Josh’s House Episode Two


Construction of Josh’s House is now underway and in this episode Josh gets excited about the dual plumbing and grey water systems that are being installed. The team also speak to Ed Hauck from the WA Department of Water and catch up with Josh’s family Kellie, Lisa, Ollie and Caitlin.


Project of the Year 2012

We’ve had some fantastic projects over the last year and picking a winner has been a really difficult task. But pick a winner we must, so here goes…
eTool’s Project of the Year 2012 is the Sustainability Learning Centre!

Sustainbility Learning Centre


The first of its kind in Australia, this low carbon education centre ‘walks the talk’ in all aspects of its design and will soon be taking their pledge even further as they plan to make the building zero carbon in 2013. We’ve been truly inspired by some of the design ideas, features and commitment to using local and recycled materials wherever possible in the design, as Rich highlights…

“The Sustainability Learning Centre is one of the most inspirational and innovative projects we’ve worked on. The reuse of materials, local sourcing and clever mix of bio fuel heating and solar PV lowered the overall carbon footprint to almost zero. A great outcome for everyone involved and the perfect case study for showing how we could be designing buildings throughout Australia,” Rich Haynes.

So a huge congratulations to everyone involved in the project including Morrison & Breytenbach ArchitectsGreening Australia, the Tasmanian Department of Education, CSIRO Education, Independent Schools Association of TasmaniaTasmanian Catholic Education Office and Clinka, who have worked very hard over the last three years to get this wonderful project off the ground!

To find out more about our assessment of the design, take a look at the detailed case study here.

Josh’s House Episode One

Introducing Josh’s House, a project and video series following the design and construction of two 10 star energy efficient family homes in the Fremantle suburb of Hilton, Western Australia with Josh Byrne environmental scientist & presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, his young family and sister in law.
This first episode explains the plan and what work has been done up to this point as well as introducing Josh and his family. It’s going to be a comprehensive and exciting project and you are all invited along for the ride with plenty of info, thoughts and ideas being made available to you via Josh’s House website, facebook, twitter and video. We encourage you to be a part of it!

Josh Byrne’s Sustainable Housing Project Gets Underway!

After 20 years renovating other people’s houses and gardens to demonstrate his sustainable design ideas, Josh Byrne (Environmental Scientist & presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia) is undertaking his most ambitious house project yet – the design and construction of two 10 Star energy efficient family homes in the Fremantle suburb of Hilton.

The homes will be thermally comfortable year round, without the need for air conditioning or additional heating. They will generate more electricity than they use and will harvest and recycle water. In addition to private garden areas, a common productive garden will supply both houses with fresh food.

What sets this project apart from many others is that the building designs have achieved a 10 Star energy efficiency rating*, whilst intentionally using conventional building materials and construction methods so that they can easily be replicated by industry and the wider community. “The project also demonstrates a more sensitive approach to residential subdivision that has considered maximising effective garden area around the homes to allow for natural shading, children’s play spaces and local food production – important health and lifestyle benefits that are rapidly disappearing from our suburbs”, says Josh Byrne.

Josh describes the homes as “a new take on the classic Hilton brick and weatherboard look”, with a mix of modern rendered finishes, old style weatherboards and heritage red brickwork in high impact areas. The sympathetic roof lines, combined with the generous building setback of the front house will fit comfortably with the 1950’s feel of the suburb.

The floor plans are typical of many family homes – three bedrooms, two bathrooms, with an open planned kitchen, dining and living room area, plus an activities room, but there are a few subtle points of difference. Firstly the orientation of the houses, window location and internal layout has been done on the basis of maximizing the solar passive performance.

Consideration has been given to universal access, by keeping to one level, opting for slightly wider doorways (870mm) with flush thresholds to all external doors, and hobless showers.

The external walls of the homes are a conscious combination of double brick, reverse veneer brickwork and lightweight timber framing. All external walls are insulated with a combination of bulk insulation and closed cell foil insulation. Low-e type glazing has been used throughout to regulate heat flow, with only one window on each dwelling (the kitchen) requiring double glazing to achieve the 10 Star NatHERS rating. The roof is conventional timber construction using light coloured reflective roof sheeting with insulated foil underneath. The ceiling will be lined with bulk insulation to achieve an R4.0
insulation value.

The northern living areas will feature a decorative concrete slab finish to soak up and store the heat from the winter sunlight
and to help stabilize internal temperature during summer. Internal walls will generally be plastered single leaf brickwork with some double brick walls used to add additional thermal mass to the main living areas, as well as sound insulation to selected rooms.

