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Redfern's green housing project unveiled

While the silvertails of Kirribilli discuss solar panel rebates and water harvesting over a latte, Redfern locals can now look forward to having their carbon footprint reduced, as residents of the first Green public housing project reports Patrick Billings in City News of 13th October 2008.

Housing NSW is hoping their new public housing initiative in Redfern sets a precedent for the industry. A first for residential properties, the Redfern development is one of six national housing projects involved in the first Green Star Residential rating system.

The Green Building Council of Australia, an industry funded NGO, devised the Green Star rating system as a tool to evaluate the environmental sustainability, or “greenness”, of a development.

“The Green Star is holistic environmental rating system which looks at the use of energy, water, transport, management, land and ecology in a development,” a spokesperson for the GBCA said.

So far it has only been used to rate commercial projects but the GBCA is now challenging the residential property market to adopt their Green Star standards. According to research conducted by the NSW Department of Planning and Energy Australia, residential apartments are responsible more carbon emissions per year than in any other residential structure.

A Housing NSW spokesman said the Redfern development would set a benchmark, with the department seeking to build a new generation of public housing blocks which are green friendly.

“The 106 public housing units at the Redfern development will set a precedent, which we will be basing our future projects on.”

To achieve the Green Star rating, Housing NSW, who are developing the site, will need to adhere to guidelines set out by the GBCA.

“Developers must provide extensive documentation to independent assessors and if everything checks out, fingers crossed, they will be given a Green Star Rating,” the GBCA spokesperson said.

Green Star rated apartments are in high demand, often fully tenanted before construction is finished. For public housing tenants this will mean design features they are not normally accustomed to – features like water harvesting, ventilation systems for natural heating and cooling and materials with low toxic emissions.

“There will be a significant improvement in the living surroundings. We encourage the use of paints and materials which are low in volatile organic materials so it creates a healthier environment,” the GBCA spokesperson said.

“All this translate into health benefits and financial savings for residents due to the low operating costs.” the Housing NSW spokesperson said.

While the project is likely to have higher construction costs, Housing NSW believes these would be recovered over time.

“For any increase in short term costs there will be greater long term savings as the buildings are more economical to maintain,” the spokesman said.