Sustainable, sophisticated
& future proof

Why Modulus

Modulus’s truly sustainable homes embody this holistic approach to sustainability. Part of a new generation of ‘smart’ homes, they combine innovation and technology to provide resilient, future-proof homes with benefits that extend well beyond their walls.

Modulus uses a whole suite of technologies to minimise your energy use and put you on the path to zero emissions, such as embedded renewable generation and passive house design features. These are truly smart homes, with geothermal energy sourced from the building’s foundation, energy storage systems [not included], and sensors that link real-time changes in climate to a suite of sophisticated systems to sustain indoor comfort. Charging stations for electric vehicles and indoor bike storage will help smooth your way to low emissions transport.

Modulus uses automated systems to maximise water conservation and control. Rainwater collection and filtration helps you save this valuable resource for non-potable uses, such as watering or laundry.

A growing health concern centres on micropollutants that make their way into our waterways. These contaminants, which mainly result from human activity, include metals, hormones, pharmaceuticals and microbes. To address this challenge, our sophisticated micropollution filtering systems (optional and not included) can be installed on a home’s main water supply, alleviating this potential health threat.

We build our homes with truly sustainably-sourced materials, used with the greatest possible efficiency, and backed up by our open and transparent rating system (see above). From design and construction right through to the systems that sustain your daily life, Modulus will help reduce the resources you consume and the waste you generate.

High-spec materials mean our homes will physically withstand excessive heat, high winds, intense rain and drought – conditions that may become more extreme under climate change.

A series of verdant gardens on roofs, balconies and at ground level wrap the luxury apartments. In each garden, at every elevation, plants are edible and supported by recycled water. Modulus Luxury Residential strives to make these gardens sustainable, beautiful and productive as edible forests. In areas of bright light, herbs and produce plants abound: such as basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, lettuce, tomatoes, bok choy, lemongrass, passionfruit, dragon fruit, citrus, figs, lychees, guavas and olives. In deeper shaded areas, mints, gingers and turmeric, together with lilly pillies, pepperbush and lemon myrtle, provide picking plants for spice and flavour. There is a sense of natural abundance and connection with nature.

At ground level, rainforest species frame outdoor terraces with taller trees and palms filtering views to neighbors, while allowing sunlight into apartments. The large Bellevue Hills Figs along the street giving a tree house quality to canopy apartments with balconies within their leafy canopies. Balcony trellises frame district views, give privacy and draw the sense of luminous fresh green, deep inside. While a green roof insulates the upper level apartments and offers neighbours a green outlook, it also stimulates abundant wildlife.

As an innovative way to increase density, our adaptable housing modules start with a base configuration of three houses over two storeys, to which more storeys can be added. Flexible layouts facilitate design solutions for almost any site and climate.

This modular approach, which permeates throughout the homes’ design, accommodates solutions for a wide range of family types – from singles through to families. Our designs also recognise your needs change with time: you can adjust the home’s private and communal space, for example, to adapt your living arrangements as your family evolves. Even pets are considered, with storage areas suitable for stowing their bedding, food and play toys.

This adaptability and flexibility also extends to your choice of a range of joinery and storage options. You can furthermore select, mix and match from a green shopping list of luxurious finishes, fixtures, fittings and lighting product ranges.

To sustain residents’ good health, Modulus facilitates excellent natural ventilation (windows in every room, opening skylights, and cross ventilation). When central heating or cooling is switched on, filters remove particulates to keep air healthy. Our sophisticated tetra generation [optional feature and not included] solution not only provides power, heating, cooling, and hot water, it can also pump additional oxygen into homes while occupants are sleeping. Building materials are also selected to maintain healthy indoor air quality.

Modulus invests in the community and especially in projects that promote sustainability and protecting the environment. Key issues that affect us as a human race are also prioritized from time to time. This is important for our vital transition to a sustainable future.

Technologies

‘PassivHaus’ refers to a design standard for a high performance-building envelope. Design strategies to achieve this standard include high levels of insulation, extremely well sealed and airtight building, minimal ‘thermal bridging’ (loss of heat through materials), and the use of mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (mechanical ventilation provides fresh air to house: In winter cool incoming air is heated by extracting heat from stale outgoing air; In summer, hot incoming air is cooled by extracting ‘coolth’ from stale outgoing air.)

A housed designed to PassivHaus standards achieves an extremely high degree of internal thermal comfort, maintaining a consistent temperature profile between 16-25˚c, 90% of the year without input from active heating or cooling systems.

Passive design generally refers to the use of design strategies that take advantage of natural climatic conditions to achieve good internal comfort. Strategies employed including correct building and window orientation, appropriate shading, passive solar gain, natural ventilation, high performing building envelope, use of thermal mass to moderate temperature, and appropriate glazing.

