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Cape Paterson report claims major payback on sustainability

By Lyn Drummond

30  November 2011 – The developers of a planned ecovillage at Cape Paterson, 150 kilometres south east of Melbourne, claim that financial modelling shows residents could save $300,000 and shave eight years off a typical mortgage through 7.5 star construction and use of an electric car.

The study, Cape Paterson Ecovillage:Zero Carbon Study Peer Review, released on Tuesday, was , commissioned by Sustainability Victoria and the Cape Paterson Ecovillage.

Cape Paterson Ecovillage director Brendan Condon said sustainable technology had reached a tipping point where the financial benefits of building and living in environmentally friendly homes now outweighs the costs.

  • Pictured: Cape Paterson

Author of the report Anthony Szatow said key findings of the study include:

  • More efficient in-home technology, onsite power supply and electric vehicles, could realise up to 10 per cent after tax returns a year over 20 years
  • Continued improvements to house design, a bulk construction program, bulk buying program and delivery model innovation will drive down costs and further improve the financial proposition for residents
  • The extra investment in sustainability features is easily offset by energy and water savings that allow faster mortgage repayments

Mr Condon said: “Previously, the cost of sustainable residential development could not be justified on financial terms and buyers paid more for high standards of environmental performance.
“Our study shows this is no longer the case, and smart home buyers can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by investing in an eco-friendly home.”

Mr Condon and project director Mike O’Mullane said the project for 220 homes, will involve “large-scale revegetation of natural habitat (including planting about 600,000 plants indigenous to the area); re-establishing wetlands; new walking and cycling tracks; high performance sustainable housing; on site power generation; a fleet of communal electric vehicles; community gardens; and community workspaces.”

Highlights of the report include:

The ecovillage will mandate 7.5-star building fabric and encourage a high efficiency standard for all internal thermal systems including a solar hot water system boosted with a high efficiency heat pump and a minimum PV array size of 2.5kW or 5kW should a home be coupled with an electric vehicle. Minimal use of down-lights, use of LEDs and use of light sensors for transient locations will be encouraged. Induction cook-tops will be required and electric blankets will not be allowed. A 10,000 litre water tank will also be specified.

Compared to a new six-star house of the same size, Cape Paterson buyers could save between 2.5 years and 5.5 years on a 25 year mortgage when in-home energy and water savings accrued by virtue of sustainability features are used to accelerate mortgage repayments.

Cumulative savings on energy bills and mortgage payments could exceed $300,000 under the high future price scenario modelled in the study.

Financial benefits will vary depending on future energy and water price scenarios, the final delivery cost for sustainability features, mortgage variables and other factors specific to each home buyer.

While the current costs of going from six-star to 7.5-star appear high, and impact significantly on the net benefits of the ecovillage, these are likely to come down substantially over the course of the project as designs are refined and a bulk building program commences.

Cost reductions associated with a bulk build program factored in would add to the savings that could be made from proposed sustainability features and provide investment returns of between 5.9 per cent and 10 per cent after tax, based on future energy and water savings.

If capital costs associated with sustainability features assumed in the report come down 20 per cent with a bulk build program, after tax rates of return will increase to between 7.2 per cent and 11.2 per cent.

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