Canberra’s newest region has taken to the podium as one of Australia’s most eco-friendly communities, according to an internationally recognised rating system.
Ginninderry was first awarded 6 Stars by ‘Green Star’ in 2017. Now in 2022, it has reaffirmed its place as Canberra’s greenest community.
Green Star was founded by the Green Building Council of Australia in 2003 as a way of ranking the world’s homes, buildings and communities by their sustainability. Ginninderry’s win means developers in other countries such as the United States and Singapore are now looking at us for inspiration to see how it’s done.
By 2050, the region will comprise 11,500 dwellings and four suburbs spread across the ACT’s northern border. A market centre, recreation, sports and community facilities, and up to four schools are also in the pipeline.
Ginninderry sustainability manager Jessica Stewart says the Green Star certification is proof the master plan is on the money.
“When we started the project, we did a lot of thinking and spent a lot of time talking to community groups, traditional landholders, scientists, researchers and even futurists to establish our vision,” she says.
A ‘6 Star Green Star community’ might conjure images of solar panels on every roof and double glazing in every window, and that’s definitely the case.
“We make sure each home is double glazed and well insulated, is powered with solar and boasts other energy-efficiency features so people don’t need to spend as much on energy bills,” Jessica says.
You’ll also imagine plenty of greenery, and that’s true too.
Within Ginninderry’s first suburb of Strathnairn, 80 per cent of existing trees were retained – a figure much higher than the typical 25 to 50 per cent.
Couple that with more than 2500 new trees, 62,000 new shrubs, and 596 hectares of land along the Murrumbidgee River dedicated as a conservation corridor, and there’ll be no shortage of nature.
But it doesn’t stop there. Jessica says Ginninderry is creating a “new model for community-scale energy systems”. And – after negotiations with government – it starts with no natural gas.
By working in partnership with energy network providers, it’s hoped the community will generate and store its own renewable energy.
Key to this will be a community-scale battery the size of two Tesla car batteries, housed in a purpose-built enclosure. This will connect to Evoenergy’s grid and help control power flow in and out of the neighbourhood by storing and releasing power at certain times.
“We have allocated several other areas for battery storage projects as part of our vision for Ginninderry’s future energy system,” Jessica says.
With transport contributing 60 per cent of all ACT emissions, developers planned electric vehicle charging points at all schools, commercial centres and neighbourhood parks.
Transport Canberra doesn’t start servicing new suburbs until there are at least 2000 residents. To get around this dilemma, Ginninderry bought two shuttlebuses which have been operating since the first residents moved into their homes in February 2020.
All of the main boulevards are also ready to accommodate 5G infrastructure so any future autonomous vehicles don’t suffer internet blackspots.
Even the roads are made from a recycled substance called Reconophalt. This started life as three million plastic bags, 600,000 glass bottles and 75,600 printer cartridges.
But surely the 6 Green Star rating comes at a cost? Yes and no, says Jessica.
“The upfront cost of these energy-efficiency measures, while around $5000 more than a typical ACT home with ducted gas and evaporative cooling, is said to save around $2000 a year in energy costs.”
Even when it comes to the ACT’s current lack of affordable housing, Ginninderry offers a solution with its ‘Flexi-living Series’ of homes.
“These architecturally-designed, one, two- and three-bedroom homes are for people looking to enter or re-enter the property market,” Jessica says.
These are available to buyers with an annual income of less than $120,000, and are said to cater to the “missing middle”, posing as the sweet spot in size between an apartment and a traditional home.
“We’re always on the hunt for ideas that make sense – environmentally, socially and economically. We want to be replicable and act as a model for others to follow.”