Lighting will be provided by a combination of LED down lights in the bedrooms and living areas (kitchen, dining living room and activity room), and compact fluorescent globes in occasional use areas (bathroom, laundry, toilet and hallway). Reversible ceiling fans will also be installed in the bedrooms and living areas to provide downward cooling in summer and upward circulation of warm air in winter.
Each house will have a 3kW grid connected photovoltaic system installed which will generate more power than required to run the homes, as well as gas boosted solar hot water systems. Solar tubes will help to ‘daylight’ internal areas such as walk-in robes to reduce the need for artificial lighting. High efficiency shower heads and tapware have been selected, and the low volume dual flush toilets have integrated hand basins which use tap water, which then fills up the cisterns.

The landscaping will also help address a number of pressing urban sustainability issues including improved household energy efficiency through appropriate shading, habitat provision with local native plantings, as well as local food production with an extensive shared vegetable garden, home orchard, poultry, composting and worm farm system.

Both houses will have direct diversion greywater systems to provide irrigation to selected areas, as well as rainwater tanks for internal usage, with mains water back up for dry periods. The productive garden will be watered from a shared bore and state of the art centrally controlled irrigation system, incorporating both soil moisture monitoring and weather monitoring to maximise water efficiency.

In addition to the 10 Star NatHERS rating achieved for both homes, the development has undergone further scrutiny to assess their environmental impact, sustainability & liveability credentials. Josh engaged two local emerging companies to assist with this process – eTool, who undertook a life cycle and carbon accounting assessment and ARCActive who assessed the project across a broad range of sustainability criteria including energy, water, materials and biodiversity amongst others.

Overall the project rated very well, with the homes expected to use less than 10% of the energy of a typical Australian new house, saving the occupants an average of $2,000 per year in energy costs. The house will emit less than 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions normally created by Australian dwellings and use around 40% of the scheme water of a typical Perth home, whilst still supporting a diverse and productive garden.

People can follow Josh’s journey via a series of short online films which can be viewed on the project website. The building and landscape plans can be downloaded for free and factsheets on various aspects of the build will made available across the construction period. There will also be a research component to the project to assess the thermal performance, as well as energy and water efficiency of the homes and landscaping once they are completed and operational, with the intention of making the data available to industry and research institutions.

“This project is all about providing an inspiring and practical example of how to create beautiful and resource efficient homes that are accessible to the broader community” says Josh. “Key to the project’s success will be the industry partnerships that we will form and foster throughout the process to help share ideas and promote the outcomes.” 

There has already been significant interest from industry with a number of leading suppliers and industry association partnering with Josh and his team. “We’re thrilled to have Highbury Homes as our builder and to be working with Griff Morris from Solar Dwellings on the design – from concept to completion. The Water Corporation and the City of Fremantle have also got right behind us, as have a number of other organisations”.

Find out how the designs performed in their eTool LCA assessment or for more about the project and to sign up for the free Josh’s House eNewsletter visit:

* Refers to the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) which is based on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest rating score. 6 stars is the minimum energy efficiency standard required under the Building Code of Australia.

Driving change in retail construction

Over the last few months, we’ve been working with conscientious building company Interface Constructions who really ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to marrying sustainability and the retail sector. With a strong environmental ethos driven by director Marc Masci, they are certainly leading the way, and to our knowledge are the first builders in Australia to offer carbon offset construction services to the retail industry.

Marc became interested in understanding the embodied carbon related to his work and has been using eTool LCA to measure all of his projects, both past and present. Since our first project with Marc, Interface have implemented a carbon management program and will be using eTool during the design phase to lower the carbon impact of his future retail projects.

Partnering with not for profit Carbon Neutral, Marc has already offset 20 tonnes with Australian native tree planting projects and will be featured as their Carbon Hero of the month in February.

For more information about Interface Constructions’ work with us, click here.


Award Winning Stevens Street

2012 has definitely been Steven Street’s year!
Finishing in early 2012, the luxury zero carbon development in Fremantle received both national and international recognition for its refreshing approach to adaptive reuse of materials throughout the building design and construction.

Since being awarded The Walter Greenham Sustainable Architecture Award by the WA Chapter of AIA in July, the praise has been thick and fast. The AIA jury said the development “brings design excellence and sustainable architecture together in a cohesive and seamless demonstration of environmental, social and technological innovation” and commented on its rigorous environmental design initiatives.

