The rise of the sustainable home7 min read

The banning of plastics is just one movement in sustainability which has resonated well with Australians. Research shows that a third of urban Australians prefer to buy products sold in eco-friendly packaging (32%) and produced using sustainable sourcing methods (34%). With the need for more environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions – plastics are just the beginning of this movement.

MIRRECO™ is the Perth-based company committing itself to sustainability by driving the potential of industrial hemp, showcasing the new way of processing the plant to develop building panels which create affordable, carbon-neutral housing. The construction industry is responsible for 39 per cent of CO₂ emissions globally, through the manufacturing of materials, transport, construction practices, running and maintaining buildings. MIRRECO aims to de-carbonise and reduce this emission output by sourcing and working with local companies in Western Australia.

Richard Evans is the CEO of MIRRECO and says it is no longer acceptable to design buildings which perform to a level required to minimise an impact on the environment during its built life. “We must consider the impact during the manufacturing of materials and assembly methods to construct the building.” He confirms. “Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Less is more’ is not just an architectural and design moto; it can be an inspiration for other aspects of life too.”

MIRRECO’s basic principles follow the concept that the less adverse impact we create in the environment, the greater sustainability we will gift future generations. Richard showcases these beliefs by introducing the world’s first Lumecast prototype house, designed by Arcforms, which uses hemp combined with a range of other sustainable technologies. “Lumecast is guiding the way to a more sustainable world. Lume derives from the word luminous, and cast from the formation process of the hemp panels and together they are highlighting the way to a sustainable future.”

The dwelling for the build will be activated at the East Village at Knutsford, a project in Fremantle, Western Australia. East Village will be a living laboratory, with the first smart, hemp-based house taking its place amongst 1,000 other properties in the ground-breaking development. Other features of East Village will include electric vehicle fast charging, solar panels, battery storage and water initiatives to bring waterwise living to life at the estate.

The futuristic design ensures modern interiors will not be compromised through its sustainable design practices and demonstrates how luxury can be achieved while managing to meet sustainability targets . “MIRRECO strives to deliver ultra-low, embodied energy products, ultimately achieving carbon-neutrality, and carbon-negative status in the not too distant future,” comments Richard. He confirms the home has been constructed with Carbon Asset Storage Technology (CAST®), hemp building panels for the floors, walls, partitioning and roofing.

Richard explains how this innovation is a possibility and taking carbon architecture to the next level. He explains that hemp matures in as little as three months; “When efficiently harvested with a mobile, solar-powered hemp processing machine, hemp can be converted into a raft of raw materials, providing the basis for countless products and, more importantly, capture and store CO₂ in housing, buildings and other infrastructure applications.”

The Lumecast homes can monitor internal air quality, use energy-producing glass to power the home, reflect any architectural aesthetic, all while seamlessly integrating into any urban and rural setting. “They also have a minimal in-situ impact, casting little more than a shadow on the ground which they occupy and capture CO₂; delivering big dividends for our environment and producing a tradable carbon asset,” elaborates Richard. With these rapid scale homes an exemplar of how we can live, connect and better respond to our surroundings.

Bespoke framing contains solar glass which converts light into electricity, feeds the developments 670 KWh, PowerLedger battery, which in turn, supplies the community’s micro-grid system. “Also installed is a voice-activated, smart home energy management system,” Richard informs. He says this gives occupants control over energy management, air quality, moisture and a myriad of other smart functions.

IoT connectivity is provided, which collects and analyses data in support of MIRRECO’s ongoing research and development into low carbon, energy-efficient net-zero solutions. This connectivity aims to reinforce neutrality in the built environment with the management of energy and emissions via intelligent, sustainable measurement, analysis and application.

The Rise of the Sustainable HomeRichard says that the Lumecast home will be blockchain-enabled and managed through a bespoke platform; “It will provide traceability in the supply chain capturing provenance for sustainability guarantees, tracking and capturing carbon content levels for future carbon trading schemes,” he confirms. “Plus, the highly energy-efficient design will reduce energy draw, and therefore assists the opportunity to trade excess energy within the micro-grid.”

The lighting design in Lumecast was focused more on visual comfort rather than outright energy efficiency. However, some design elements contributed to the eco-friendliness of the house and will capitalise on the natural lighting elements of the building architecture.

LED cove lighting runs down either side of the structure, providing a low glare, indirect ambience throughout, with each section broken up into zones to provide ambient light only to areas that require it. During the day when natural light is plentiful, the cove lighting can be switched off to save energy. A length of 3-circuit track runs down the full extent of the home, with lights connected in groups assigned to each circuit to allow for switching control. With this application, spotlighting enables a focus on task areas where high levels of lighting are required, rather than illuminating the entire space.

Honeycomb lenses are utilised in track lights aimed across the room to reduce the possibility of glare. The smart home lighting control system will provide various advanced functionalities to Lumecast, with the lighting design preconfigured to allow for multiple sustainable solutions.

MIRRECO confirms that all lighting used throughout the home is energy efficient with high lumen/watt efficacy. “LED lighting is a great way to contribute to the reduction of CO₂ emissions as they use far less energy and last longer, resulting in less waste,” Richard states. Smart circuiting of lights means only what is necessary to illuminate a particular use-of-space is turned on. Meeting the Australian National Construction Code standards, the lighting design provides 20lux for safe movement, while maximising the use of natural lighting. Richard confirms that the building makes effective use of natural light through the glass facade with natural light penetration into every space possible.

The sustainable home will contain no mechanical cooling or heating. Instead, passive heating and cooling techniques will be utilised to ensure occupant comfort, to achieve passive house certification. “A passive house design also means the homes are hermetically-sealed, so minimal air will leak in and out,” verifies Richard. Energy-efficient ventilation systems are to be installed, to ensure fresh air flows throughout the home too. In another forward movement, energy generated from north-facing curtain walls will be utilised to provide instantaneous hot water for the kitchen, bathroom and wet areas from the hydronic heat pump.

The home will also prove to be extremely water-efficient, with all rainwater collected from roof structures and diverted to an underground tank, incorporating smart metering. The water will be utilised for toilet flushing, in the laundry and for reticulation purposes, to conserve mains water.

Carbon architecture, ‎hemp, MIRRECO, bio-technology, sustainability, Australian design
A render of Lumecast in East Village showcases how the prototype is taking carbon architecture to the next level.

CRC for Low Carbon Living who work towards lowering carbon emissions in the built environment will monitor the performance of this sustainable community. With an onsite living lab, this will provide real-time monitoring of the system, and data visualisation that will be available for researchers, students and other interested parties to further their understanding of how these systems can work.

Lumecast carbon architecture will be adorned with V-ZUG 10-star rated efficient appliances. The East Village sustainable community development is a collaboration between Landcorp, the Australian Government Smart Cities Initiative, energy and infrastructure providers and other major industry players. “Lumecast is just one of 36 innovative energy-efficient homes to be built in the first stage of the East Village site,” Richard reports. Project collaborators will reduce energy use and cost for each occupant, while simultaneously helping to save the planet.


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