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Fremantle’s sustainable village to inspire with carbon storing hemp, blockchain and electricity to sell

Representation of what the hemp house prototype will look like when completed.

Perth-based company Mirreco’s first prototype microhome made out of its hemp building panels is set to be built as part of LandCorp’s ultra-sustainable community development in Fremantle.

LandCorp’s East Village development will be a sustainable living showcase for the state, with Power Ledger’s blockchain-enabled electricity sharing technology, a microgrid supply network for water and power and a shared on-site battery among the key sustainability features.

It makes it the ideal site for Mirreco to demonstrate the feasibility of its hemp-based building panels that can be used in floors, walls, partitioning and roofing.

Hemp itself is a sustainable crop that needs little water and is quick to grow, maturing from seed to plant in as little as three months.

The fastest trees grow in about 20 years… “We can achieve the same thing over three months”

The company has developed a specialised machine for processing the hemp, which cuts down the manufacturing time for the building panels to under an hour.

But the most important aspect is the above ground carbon storage capabilities of the product, Mirreco chief executive Rich Evans told The Fifth Estate.

Arcforms principal designer Daniel Patterson

“We’ve developed a technology that can capture and store carbon… people are going crazy about timber, but the fastest trees grow in about 20 years,” he says.

“We can achieve the same thing in around three months.”

The designer behind the prototype microhome is Arcforms principal designer Daniel Patterson. He’s also a director at Mirreco.

He says that the team is striving towards an ultra-low carbon product – with the goal to achieve carbon-positive in the future ­– made possible with the assistance of technologies and appliances supplied by the company’s partners.

One of those is ClearVue Technologies, another Perth company, which provides clear photovoltaic solar glass windows that use micro and nanoparticles in the lamination layer of the glass to deflect UV and infrared light to solar cells embedded in the glass’s margins.

The electricity generated by the PV glass will supplement other onsite solar used to power the home while simultaneously allowing light into the building.

A smart home energy management system can be managed with a voice assistant and gives occupants control over the quality of the air, moisture

There will be no mechanical cooling or heating. Instead, passive heating and cooling techniques will be applied to ensure occupant comfort, with the microhome aiming for passive house certification.

The passive design means the home is sealed and minimal air will leak in and out. To keep fresh air flowing through, an energy efficient Stiebel Eltron ventilation system will be installed.

This system will be linked to a smart home energy management system, which can be managed with a voice assistant and gives occupants control over the quality of the air, moisture, and a myriad of other functions.

Block chain enabled and with excess electricity to sell

The home will also be blockchain-enabled and capable of selling excess electricity it generates – which will be a lot thanks to the super energy efficient design – providing an income stream for the inhabitants.

The team is also working on a blockchain technology itself that can demonstrate provenance of carbon, similar to what is already being done with energy.

There will also be efficient V-Zug appliances and EV charging in the prototype home.

According to Rich Evans, one of the biggest challenges of the project has been integrating the various cutting-edge technologies so that they all work together. He expects there will be a few more kinks to iron out once construction starts in the coming months, pending final council approvals.

But it’s an innovative prototype intended to inspire, he explained, which he hopes will be a catalyst for the construction industry to pursue more sustainable options.

He also says the Fremantle development is the ideal place to put his company’s big vision into practice.

The East Village sustainable community development is a collaboration between the WA government land developer, the Australian government Smart Cities initiative, energy and infrastructure providers and other players.

There will be 36 energy efficient homes on the 1.5 hectare site. The hope is to shave as much as 50 per cent off the occupants’ electricity bills, saving them up to $1200 a year.

As well as the trading of energy between “prosumers”, the houses (including the Mirreco prototype) will be able to trade water – where water captured from rooftops both avoids the need to dispose of it through the stormwater system and can be used in lieu of drinking quality mains water for uses such as toilet flushing and gardening, all with a value attached.

The CRC for Low Carbon Living will be monitoring the performance of the sustainable community with its onsite Living Lab that will provide real-time monitoring of the system, and data visualisation and will be available for researchers, students and other interested parties to further their understanding of how these systems can work.

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