The project was also recognised as an “outstanding example” of increasing density within a tight suburban site and took out The Harold Krantz Award for Multiple Residential in WA as well as receiving a national commendation at the AIA awards on 1st November.

The most recent accolade came earlier this month, as Steven St triumphed once again over fierce competition including Monash University Student Housing and Lochiel Park Apartments to take out BPN’s sustainability award for Multi-Density Residential 2012. The judges said: “making intelligent use of rammed recycled rubble as mass, the onsite recycling and adaptive reuse of materials represents genuine innovation. It’s an effort well beyond the norm. The use of an eTool assessment is to be commended; the solar orientation is excellent; and the project cost is impressive. “

To find out more about this environmentally innovative and architecturally stunning development by EarthCare, take a look at a detailed project overview here.

Images by Robert Frith – Acorn

Update: Quantifying the benefits of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest steel arch bridge and acts as a passage for rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore. For the last 80 years, the bridge has been an international icon of Australia and all the social benefits associated with it are immeasurable. But what about all the steel, concrete, manpower and all the other impacts involved with the construction of the bridge. Has it paid itself off from an environmental perspective?

The material list includes 53,000 tonnes of steel, mostly imported by boat from the UK, 95,000 cubic metres of reinforced concrete and 18,000 cubic metres of granite that was transported 300km from the North of Sydney by specially built ships.

Using historic Australian records of the construction of the bridge, an eTool LCA was conducted to quantify and compare the results and benefits for both society and the planet.

Here are some interesting results:

Carbon impact of materials is dominated by imported steel for the arch followed by concrete for foundations.
Assembl­y impacts are very low when compared to total construction impact due to the use of cranes and manual work (6 million hand driven rivets!)
Transportation impacts are associated with materials transportation, especially the 79% imported steel from the UK.
Recurring painting maintenance and repair work represents only 6% of total embodied impact and will significantly increase bridge life.
Global Warming Potential (tonnes of CO2e)

Materials 270,693 83%

Assembly 6,499 2%

Transport 27,519 8%

Recurring 20,295 6%

Total 325,006

The predicted design life of the bridge used in the LCA was 300 years. This is another interesting topic because since the bridge is built with independent steel structures, the parts that present structural problems that can’t be repaired on site are replaced with new ones.

So, using eTool LCA results we were able to compare the embodied carbon impacts of the bridge with the operational carbon savings in reducing distances and fuel combustion.

The distance from Cammeray to Sydney passing through the bridge nowadays is 7 km and the route before the bridge via Gladesville was 17.6 km. Calculating CO2 emissions associated with fuel combustion savings over all these years and the average amount of vehicles crossing the bridge everyday, it represents a total savings of 11,850,720 tCO2e. The embodied impacts of construction achieved a carbon pay off due to transport fuel savings around 1955, and since then with the growth in transport across the bridge, have been repaid a further 35 times!

Whilst researching the LCA, we had a chat with Peter Mann, the asset manager of the bridge, who thinks the bridge will last another 300 years under the current maintenance regime. The bridge will potentially pay itself off a couple hundred times by then, which is an incredible environmental payback on an infrastructure project.

This is a great example of just how powerful LCA analysis is when evaluating infrastructure.
eTool LCA was designed to be totally scalable and used in any project from infrastructure to commercial and residential.

Contact us for more information about designing with eTool and getting the best outcome for your next project.

This assessment was conducted by Henrique Mendonca.

An update – Is the LCA on the Sydney Harbour Bridge too simplistic?

Absolutely!  Conducting an LCA on something as complex as the harbour bridge is much more complex than assessing a single product or building.  The reason being is that its influence is far reaching.  In a simple product LCA, practitioners will normally use an attributional method of assessing impacts.  In the case of a large piece of infrastructure that has far reaching influence, it’s more appropriate to use consequential analysis (see this article for more info ).

We definitely simplified the assumptions around the consequences of the bridge being built verse not being built.  We assumed the vehicle movements from north to south would not have significantly changed with or without the bridge.  This is incorrect for a number of reasons:

  • The bridge may have actually encouraged people to buy and use cars because it made their use even more attractive than before the bridge was built
  • Without the bridge, people may have chosen an alternative transport method (eg. ferry) or reduce their trips across the harbour because the car trip was too inconvenient via the long route.

However, after conducting this simple analysis, the advantages of the bridge were so clear that making further assumptions about how the bridge has influenced the above behaviour didn’t seem worthwhile as it is very unlikely it would have changed the overall result.  It may have doubled the payback period, but would not have changed the result from net positive to net negative.