In many places adjustable shading is useful for ‘shoulder’ seasons, where the sun has the same path, however requirements for solar gain might be different.

More information here (Disclaimer: this link will take you to an external website).

High performance glazing is glass that has either been joined together to form a double or triple glazed unit, or has been treated with a coating to improve the performance of the glass in some way i.e., to reduce heat transfer or to reflect light.

Sometimes both approaches are used ie glass with a high performance coating is used in a double or even triple glazed unit.

All Northern façades are designed with foldable doors that fully retract for use in optimum climatic conditions. This allows an 8-12m column free opening between internal and external living areas.

A Phase Change Material is one that can readily convert from solid to liquid states and back again. They are inherently good at storing energy, acting like thermal mass allowing the storage of heat or ‘coolth’.

Sustainable Infrastructure has developed a module comprised of a Phase Change material that can be integrated into floors, walls and ceilings to passively regulate temperature. The modules can be prefabricated to a wide variety of specifications and sizes, allowing flexible location within a dwelling, where it will most assist an active conditioning system.

More information here (Disclaimer: this link will take you to an external website).

The green roof allows the roof of the development to be partially covered with plants, which also serves as a meditation center with meditation pods.

Green roofs offer several and varying degrees of advantages such as:

  • Creating a habitat for wildlife such as birds
  • Absorbing rain water and reducing storm water run off
  • Decreasing stress through tranquility and a sanctum provided by the landscape and meditation pods
  • Reduce heating
  • Filter pollutants out of the rainwater

Both the active and passive air conditioning systems are interlinked with a sophisticated passive design system allowing the house to operate in three different modes of comfort conditioning.

Open mode operation is when the occupant opens doors and windows to allow favourable external climatic conditions to heat, cool and ventilate the house. In this mode all mechanical cooling, heating and ventilation systems are turned off.

In the passive mode scenario, the home automation system determines when external temperature conditions are suitable; louvres on the exterior walls are opened to allow outside air to be used. During this phase air conditioning systems are disabled.

Active mode is when the mechanical heating and cooling systems are in operation. All windows are shut and the passive system louvres are closed, allowing the heating and cooling systems to condition the house to the temperature set point.

The building construction incorporates phase change materials to assist in smoothing the peaks and troughs in daily temperature within the occupied space. These materials have the ability to absorb heat during their change of state between solid and liquid, similar to H2O changing between ice and water. However, these materials change state between about 16oC and 26oC, which is beneficial to human comfort. This technology assists to reduce operational costs and the reliance on mechanical heating and cooling.

The active conditioning operation for the houses is supported by a highly efficient heat pump air conditioning system. Filtered and conditioned air is distributed throughout the house by air diffusers connected to fan coil units concealed within joinery.

A separate compressor unit for each house is located in the basement plant room with fan coil units located within the dwelling space. Insulated copper pipework connects these items of plant to transport refrigerant gas coolant.

Instead of discharging heat using a standard residential type air-cooled condenser, the compressor unit is connected to a geothermal earth loop enabling a very efficient exchange of thermal energy into the surrounding earth. This process requires less electrical energy to power the refrigeration process. This refrigeration system operates in reverse to provide heating to the residence.

More information here (Disclaimer: this link will take you to an external website).

Each site has one or more solar array’s linked to a centralised energy storage. Our intelligent control system directs the electricity produced by the solar array either into the dwellings, into the battery or into the grid, depending on demand load, purchase prices and storage capacity.

We anticipate a complete disruption of the private transport industry in the next 15 years. We believe electric vehicles (EV) will prevail. In each car park in our projects, an EV changing outlet is provided. Our localised energy system enables the charging of EV’s, using smart controls to draw on the power when most economical to do so.

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and is a semi-conductor that emits light from electricity. LED lamps generally have multiple LEDS grouped together. LED lamps are highly efficient and have a long life span. LED lights can change colour to create different internal ambience.

Good daylight in a dwelling is important for occupant well being, providing a sense of time and connection to place. Good daylight is achieved by thoughtfully placing windows to allow the entry of natural daylight to provide effective internal light. It also reduces energy consumption by reducing the need for artificial lighting.

The development takes an integrated approach to water management. Rainwater is collected from roofs and paved areas and stored in underground tanks, before being treated for re-use in the dwellings in toilet and washing machines. Excess water is used for irrigation.

Our developments have an approach to materiality that aims to minimise environmental impact of material use. Environmental impacts from materials use includes depleting resources, detrimental impacts on bio diversity, greenhouse emissions, toxic waste.

