Zero energy home of the future – open for business

Net zero energy homes of the future entered the housing market this month with the opening of a display home at Timbertop Estate near Melbourne.

Eight years after the groundbreaking work of CSIRO and partners to complete the Australian Zero Emissions House (AusZEH), Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio recently launched the 7.3 star rated ‘Z-Range’ display home at Timbertop Estate on the urban fringe, south east of Melbourne.

The Z-Range’ home was built by SJD Homes and developed through the Low Carbon Living CRC (CRCLCL) Mainstreaming Zero Energy Housing Project, through a collaboration with Curtin University, CSIRO, government and industry partners, and the developer, Parklea.

CRCLCL Project Leader and Research Fellow at Curtin University, Dr Josh Byrne says the launch of the zero energy display home, and associated pilot project, could be a ‘gamechanger’ for the housing industry.

“The Zero Energy Homes are able to meet their own energy needs by combining roof top solar with high quality building to: reduce reliance on heating and cooling; improve occupant comfort; lower energy costs; and help address climate change,” Josh says.

“Withdisplay homes in Melbourne and Townsville we are standing at the threshold  – once you see several big builders and developers involved, the rest of industry follows.”

SJD Homes sales manager Rod Fitzsimmons said, “By using the northerly aspect and making a few changes, we’ve been able to make this a zero emissions home and that’s something SJD has been very passionate about.”

All photos: SJD Homes

Some key design features of the home include: a 5 kW solar roof system, double glazing of all windows, quality insulation, sealed exhaust fans and five-star energy-rated ducted heating.

While the upgrades needed to produce a zero emissions home would cost buyers roughly $5000, there’s a sense that people are catching on to the future savings and benefits from a relatively small investment, according to Rod.

CSIRO urban system researchers developed the state-of-the-art AusZEH Design software that was used to design the Timbertop home. The software developed for the original AusZEH project, guided the design of ‘proof of concept’ homes in Melbourne and Townsville, with others in the pipeline for Canberra and Perth.

CSIRO project leader for the AusZEH, Michael Ambrose said, “It’s exciting that the industry is applying our research and using the design software to make net zero energy homes as a viable and affordable option for the mass housing market.”

“The uptake of zero energy homes can only escalate now, as more buyers understand just how liveable, affordable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly, these homes can be,” Michael said.

The first Melbourne-based house built for the AusZEH achieved an 8.3-star energy efficiency rating and the net zero emission standard by using ‘off-the-shelf’ building and renewable energy generation technology and future-ready energy management systems.

“The technology at CSIRO and in other areas of industry is progressing rapidly so there’s potential to shift energy efficiency and sustainability ratings even further in the future,” Michael says.

“Through our earlier research we estimated that by applying such standards to all new housing developments over a decade Australia could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 63 million tonnes – which is about the same saving from closing 16 coal-fired power plants for a year.

“We’re committed to pushing back the frontiers of urban sustainability science, in this and other areas, to benefit Australia and Australians and to help the planet.”

Surfing the next wave of digital innovation

Data-driven solutions in cities are among the key opportunity areas that Australia can develop, and benefit from, by embracing the next wave of digital innovation.

The landmark Digital Innovation report outlines the nation’s next billion dollar industries and strategic areas where Australia can draw on existing strengths and collaborations, to create data-driven industries that drive jobs and economic growth.

Commissioned by CSIRO’s Data61, the report was prepared by AlphaBeta Advisors, and launched at the D61+ LIVE event in Brisbane.

“Every sector of the global economy has been re-defined as a result of digital science and technology and the extensive use of data,” according to Adrian Turner, CEO at CSIRO’s Data61.

“This next digital wave to revolutionise existing industries and create entirely new ones is ours to capture. But the opportunity is perishable if we don’t collectively take action now.”

Data61 researchers study a six legged robot

While Australia has had economic growth for some time, the report shows the need to increase productivity and find new sources of export competitiveness to secure the economy’s future prosperity in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

AlphaBeta Director, Dr Andrew Charlton, said digital innovation has created enormous value globally and accounts for around 11 per cent of GDP in advanced economies, amounting to an annual value of $6 trillion. However, Australia has lagged our peers in capturing these benefits.

“Digital innovation is critical to improving our nation’s productivity and sustaining economic growth. It’s not just about creating the next Google or replicating Silicon Valley,” Dr Charlton said.

Immersive Environments Lab

Australia’s strongest opportunities arise from focusing R&D investment and applying digital innovation to existing industry strengths where key drivers of competitiveness are already in place such as strong domestic markets and in high quality basic research.

The report identifies eight high-potential opportunities for Australia in digital innovation, including: precision healthcare, digital agriculture, data-driven urban management, cyber-physical security, supply chain integrity, proactive government, legal informatics, and smart exploration and production.

“Progressive data-driven organisations are investing in four core areas to realise value from data; data capture, management, analysis and taking action with it. Combining this data with domain expertise, in areas like healthcare, agriculture and mining, is where we can create an unfair advantage,” Mr Turner said.

Data61 has launched a national digital challenges program to build stronger collaborations to tackle and accelerate outcomes for some of these high-potential opportunities.

“Data61 is helping Australian organisations capture the opportunity of digital innovation by bringing the ecosystem of government, industry and academia together to create new value,” Mr Turner said.

“As part of Australia’s national science agency, we have access to proven domain expertise and combine it with Data61’s deep data science and engineering excellence to deliver digital innovations that are large scale and globally relevant.”