WestWyck eco-village demonstrates sustainable development is well and truly achievable and compatible with high quality design and does not compromise normal Australian values for residential living. Stage One of the eco-village site includes a balance of communal and private open space, landscaped with attention to whole of water cycle management including use of local native and productive plants. The townhouses built on the former playgrounds and the apartments built within the former school building are of quality architect design based on a brief which emphasised innovative environmental criteria and living more compactly or densely without compromising quality of living.
The design minimised reliance on power sourced from the electricity grid and potable water drawn from the mains supply, seized opportunities to re-use and recycle materials and waste water and utilised materials and finishes which took into account 'healthy building' criteria.
Most of the apartments have been created over three levels by ingenious re-engineering of the ceiling space in the old school building. Their design aimed to retain the classroom 'feel' and any remnant heritage features whilst incorporating a strong emphasis on accessing northern light through double-glazed roof penetrations. The insulation and double-glazing regime provides efficient thermal and acoustic properties. Private external living areas have been designed by a landscape artist and feature stone slabs, weathered steel and water-sensitive plantings. Apartments share rainwater tanks, grey and blackwater recycling and solar hot water.
The common style of all apartments is polished mountain ash floors, using the original boards where possible and second hand where it is available. The heating system is solar-heated, gas boosted hydronic. The hot water service for four of the apartments uses rainwater with a capacity for mains top-up and is a communal system gaining in efficiency by using shared panels and storage tank. All cooking in the apartments is gas, which fitted the sustainability logic at the turn of the century, and the most appropriate energy efficient lighting available on the market at the time was selected for each application.
The architect-designed townhouses are integrated into the historic site focussed upon the former school buildings to achieve an eco-village in an urban context. The close connection with the original school building is enforced through examples like the use of original oregon timber reclaimed from the school building being reapplied as a feature.
The townhouses have the north-south orientation advantage that enabled the maximisation of passive solar design opportunities with main living areas benefiting from the northern aspect for light and warmth in winter and with utility areas such as the laundry and bathroom located further to the south. Slab on ground construction, together with internal masonry party walls provides thermal mass. Add in the impressive insulation and double-glazing regime and residents enjoy low energy and water bills.
North-facing living areas open onto external decks which also include storage facilities. All townhouses include a below ground rainwater tank, grey and blackwater recycling, solar hot water and a small photovoltaic array.
It is true to say that each dwelling, apartment and townhouse, is a 'one-off' design, trying to capitalise on its particular contribution to the WestWyck site.