The approach we have taken to reduce the impact of materials used, includes:

  • Designing for Disassembly
  • Use of recycled materials (eg recycled aluminium building cladding, recycled steel concrete reinforcement)
  • Exclude the use of unsustainable materials (eg timber that is not recycled or from a plantation)
  • Design for durability (ie ensure longevity)
  • Use of low embodied energy materials (eg concrete with a cement replacement)
  • Use of renewable materials (eg cork and rubber)
  • Use of materials that are carbon sinks
  • Use of materials with low VOC emissions

The security system includes a video intercom at the entry gate to the site. Motion sensors can take pictures and transmit to smart phones for security monitoring.

Each house has separate colour coded waste and recycling bins in the kitchen cabinet to allow residents to conveniently collect and dispose of household waste into the communal hoppers.

Each site is provided with a submerged waste bin system where waste and recyclables are deposited, via swipe card access, into a hopper, before being dropped into the bin storage below. The submerged frame lifts the bins to the surface for waste collection. The waste contractor manages this process, meaning residents do not have to move wheelie bins. This waste system removes bins from sight, reduces odours and collection frequency.

Waste and recyclables deposited into the hopper are automatically weighed. This enables data collection on waste disposal and is designed to give residents the ability to track their own individual waste generation and recycling performance and also the performance of the development as a whole.

The ability to capture and display detailed data in this way would be an Australian first in a residential application.

Sustainability

Sustainability, at its core, is a simple and logical concept: it recognises that we must live in balance with nature, to meet our needs today without compromising those of future generations.

Yet today we Australians live well beyond our means. In fact, it would take 3.6 planet Earths to sustain total demand on nature if the rest of the world consumed resources as we do.

In our globalised, connected world, the consequences of our unsustainable ways come back to us in new and unexpected ways. When climate change precipitates drought and food shortages, for example, it acts as a ‘threat multiplier’ that affects security around the globe (the Syrian conflict being a case in point).

Far from living on the interest of our natural capital, we are quickly spending down the principle: eroding away resources present and future generations depend on. This is not a problem solved by taking out the recycling. We can – we must – do more.

The path to sustainability starts at home

The good news is solutions are within our grasp, and society has already begun to make pivotal changes.

This change begins with the home, your biggest purchase. Embedding sustainability into daily life gives us all the power to make a difference. Truly sustainable homes, like Modulus, are the intelligent choice because they also grow your prosperity, security and resilience, even as they shrink your ecological footprint.

Our survival and quality of life rely on a healthy environment. Yet our planet’s vital signs – the health of our atmosphere, water, soils and biodiversity – indicate the state of our environment is rapidly deteriorating.

Why we must become more energy smart

Climate change is arguably the greatest environmental challenge we face. All life depends on a stable climate, but today our climate is warming rapidly. A global average temperature increase of 1°C has already ramped up extreme weather, made bushfires more ferocious, and caused severe coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

The cause, scientists agree, is an overload of greenhouse gas emissions from polluting energy systems that burn coal, oil and gas. With the highest per-person carbon dioxide emissions of any developed country, Australia is decidedly part of this problem. Despite our relatively small population, Australia ranks around 16th highest of the world’s 195 countries for total national greenhouse gas emissions.

Homes: a big part of the carbon equation

To reduce climate risks, and give us a chance to save the Great Barrier Reef, we must restrain total global temperature increase to 1.5°C. This will be only possible with a very rapid transition to zero-emission energy sources. And, since some level of future climate change is unavoidable, we must prepare for these inevitable impacts.

Globally, buildings emit about one third of greenhouse gas emissions. Equally, however, energy-smart homes have great potential to cost-effectively reduce our carbon footprint.

Modulus uses a whole portfolio of solutions to get to zero emissions, key among them being embedded renewable generation and ‘passive house design’ features. Passive houses use less power from day to day because they harness natural solar warmth and cooling breezes, and use innovative materials (‘phase change’ materials) that absorb and release heat, to sustain your comfort naturally.

Good density: better for people and the planet

When we increase the density of existing neighbourhoods, we enhance our society’s overall energy efficiency. Higher-density neighbourhoods make public transport more cost effective, facilitating our shift to a low-carbon future. Adding to existing density is more environmentally friendly than to letting development sprawl into green spaces that currently support agriculture or wildlife. Increasing density is also a way to rationalise rising land costs, and to support enhanced amenity like local shops and cafes.

Yet to actually be sustainable and enhance neighbourhoods, density must be ‘good’: well-planned and liveable, with access to green, open space, and transport connections. Adaptable housing modules are one innovative way to increase density.

Clearing the air, inside and out

The quality of the air we breathe fundamentally affects our health. Outdoor air pollution is a serious health threat, one that climate warming is expected worsen. Each year in Australia air pollution already leads to 3,000 premature deaths and up to $24.3 billion in healthcare costs. Air pollution is especially harmful for society’s most vulnerable: the elderly, children and people with existing illness.

The good news is a shift to clean, renewable energy sources, in our homes and beyond, will help solve both air pollution and climate change. This will be an important double win for people and the planet.