The other part of the analysis that is quite important here is the forms of transport we didn’t mention. We just assessed the impact of reduced car use.  We didn’t assess the even greater efficiency advances associated with train, tram (up to 1958), bus, bicycle and pedestrian use.  In fact, nowadays, nearly 20% of people crossing the bridge daily are not travelling by car.  Furthermore, there have been significant policy changes that have impacted the bridge’s influence on sustainability. Originally the bridge had 6 vehicle lanes, 2 tram lanes and 2 train lanes;  the trams more than likely carried more passengers than the vehicle lanes during their tenure.  That’s not to say trams and trains (driven by largely coal fired electricity) are the silver bullet to sustainable transport either, however they are a vast improvement on typical car use.

Was there a more sustainable option?

Of course, for example, if in 1923, instead of initiating construction of the bridge we had been able to halt car sales and development of transport infrastructure we could have avoided an incredible increase in carbon emissions in the Sydney region due to transport. Perhaps a bit extreme? This debate is a big can of worms, and halting development isn’t actually a prerequisite of sustainability.

It turns out that due to education and health (very nice by-products of development) the human population on earth is set to stabilize at about 9 billion people.  (

At that level we could afford to emit about one tonne of carbon per person per year and the earth would be able to naturally draw this from the atmosphere. So our brief is to determine a lifestyle that accommodates 9 billion people on one planet.

For the harbour bridge, this probably would have meant two vehicle lanes (for buses and unavoidable commercial traffic run on biofuels and renewable electricity), an extra cycle lane or two, four heavy rail lines and four light rail lines (both run on renewable electricity).
So we have a few paradigm shifts to make before we reach this utopia (imagine it, it will be fantastic) but it’s not unrealistic over the next 80 years of the harbour bridge’s lifespan (think of where the world has come in the first 80 years since the bridge was opened, it would have been very hard to imagine in 1932).  On another positive note, it’s possible that “peak unsustainability” per person has probably been surpassed in Australia, we are finally trending the right direction.

Helping retailers become carbon neutral

Everyday more and more businesses are going carbon neutral to help “give something back” to the environment as well as increase the value of their products and services. Pushing the boundaries of sustainable design in the retail space is Interface Construction who have implemented a carbon management program to enhance their business operations in retail fit outs.

With sustainability an established part of the business, many environmental practices were already in place, for example using sustainable certified materials, participating in the process of materials reuse with manufacturers, reducing waste due to careful planning and implementation and recycling onsite. The next step was to quantify their carbon footprint in order to compare and improve their service.

An eTool Life Cycle Assessment was conducted on one of Interface Construction’s jobs for ISV to firstly measure greenhouse gas emissions. The project included retrofitting an ensuite, kitchen and installing new joinery items.

With the core business objective of being carbon neutral in mind, the LCA report supported Interface Constructions in making decisions to avoid generating emissions. We identified that the transportation of trade staff to and from site was a large component, so recommended optimising visits onsite to help reduce overall carbon emissions. Material use is also a big factor, representing 60% of the carbon footprint; but by increasing the use of recycled timber and particle board, savings of 400 kg CO2e could be achieved.

Low carbon design principles were discussed during the Life Cycle Assessment process that could further reduce the impact of the fit out:

  • Increase the design life of the fit out with smart design and enabling retrofitting
  • Use of polished concrete floor in place of tiles
  • Designing for disassembly for future reuse

Operational Energy was not modelled as part of this project, however we believe that considering this area during a fit-out could lead to significant environmental and cost benefits for the building owner through energy efficiency measures.

Once all the recommendations and measures have been implemented, Interface Construction will be them able to offset the residual GHG emissions, a total of 1,663 kg CO2e, to bring this job to carbon neutral status.

If you have any questions regarding the use of cost effective LCA for quantifying, comparing and improving environmental and cost impacts or would like some low carbon design training, please contact us.


This assessment was conducted by Henrique Mendonca.

The Green Swing Project Update

The Green Swing project is an innovative, sustainable development of four dwellings in Perth’s inner city.

Building their very own dream sustainable homes are couples Mark and Alana Dowley and Helmut and Eugenie Stockman. They want to demonstrate that you can create small scale inner city living environments in Perth which:

  • Are the most sustainable
  • Promote community feel and encourage creativity
  • Are of high quality
  • Become a showcase for future increased density sustainable development
  • Generate interest and inspire real change.

