mixed box (and many of our neighbours’ wheelie bins were overflowing with cardboard boxes and other items that could have gone in recycling).

No Leadership From Disney

So on to Disney. Over the last two weeks we have visited Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studio and Animal Kingdom twice each, and Epcot and the Typhoon Lagoon water park once each. We had a good time on the roller-coaster and other rides, and at the various shows. However, it felt like very little had changed in the last quarter century.

A tram with its diesel exhaust just a few feet from waiting passengers (Image: T. Larkum)

After parking up we were transferred to the park entrances via vehicles referred to as ‘trams’. While in Europe that name implies electric trolley buses, and given their workload and fixed routes these vehicles could have been electric, it was immediately obvious they were not. You didn’t have to get very close to them to hear the roar and smell the nauseous and toxic fumes that gave away that they were powered by massive diesel engines. And this, in the 21st century, and with half the passengers being young children.

Read more: Linked In

This Dutch town will grow its own food, live off-grid, and handle its own waste

It’s no secret that today’s aggressive agricultural techniques can take a heavy toll on the environment, both on the land used for crops and livestock, and in the surrounding atmosphere.

Architectural drawing of pilot project (Image: Effekt)
Architectural drawing of pilot project (Image: Effekt)

But a new vision of a more sustainable ‘integrated neighbourhood’ community is being implemented in the Netherlands, with the first of a series of high-tech farm villages set to be completed next year. The project, being built just outside of Amsterdam, is the brainchild of California-based developer ReGen Villages, and after its pilot community is finished in 2017, the company plans to bring the concept to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Germany.

Of course, communal farms aren’t exactly a new idea, with communities like the Amish people and more recent kinds of farming collectives having long lived off the grid. But we’re not talking about another attempt to recreate simple, pastoral living here.

ReGen Villages wants to harness the power of today’s technology to create “off-grid capable neighbourhoods” that provide the comforts of a regular modern lifestyle, but which are entirely self-reliant and sustainable: growing their own food, generating their own energy, managing waste locally, and recycling water.

“We’re really looking at starting off as the Tesla of eco-villages,” ReGen Villages CEO James Ehrlich told Adele Peters at Fast Company. “We are redefining residential real-estate development by creating these regenerative neighbourhoods, looking at first these greenfield pieces of farmland where we can produce more organic food, more clean water, more clean energy, and mitigate more waste than if we just left that land to grow organic food or do permaculture there.”

Read more: Science Alert

One of the new electric cars in the new e-car fleet for Elmsbrook development in Bicester

Fleet of electric cars to take to the town’s roads

An electric car club which aims to get residents in the new Elmsbrook development in North West Bicester to use environmentally friendly transport has been launched.

One of the new electric cars in the new e-car fleet for Elmsbrook development in Bicester
One of the new electric cars in the new e-car fleet for Elmsbrook development in Bicester

The car club, which sees Fabrica by A2Dominion working with North Oxford BMW, Fleetdrive Electric and E-Car Club, will be in place for Elmsbrook’s first residents.

The club will consist of two cars, a BMW i3, sponsored by North Oxford BMW and a Renault Zoe, sponsored by A2Dominion, although the number of cars in the fleet will rise as more residents move in.

A2 Dominion is aiming to reduce the number of local journeys made by petrol/diesel cars from 67.5 per cent to 50 per cent by 2026.

Louise Caves, NW Bicester strategic partnership manager said:

“We are delighted to have formed this partnership with Fleetdrive Electric, North Oxford BMW and E-car to help achieve our sustainable travel targets.

“By working together it will give Elmsbrook residents unparalleled choice when it comes to alternative modes of travel and access to test drives and trial periods on a number of different electric vehicles.”

She added they were aiming for 10 per cent of the development’s residents to switch to electric or hybrid cars by 2017. The developer hopes to achieve this through measures including a travel plan co-ordinator, a community bus service and bicycle stores for every home.

E-Car will be managing the club and Elmsbrook residents will receive half-price lifetime membership with A2Dominion subsidising five hours free use for every resident.

Read more: Buckingham Today

North West Bicester is a government-designated eco-town being built in the UK

UK’s “first eco-town” built green from the ground up

An eco-town described as the UK’s “most sustainable development” is moving closer to being occupied. The first residents are expected to move into North West Bicester later this year. Planning permission has also just been granted for up to 2,600 homes in the next stage of the project.

