The Zimmerman family consider themselves a normal Melbourne family, but with one key difference. This family of four have an extraordinary opportunity to help develop sustainable homes of the future that aim to free households from soaring energy bills.
After years of struggling with escalating bills and rent while Melbourne’s property market kept rising beyond their reach, the Dingley Village family were selected after a state-wide search to live rent-free and bill-free for a year in Mirvac’s prototype House With No Bills at its Jack Road Cheltenham masterplanned community.
Nursing student Lisa, 35, and husband Rob, 38, a police officer, moved into the high tech three bedroom house in May, 2018 with their two teenage children Cam, 15, and Alyssa, 14. All four are excited by their role in a project that aims to create homes of the future that help the environment and also reduce energy bills for all Australians.
“We were very much your normal Melbourne family who tried to do what we could to cut energy usage but with limited knowledge of how to do that,” says Lisa.
“You don’t really ever know how you use power as your bill gives you your average spend per day over three months but you never know exactly where that came from.
“In our beautiful new house we will be able to monitor our energy usage with an app at any given moment, which means this technology could help us to change our habits without having to do too much.”
Lisa and Rob Zimmerman with their children Cam and Alyssa outside their energy-efficient home (the House with No Bills) in Melbourne
The technology will help the family to store excess energy and monitor.
The innovative house is designed to cut the dependency on the electricity grid through use of state-of-the-art sustainable technology by Evergen, including a solar and battery system integrated with an intelligent energy management system developed by the CSIRO.
Like most modern teenagers, Cam and Alyssa were intrigued by the gadgetry which will monitor their energy usage over the next year.
“We are very excited about the tech, of course,” Cam says. “It’s cool that by using an app you can do things like turn off any lights we might have left on even from school.”
Other innovations in the house include a Schneider Electric smart home automation system, which uses sensors that communicate with Evergen’s intelligent system to control inside temperatures by switching on heating or cooling and controlling blinds when there is excess solar, reducing the energy needs during peak times. Greater insulation, energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting have also been installed in the house.
Evergen’s intelligent system controls temperatures inside the home.
The Zimmerman family’s water usage will also be monitored to establish how rainwater and greywater/blackwater tanks
could be most efficiently used in home designs.
The home’s technology not only monitors current temperatures but can also read weather forecasts to control heating and cooling more efficiently. A control house on the same street will be monitored throughout the year to compare how the new technology performs.
The House With No Bills pilot project is part of Mirvac’s ground-breaking “This Changes Everything” strategy, which aims to tackle Australia’s climate change and housing affordability issues with market-based solutions that reduce environmental and social impacts.
As part of “This Changes Everything”, Mirvac’s goal is to achieve a net positive level of energy and water use by 2030 which will be passed on to its customers to enhance their lifestyle and reduce their expenses, says Mirvac CEO and Managing Director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz
“Monitoring the Zimmermans’ energy usage and getting feedback from the family on our House With No Bills prototype is an important first step in creating fully self-sufficient homes that we can deliver on a wider scale to all Australians at an affordable price,” Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz says.
For the Zimmermans, their new home is a dream come true while the savings over the next year could help them achieve their own goal of home ownership.
“It’s not often that somebody says you get to live in a beautiful brand-new house that has been fully furnished and you don’t have to pay a cent for 12 months,” says Lisa, who looks forward to checking the mailbox over the next year without the dread of bills.
“We hope to learn along the way and educate the kids and see what we can do in our small way to improve housing sustainability,” she adds.
“I don’t want our kids to go through what we are all going through now with ridiculously high increases for energy every year. They are excited to be part of something that could change the future for their own age group when they start looking to get into the property market themselves in 10 or 15 years.”
LISA ZIMMERMAN - House With No Bills Pioneer