Case Study: Ecovillage – a model for normal living in the future
L Blundell | 30 July 2009
The Ecovillage at Currumbin on the southern Gold Coast is in its final development phase, 14 years after the idea was first hatched by Landmatters’ Chris Walton, Kerry Shepherd and Colin Bear.
Located in the Currumbin Valley, The Ecovillage claims to have “pioneered how we must live today, and in the future, at a time when climate change and sustainable economics are the number one global issues.”
Primarily, the development emphasises living in harmony with the surrounding environment…and fellow human beings all through the simple mantra of design excellence.
According to Chris Walton, The Ecovillage is essentially just a well designed sub-division.
It uses innovative, yet practical, sustainable principles that encompass orientation, design of the home, water conservation, and insulation.
Walton believes the Ecovillage development is the future of the housing industry.
“The community based model that we have created at The Ecovillage, which is essentially just a very well designed land estate with major emphasis on community living, will be the way of the future – many people just have not realised it yet.”
All homes within The Ecovillage boast huge sustainability credentials including complete water autonomy and energy self-sufficiency. Smart design and excellent energy ratings assist the homes to be comfortable all year round with low environmental impact.
The estate incorporates other features including grid-connected solar power, edible landscapes, vast areas of open space and environmental reserve, permaculture and waste minimisation and recycling.
Careful building codes ensure homes are energy-efficient. They feature rainwater tanks, solar power and ‘EcoVision’ – an intelligent monitoring system that allows residents to keep track of their water, gas and electricity consumption.
The Ecovillage has been recognised locally, nationally and internationally for its world leading initiatives by taking out over 26 awards.
Last year it won the coveted 2008 International Prix D’Excellence, awarded by the International Real Estate Federation as the world’s best environmental development and the prestigious Housing Industry Association’s 2008 Green Smart National Building of the Year Award for one of The Ecovillage’s sustainable homes.
Walton says this recognition is an indicator that governments and those who matter the world over are sitting up and taking notice.
“The past year marks a poignant shift in the way we choose to live in our natural environment,” he said.
“The Federal Government’s ratifying of the Kyoto Protocol and the landmark Garnaut Report are proof that people in power are beginning to take notice of the destructive effects human beings are having on planet earth.
“A consumer study undertaken by the Australian National University shows that ‘green living’ is the number one consumer interest. So industry is starting to respond to this demand and indeed the urgent need to create sustainable housing.
“The Ecovillage community is proof of this – by example all homes boast huge sustainability credentials including water autonomy and energy self-sufficiency.”
According to Walton, sustainable practices incorporated into Ecovillage are now being use by mainstream developers throughout the world to future proof communities.
Not just about the environment
The concept underpinning the development is not just about environmental sustainability, says Walton. Social and economic equity are given the same importance as the environment.
In fact it’s the interaction between residents which forms the heart and soul of The Ecovillage community, he says.
This includes bartering the fruit and vegetables grown on site with fellow residents, car-pooling to limit the use of motorised vehicles, recycling and creating arts and crafts in the Village Centre and sharing recreation facilities.
Landmatters also has plans for a $10 million commercial precinct – the Village Centre, which will include a café/bakery, convenience store, Home Studio Top Shop accommodation and practitioner rooms. It will cater to residents in the Currumbin Valley and surrounding areas.
A recreational community facility, known as The Old Dairy, is already completed and features a lap/recreation pool, gym meeting hall, kitchen and playgrounds.
There is also 20km of walking and cycling trails throughout The Ecovillage.
Fibre optic cabling throughout the precincts ensure high speed communications, high quality television reception and other state of the art functions for business and everyday family use.
Sustainable practices within The Ecovillage are designed to create more affordable housing by reducing reliance on fossil fuel energy and increasing a reliance on natural renewable energy sources through innovative practices.
It is the all encompassing approach of considering the environment, social balance and economy, that Walton believes makes the Ecovillage markedly different from other environmentally sustainable developments.
In many ways, he says, the concept is taking us back to our roots by forging a sense of community, something that property developers have strayed from over the years.
Landmatters’ vision is to inspire sustainable living and development practice awareness by creating a residential community that exemplifies World’s Best Practice in Ecologically Sustainable Development.
“The innovative project design has followed a collaborative approach with an extensive and unprecedented community consultation program yielding strong design input from indigenous groups, residents, stakeholder groups, referral agencies and the general public,” Walton said.
High sales record and awards
Since the project was launched in 2005 more than $30 million in land has been sold.
There is now only one remaining lot for sale across the first two stages – Creek Ecohamlets and Valley Terraces– with the final stage release, the The Highlands at Currumbin precinct also proving popular with aspirational buyers, according to a spokesperson for the project.
Eleven recent sales have ranged in price from $337,000 to $850,000.
The Highlands features an assortment of 38 land parcels to be released in two stages, the first of which features 17 lots ranging in size from approximately 3000 square metres to more than 5649 sq m.
It has a limited number of allotments set in over 150 acres of open space. All lots include views, some to the ocean, open space and close proximity to city facilities. The site includes secluded pockets of rainforest and creek frontages.
Following the completion of The Ecovillage, Chris Walton and his partners will continue to consult to the development industry on sustainable living. Walton regularly addresses environmental and sustainable development forums both locally and internationally.
· Self-sufficiency in energy usage and complete autonomy in water and waste water recycling
· 80 per cent of the site as open-space, 50 per cent environmental reserve, with the same yield as standard development
· High levels of food and production through edible landscaping and streetscaping, household farming and other productive strategies
· Preservation of natural landforms and rehabilitation of the degraded site’s environmental integrity
· Extensive wildlife corridors, negligible vegetation loss and extensive native plant regeneration
· Cultural heritage honoured and integrated
· Mix of socially-oriented innovative ecological housing
· On-site work strategies and facilities for village and local community
· An innovative recycling centre
· Traffic strategies to reduce vehicle impacts on and off site
· Well researched administrative framework geared to social equity
· Continuing education in sustainable living and development practices through the Interpretive Centre
· Aims to achieve sustainable economic performance both with the development and the ongoing community