by JENNY D’ANGER
A BUNCH of long-haired uni students keeping chooks and ducks and growing vegetables in swanky Dalkeith made headlines back in the 1990s.
Following a couple of newspaper articles, environmental scientist in the making Josh Byrne and his housemates ended up on the nationally aired Today Tonight.
They had misgivings about being set up for an “exposé” on degenerate youths, “but it went well and was a hoot,” Byrne says.
As a result the 25-year-old was offered a slot on ABC TV’s popular Gardening Australia.
While most would have jumped at the chance, Byrne knocked it back, heading to Africa to volunteer his expertise for sustainable farming programs with poor villagers.
When he returned months later opportunity did knock twice and pretty soon the rabid environmentalist was pushing new programming boundaries at the ABC after successfully pitching the idea of retrofitting a home and garden, into shining examples of sustainability.
“I was the first presenter to pitch the idea,” Byrne told the Herald.
The garden makeover segments hit a nerve with audiences and the program was extended.
And when the first garden, a quarter-acre block in Hilton finished up, Byrne had the ABC’s blessing to turn his attention to an old home on a small block to demonstrate what could be done with old inner-city homes in places like Melbourne.
More than 3000 later flocked to the semi-detached in South Fremantle’s McLaren Street during an Open Gardens open day.
Byrne’s third project (in White Gum Valley) demonstrated sustainability on the cheap for renters and was equally as popular.
Now a father of two, (Ollie 3 and Caitlin, five months) he’s set to do it all again at Grigg Place, Hilton—only this time he’s not renting.
“This garden is going to be awesome…it’s my own so the place is going to be special.”
But what really sets this latest project apart is it will achieve a 10-star energy efficiency rating for the same cost as a standard home.
Byrne got so tired of hearing developers bleat that sustainable construction cost more that he thought the best way to prove them wrong was to actually prove them wrong.
An old 1960s asbestos house was “deconstructed” to make way for two homes on the 1160sqm block.
“Twelve hundred if I claim the verge—which I will,” Byrne smiles with that characteristic toothy grin.
Anything salvageable was kept or offered to neighbours doing up old-style homes. Asbestos was disposed of properly.
The new homes (one for Byrne and partner Kellie, the other for the sister-in-law) will consume than 10 per cent of the energy of the typical new home, saving around $2000 a year in energy costs.
They will emit more than 90 per cent less greenhouse gases than conventional houses, and use around 60 per cent less scheme water.
They will also have universal access making them wheelchair accessible, something Byrne reckons should be standard for all new homes.
“This project is all about providing an inspiring and practical example of how to create beautiful and resource efficient homes that are accessible to the broader community.”
Work got underway late last year and people can follow the build via a series of short online films by logging onto http://www.joshshouse.com.au
And later in the year with the house complete, attention will turn to the garden—and that’s the cue for Gardening Australia.