The project in short

  • 96 Rutland Avenue, Lathlain
  • Block size 837sqm
  • Zoning R40/60
  • About 5km from CBD
  • 400m from train station
  • Close to shops & facilities
  • 2 townhouses, 2 apartments
  • Purchase land January 2010
  • Planning approval December 2010
  • Building approval October 2011

After two years of intensive planning, building work started in December 2011.

The project consists of two townhouses and two units which have been designed using three construction types: reverse brick veneer, strawbale with earthen render and double brick.

Design features include:

  • Solar passive design
  • Grey and rainwater harvesting
  • Solar PV system
  • Solar hot water system
  • Green concrete
  • Double glazed windows with wooden frames
  • Insulation using recyled wool and Greenstuf (plastic)
  • Recycled materials: straw, bricks, timber, interior wood, wool, plastic bottles.

Although straw bale construction is considered an usual material choice, it is becoming more popular due to its excellent insulation properties. It is also a waste product that can be sourced locally product, offers the thermal mass needed and is biodegradable and recyclable.

Helmut and Eugenie chose to build with straw bale and are making great progress. The perfectly straight two story walls went up at the start of August and the render was put on just last week.

Last November, eTool helped the couples calculate the total impact of the entire development. Due to them building a medium density development, in a low density area, their design life is 115 years which is very high for inner city architecture. Overall, they achieved a Gold rating and saved a huge 108% of carbon against the benchmark. The full case study can be found here.

The Green Swing have also arranged a lease arrangement between the local council and local community garden association which allows for the re-vegetation of the “Sump” drain site next door at 98 Rutland Avenue to create a community garden and for everyone to enjoy. With the help of Josh Byrne, they have come up with this landscaping concept including native vegetation and a food forest.

Construction is on track to be finished by the end of the year/start of next year and The Green Swing couples and kids can’t wait to start enjoying all of their hard work in their very own dream, sustainable homes!

To follow the progress of The Green Swing project, find them on Facebook or visit their website.

Putting our homes to the test!

We all know building sustainably and making the right environmental decisions for your home can seem complicated, so we’ve decided to show you how simple it really is using eTool LCA…

Alex Bruce our Business Development Manager and in-house renewable energy engineer lives at 1 Wylie Place in Leederville, Perth. As some of you may know, Leederville is a very trendy area north of the river with lots of mixed development houses, units, shops, restaurants, a cinema, supermarket and many other businesses.

It’s part of the City of Vincent and just one train stop from Perth Underground Station, a 10-15 minute ride from the office (20-25 minutes if you’re me) or a 10 minute drive depending on the traffic.

Alex’s townhouse is a two floor, double brick construction and part of a Strata complex built in 1986.
So to get the LCA started, Henrique inputs the number of bedrooms, the construction type, suburb redevelopment potential, design quality and expected occupants. All of this information helps determine how long the building can last in terms of durability and also the design life.

As you can see below, although the building can last up to 175 years, due to the redevelopment potential of Leederville as an inner city area of Perth, the design life is 70 years. When designing a new building, these factors are very important as they help determine what kind of design is appropriate for an area, for example you wouldn’t want your beautiful new home redeveloped in 20 years time now would you?

Once the design life has been calculated, Henrique goes through the design sketch and specs and adds all of the construction information. It’s a pretty lengthy process as with both a new build or retrofit, we have to account for every material, where and how they have been transported, how the building has been assembled, trade staff and energy systems.

Now that we have all of this information in the LCA, we can see what uses the most amount of carbon. Alex’s pie chart shows that the operational energy is the biggest factor, which is the day to day running of all the appliances and heating and cooling etc. After operational comes the materials and recurring factors which are roughly 18% each.

Instead of leaving it as is, we offer recommendations to best optimise the design and make it as sustainable as possible…

Henrique’s recommendations will help lower the carbon impact of the house through better material selection and construction methods and give you the best return on investment in the long run.
With both retrofits and new build, it’s very important to consider using the most efficient energy resources available. In Australia, solar hot water and solar PV are great options to generate electricty and hot water for day to day living, but there is a huge variety of clever alternatives for each climate zone.

As Alex is a renewable energy engineer, he was very keen to be self sufficient and generate enough electricity to run the house and sell the excess back to the grid. From the Operational Energy chart below, you can see the cost implications of running a home, and using eTool LCA you can calculate how much money your chosen energy system will save you every year.

For a detailed look at the results of Alex’s case study, click here.

If you want to make your home design or retrofit more sustainable, send us your projects details today!