Between June and September 2008, a number of environmental sustainability works were carried out by the City of Yarra on Holden Street Neighbourhood House. Environmental sustainability design guidelines were developed as part of the Master Plan. Not all work was possible at this time.

The following were conducted:

Solar Electricity

  • Funded through Solar for Schools, State and Commonwealth funding.
  • The number of panels was determined by the space available on the roof. These do not meet total need of the House.
  • Excess electricity generated is fed back to the grid.
  • 1.32 Kw photovoltaic capacity. The one bill received shows 50% decrease in electricity usage.
  • A Smart meter has been fitted. When logging on to the appropriate website, a chart can be viewed that shows electrical usage measured at half-hour intervals.
  • The House was already using Green Power supply.


  • Rainwater is collected from the roof in a plastic tank at the side of the House—this will be used for irrigation, particularly with the raised herb garden built earlier in the year with sponsorship from the Clifton Hill Community Bank. This garden is used by our cooking groups and any excess produce is available to house users.
  • Rainwater is collected from the shed roof in childcare outdoor space— is used for educational purposes and will help sustain a planned children's vegetable patch.
  • Hot water system has been replaced based on efficiency rating and optimum size. A gas system was chosen as having the least environmental impact and has been located at the side of the House for more protection from the elements that put pressure on the system.


  • Two new double-glazed and manually-operated skylights were installed that increase ventilation and reduce need for artificial lighting.
  • Tube light installed in cleaner's cupboard.
  • Internal window treatments to the east side of the House to minimised heat transmission and glare.


  • Operable skylights (as above).
  • Fixed flyscreens to windows, encouraging the opening of windows (also on existing windows).
  • Additional security, eg locks and bars, allow windows to be open after daylight hours encouraging night purging(!!) (also on existing windows).


  • Worm Farm to manage food waste.
  • Worm castings and liquid fertiliser are used on the garden or can be taken home by house users.
  • Educational activities are incorporated into and practised by our current programs, eg recycling and sustainability info session in Environment Day, old computer parts are recycled to local community members or B2C Recyclers, cooking group, office paper recycled by office for notepads or double-sided printing or by childcare for art work

Other Sustainable Guidelines

  • Signs at basins, light switches and near appliances to alert people to change practices. Guidelines for using equipment, cleaning products and gardening can be established.
  • Bike hoop at front of building.

Recommendations and Notes

It was also recommended that:

  • Selection of all new materials was based on different factors: impact of production, renewability of material, transport, recycled content, recyclability and end of life opportunities.
  • Timber is to be Forest Stewardship Council Certified.
  • Paint and adhesive are to contain no -VOV or, where not available, very low VOCs.
  • New concrete will contain aggregate and fly-ash (industry by-product).

It was noted that:

  • New flooring or paint provides opportunity to use sustainable materials with low chemical emissions.
  • Insulation of the roof should be investigated.

Future Works

The following were identified but not conducted at this time:


  • New tap fixtures/existing taps to be fitted with low flow aerators.
  • More efficient stove top and oven could be added to increase the efficiency.
  • Water tanks collecting rainwater for toilet flushing.
  • Leaf guards on gutters.
  • Greywater diversion—not pursued at this time. Like to require a sub-soil irrigation system and the storage and treatment of greywater would involve a more substantial system.


  • All fluorescent lighting could be with pendant lighting or retrofitted with T5 lamps.
  • Lighting in toilets with timers or motion sensors.
  • Additional improved daylight by replacing remaining skylights to reduce reliance on lighting in the day.
  • External additional floodlights can be solar powered.


  • Additional skylights or tube lights placed/replaced.
  • The east and north of the House require additional shading. Retractable blinds or fixed eaves to the east elevation will decrease summer sun but still admit winter light.


  • Roof space ventilation to reduce heat gain through ceiling mechanical and passive systems available.
  • Existing window types could be retrofitted with more openable area. (This is particularly needed in the student room.)
  • Mechanical exhaust—new efficient exhaust fans should replace existing to increase efficiency.

Other Sustainable Guidelines

  • Assess the effectiveness of air-conditioners.
  • Solar hot water system to reduce electrical usage.
  • Reduce water used in dual flush toilets further by adding a weight to the cistern.
  • Monitor toilet leaks monthly by adding food colouring to water.
  • Additional landscaping benefits the environment and can be used to provide additional shading to the building eg deciduous trees to the north block sun but allow winter light