North West Bicester (pronounced “Bister”) is one of four designated eco-towns in the UK announced by the government in 2007. The aim is to create a town that is good for the environment, good for the economy and a nice place to live.

It is also one of a handful of One Planet communities around the world. The One Planet scheme was set up by sustainability charity BioRegional. It aims to find ways for people and societies to reduce their level of consumption to an extent that is sustainable based on the amount of resources that the planet can provide.

In addition to homes that are highly sustainable, North West Bicester will offer a mix of affordable housing. Homes will be built to a minimum standard of code level 4 for Sustainable Homes and Sustainable Homes and BREEAM excellence. Residents will be able to access a community hub via mobile devices that will allows them to check car club availability, monitor energy usage and prices, check public transport information and communicate with other residents. Homes will also be future-proofed with climate change adaptation in mind.

Primary schools will be located within 800 m (2,625 ft) of all homes in the town, and jobs will be created within a sustainable travel distance. Non-car use will be encouraged, as will the use of electric vehicles where required. Town residents will benefit from specially-designed cycle and pedestrian routes, a bus service within 400 m (1,312 ft) of every home, charging points for electric vehicles and an electric car club.

A minimum level of 40 percent public and private green space is to be maintained throughout North West Bicester. There will be a focus on local food production and an aim of attaining a net gain in local bio-diversity.

The first phase of the town being constructed is called Exemplar. Once completed, it will have 393 zero carbon homes and, according to project lead A2Dominion, will be the UK’s first true zero carbon community. Among the amenities in Exemplar will be a primary school, community center, eco-pub and an eco-business and retail center.

Each home in Exemplar has been designed to remain warm in winter, but not to overheat in the summer. A combined heat and power plant will provide heat and hot water to the houses, whilst solar arrays averaging 34 sq m (366 sq ft) will be fitted to every property. This is said to be the UK’s largest residential solar array in total, capable of powering 550 homes with excess power fed back into the national grid.

The recent planning approval for new homes is for an area adjoining the Exemplar site, which will be the next major phase of the project. Of the homes built here, 30 percent will be affordable, including extra care apartments for the elderly. A new primary school with playing fields, a nursery and a sports pitch with a pavilion will also be built.

The plan also features space for a network of allotments, a country park, play areas, a community farm and a woodland burial ground. The area will have its own center with a convenience store, cafe, restaurant and shops, a public square and community hall. Other amenities will include an energy center, a GP practice, business and office provision and a place of worship.

Residents are expected to begin moving into Exemplar later this year, with the phase due for completion in 2018. A2Dominion plans to develop North West Bicester over the next 25-30 years. When complete, the town will have up to 6,000 highly energy efficient new homes.

The video below provides an introduction to North West Bicester.

Source: Giz Mag

“UK’s first eco town” to run EV initiatives

Dubbed “the UK’s first eco town”, the NW Bicester development in Oxfordshire will run a range of ultra-low emission vehicle initiatives including an electric car club for the first phase of its development.

The NW Bicester project is being developed by A2Dominion, which is teaming up with ultra-low emission vehicle leasing company Fleetdrive Electric to encourage sustainable travel choices at NW Bicester.

The aim is to get some 10% of residents switching to ULEVs by 2017.

These initiatives include subsidised electric vehicles (EVs) for champions within the community to share their experiences of using EVs, pop-up neighbourhood test drive events and “try before you buy” flexible leasing options through Fleetdrive Electric.

As well as boasting an electric car club, car charging points will be available communally and optionally available to all homes on the first Exemplar phase. Cycle stores will come as standard for each home and the development will have safe, segregated cycle-ways and pedestrian routes linking directly into the town’s existing network.

The partnership is being launched at a special event on Thursday 26 February at the John Paul II Centre in Bicester that will enable Bicester stakeholders and residents to find out more and also test-drive a range of ultra-low emission electric vehicles including the Tesla Model S, BMW i8 and i3, Audi e-tron, VW e-Up!, e-Golf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Nissan LEAF.

Louise Caves, strategic partnership manager for NW Bicester, said:

‘Travel accounts for some 32% of a typical UK carbon footprint with private car use alone accounting for 18% of this. As lead developers of the UK’s first eco town, A2Dominion is committed to shaping a range of options and initiatives designed to encourage people’s choice of travel to be as environmentally friendly as their home.

‘We’ve planned for a range of alternative modes of travel to minimise CO2 emissions and enable residents to make sustainable transport choices and built features into the design to make travel by foot, public transport, bike or electric car an easy option.’

Source: EVFleetWorld