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Fremantle brings key players together to showcase a green built future

Blinco Street Eco Home
Blinco Street Eco Home

City of Fremantle is achieving what is believed to be a first for Sustainable House Day (SHD), with all three tiers of government and the private sector coming together to showcase pathways towards a greener built environment next weekend.

Defence Housing Australia, a federal government enterprise, will be opening up its One Planet Living aligned multi-residential development, Liv Apartments. Western Australian Government agency, LandCorp, is putting a range of the homes and apartments at its White Gum Valley estate on show, and Freo’s mayor, Brad Pettitt, will have his own home open for pre-booked tours.

The City has also organised a city-wide series of events between this Thursday 13 September and Sunday 16 September, including workshops and talks, to coincide with the nation-wide SHD weekend.

LIV Apartments

Events include a “Grand Designs Freo” exhibition of architectural drawings and renders of sustainable homes, in High Street Mall.

Leading green architect Josh Byrne will be hosting a panel discussion of the city’s three One Planet Living developments at Liv Apartments; a number of architects and home owners will show off their project’s credentials in a PechaKucha inspired event; and on the Saturday, locals can “meet the tradies” and get free advice from the experts about making their homes more sustainable. 

Pettitt told The Fifth Estate council that he saw it as an opportunity to celebrate the good things that are happening in terms of sustainability in the city.

Opening up his own home is about inspiring others to take things forward.

“My house is no grand heritage exemplar,” he says. “It is very much a work in progress.

“It tells another part of the story [of sustainable homes].”

The 1950s post-war home – originally asbestos fibro – is an example of a common style of design and construction in the city.

“There is a lot of this kind of housing.”

Blinco Street Eco Home

Pettitt and his partner have been gradually modifying the home to make it more sustainable, including adding rainwater harvesting, solar PV and improving its passive functioning.

“It has some good lessons to share – both successes and failures,” he says.

The house is also part of the Smart City trial being implemented across Freo. One of the key elements of the trial is the RENeW Nexus project in partnership with the Power Ledger energy sharing platform.

The platform enables trading of solar energy between those who have rooftop PV and those who don’t, such as many renters. Many of the homes opening for SHD, including Pettitt’s, are part of the project.

The trial has been supported by the state-government owned energy retailer, West Power, and the state-owned distributor, Synergy.

Pettitt says the state entities became involved with Power Ledger because they recognise it is an approach to energy that is essential to enable the energy network to have a workable future.

Sustainable House Day is a chance to demonstrate both this kind of high-tech innovation, and the really simple initiatives at the other end of the spectrum, that can deliver green gains.

There are some “really great lessons” to be learned from looking at homes like his, for example, improving cross-ventilation.

Changes made to Pettitt’s home have enabled it to take advantage of the “Fremantle Doctor”, the cooling sea breeze that appears almost every afternoon.

“Living to the north” to take advantage of winter sunshine is another simple strategy.

In terms of the bigger city-wide picture, Freo has continued to be “very passionate” about the One Planet Living principles, and these remain at the forefront of council decision-making.

It was one of the first councils in Australia to become certified by Bioregional Australia as a One Planet Living council.

“I am lucky to be mayor of a community that’s passionate [about sustainability], Pettitt says.

The role of councils in driving green initiatives is vital in the absence of state and federal government leadership, he says.

“Local government is where it’s at,” he says.

And buildings represent the “lowest hanging and most effective fruit” for councils in terms of reducing city footprints.

Economically, the city is on sound footing. Pettitt says it is “very well-served” in terms of professionals such as architects and creative industry practitioners such as graphic designers. It is also a working port city, and the main port for the state’s import and export activities.

It is, however, also an economy transitioning away from reliance on the state’s extractive industries.

Tourism is an important part of the future economic picture, and Pettitt says the city has done a good job of protecting its built heritage as part of building its tourism magnetism.

“We need to get better at offering tourists something unique [in Western Australia].”

The creative industries are also a key driver for the future economic engine for the city.

Many of the local creatives have global clients they serve from their Freo base, he says. Sectors they operate in include fashion, graphic design, tech and architecture.

The city is attractive to creatives because they want to be in places that are “interesting, authentic and have character”.

The number of hot desking spaces in the city is growing, Pettitt says. They are attracting entrepreneurs as well as offsite staff for enterprises such as Power Ledger, which has its head office in Perth but some staff based in Freo.

The state government has also been implementing some decentralisation initiatives that have benefited the city. WA’s Department of Communities recently relocated 1500 workers out of the Perth CBD and into Freo.

The Notre Dame University campus and the city’s major hospital also have a “good synergy” that generates both job opportunities and educational opportunities across health sciences, nursing and other fields, Pettitt says.

“The university [a hybrid of private university and public university] is growing quite well.”

It attracts both local students and overseas students, including a significant number of students from the USA, due to its affiliation with the USA’s Notre Dame University.

Housing affordability is one of the city’s big challenges, Pettitt says. In central Freo, the median house price is around $800,000, compared to Perth’s median of $500,000. Gentrification has driven prices up in the heart of the city, similar to the way prices shifted in Melbourne’s Fitzroy and St Kilda and Sydney’s Bondi, Pettitt explains.

To tackle the problem, he says council is focusing on both sustainability in terms of housing developments and achieving a good mix of diverse and affordable housing types.

Council also drives its One Planet Living principles across how it approaches new developments in the city, with a range of requirements and incentives in place to ensure projects deliver outcomes above the minimum requirements of state planning rules and the National Construction Code.

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