Time for a change

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Sustainability advocate Josh Byrne is putting his money where his mouth is by building two 10-star homes and sharing the ups and downs of the build online to get people thinking about change.
Construction has begun on environmental scientist, landscape designer and Gardening Australia presenter Josh Byrne’s new 10 star home, an innovative project designed to prove that energy efficient, water-wise residential homes can be built on the same timeline and budget as any other typical suburban house. “We live in a time of unprecedented wealth and comfort, but the reality is that its at the expense of natural capital,” Josh says. “We can either choose to ignore this, or get serious about making intelligent choices to live more sustainably. For me, sustainability is a journey, not a destination.”

Designed by Solar Dwellings and being built by Highbury Homes, the “Josh’s House” project in Hilton will achieve 10 stars under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme. The project will see two residents come to life – one for Josh’s family and the other for his sister-in-law – using standard building methods and the same design principles across different floor plans. Josh says the decision to build two homes was largely because of affordability. “Its a big block – 1160sqm – which is large enough to comfortably fit two reasonably sized family homes with garden space,” he says. “It is a big undertaking, but its something Ive always wanted to do and know that well end up with homes that will suit us perfectly.”

In documenting the project, sponsored by the Water Corporation, Josh will also present an online miniseries, recording and sharing the building process every few weeks, warts and all. The first episode is now available on www.joshshouse.com.au “We want the information to be accessible as possible. Making the film series available on the web means that this is available to anyone, anytime, anywhere,” Josh says. “It also lends itself to linkages with social media channels, which we want to be a big part of the project. Basically, we want to start and help sustain a conversation and get people invloved in thinking about change. “I want this project to encourage people to ask the right questions from their designer or builder to help them get a better result.” As the cost of running a household increases, Josh also believes the timing of the project is perfect. “People are becoming more aware of the available options interms of energy efficient design and products and asking more questions,” he says. “The reality is that times are tough in the building industry and the smart people are looking for an edge. Helping people to create a home that costs less to run, is comfortable and healthy to love in, and also looks terrific is a pretty good edge.”

Making the project even more engaging is its efforts in comprehensive industry and community engagement. Josh has made a commitment to share all of the plans and details, as well as data collected from monitoring the efficiency of the home, for free on the projects website.
Look out for regular updates on the project in HOME. Visit www.joshshouse.com.au to sign up for the newsletter or head to www.facebook.com/joshshouse10star for the latest news of the project.

The Sunday Times, Homes lift out, Sunday 2nd December 2012, story by Arylene Westlake-Jennings