Energy Efficient Housing in the Latrobe Valley by Lorraine Bull

Lorraine on left (photo Hayley Mills Latrobe Valley Express)

A presentation to Gippsland Climate Change Network on 26 April

The small Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group promotes action on climate change; not easy in a coal focused climate-sceptic community, but we have the support of organisations such as Gippsland Climate Change Network, Environment Victoria, Beyond Zero Emissions, and Sustainability Victoria. So to achieve a local impact we take practical action with informative letters to the editor and politicians, participation in CSG and Adani mine opposition, protection of threatened species, submissions to inquiries and development discussion papers.

One such paper was on the development of a prefabricated energy efficient housing industry in Latrobe Valley as it was obvious that the transition away from coal was already underway. The paper aimed to expand opportunities for local skills and address issues of poor quality housing, particularly social housing, and its associated health issues.  It concentrated on reduction of energy consumption, better use of resources, reduction of greenhouse gases and adaptation to climate change.  To this end we are joining with Baw Baw Sustainability Network in applying to the Latrobe Valley Authority’s project to improve the energy efficiency of 1000 low income homes across the Latrobe, Wellington and Baw Baw council areas.

My other big involvement is with LV University of the Third Age, which is based in a small house in Morwell.  It provides over 35 wide ranging courses to keep older people mentally stimulated and socially connected. During 2016 the 240 members attended over 5000 classes.  Needless to say, we have outgrown our current rented premises.  Being community minded, we have extended an invitation to anyone who feels affected by the Hazelwood closure to become a member, which could put further pressure on accommodation.

It was here that my two worlds overlapped with the bright idea of an 8 star energy efficient purpose built community hub, principally for u3a, but to be shared with the other 85 groups who call Morwell home. The building would demonstrate environmental sustainability principles, would be properly orientated, insulated, double glazed, fitted with solar PV, LED lighting, energy monitoring and water catchment.  Perhaps even a vegetable garden.  Where possible, local labour, resources and materials will be used.

The project is to be submitted to the Latrobe Valley Authority Community Grants program.  Partnership with other groups and Latrobe City Council is now being sought to assist with the application process, fund raising and in-kind contributions.  In an area dominated by older houses, particularly Housing Commission, I see this type of project being able to provide a practical demonstration of what is possible for future housing and commercial premises whilst at the same time achieving zero emissions in affordable comfort.