Healthy indoor air quality is also important. Building designs should facilitate excellent natural ventilation, and select materials with indoor air quality in mind. This is why, for example, Modulus designs with low-VOC glues.

Improving health and well being

In general, green buildings are healthier environments than the alternatives. Natural ventilation and light, and better indoor air quality enhance not just our physical health, but also our mental performance. This is important given the large proportion of our lives spent indoors, and the growing number of people who work from home.

Water for a thirsty continent

Clean, safe and secure water supply is central to our sustainable future.
Australia is the Earth’s driest inhabited continent, yet we are among the world’s highest per capita water users. Water supplies in many Australian regions are already both variable and constrained. Water scarcity is likely to become more acute as climate change intensifies.

Many Australian cities opt to cope with this water supply uncertainty by building more desalination plants. Yet these energy-hungry plants simply escalate our greenhouse gas emission problems. Recycling water, on the other hand, makes us more climate resilient.

Smart water use is clearly important. The best way to tackle our water use and conservation is at home, with systems to collect and use rainwater, recycle grey water, and automate water conservation and control.

A sustainable society cares for people as well as the environment. Equity, liveability and respect for human rights are among the values that contribute to our society’s general well being.

Green buildings are pivotal to more sustainable societies. They provide communities with beneficial development, increase their residents’ quality of life, and bolster our resilience to better withstand future change.

Demographic shifts sowing uncertainty

Some important social challenges ahead could fundamentally affect Australians’ well being (including their prosperity). A major shift underway in the makeup of our society will see the number of workers per retiree (persons aged over 65) almost halve in future, from 4 workers today to 2.4 workers by 2050.

Governments will likely face difficult decisions as they strain to sustain a whole range of services in the face of rising health care costs. As one possible scenario, government-funded infrastructure we take for granted today, such as transport and energy, may not be funded to the same level in future.

In this context, energy independence – met by sustainable homes with embedded energy supply – gains added importance. Energy independence future proofs homeowners against energy shocks and disruptions, providing security, resilience and peace of mind.

A new housing model is needed to fill gaps

Today many people with grown children wish to downsize their homes. Although some invest in retirement villages, this may not be the best choice for all.

Apart from financial pitfalls (see below), retirement village communities lack the social attributes and amenity sought by some. Whereas retirement villages are often built on the periphery, many downsizers prefer to stay in their own age-diverse neighbourhoods where they have history, to maintain social connections; still others want even greater amenity, for easy strolls to cafes and shops where they can enjoy being a ‘person amongst people’.

In addition to these ‘downsizers’, another group facing market gaps are adults age 30-50 with children at home. Some in this group are restricted to options they find unattractive: low-cost, low-density suburban housing at the periphery, or squeezing their family into relatively small urban apartments.

Adding value and amenity, sustaining community

A new class of residential solution can meet the needs of these groups not well served by today’s market. Modulus’s modular, adaptable complexes of three or more homes can be built in existing neighbourhoods, giving downsizers the option to sustain their history and connectedness to place, while also offering lower maintenance burdens and costs.

For adults with children at home, these well-designed, higher-density alternatives can open up more affordable options in suburban areas closer to the centre, which nevertheless retain many positive attributes of stand-alone dwellings.

Sustainability, of course, has an essential economic dimension. Sustainable economic development hinges on wise resource use, to maintain and build our prosperity into the future.

To get there, we must invest in innovation and technology that will catalyse our transformation into a very different 21st century, and generate the next era of wealth. We’ve already begun to embrace the important ‘clean tech’ industries – from smart grids to energy storage to clean transport – that will drive this next industrial revolution. Modulus is part of this global movement of game-changing clean tech companies.

In Australia alone, the clean tech industry already employs 65,000 people and has more than $30 billion in revenue – equal to a quarter of the entire manufacturing sector. For example, there are now more than 1.5 million household solar power (PV, or photovoltaic) units in Australia, the highest proportion (16.5%) of any country.

Clean tech also helps foster a more just, equitable and sustainable society. Its wide social benefits include reducing illness, providing meaningful, high quality job growth, and stimulating education and training.

The dollars and sense of sustainable homes

For homebuyers specifically, what does economic sustainability mean?

Its criteria are met when housing assets sustain or enhance their owners’ quality of life, operate efficiently and affordably, and sustain or increase their capital.

For many downsizers, retirement villages fail these economic sustainability criteria, especially since they may not conserve or build existing real estate capital.

Under some contracts, for example, operators take a departure fee when owners sell out; operators may also take some or all of the home’s capital gain. Ongoing fees for facilities that residents may not actually use can present a further unwanted financial drain. Some operators charge lower recurrent fees, only to later recoup these operating costs by taking higher departure fees when owners sell. Taken together, these pitfalls show why contracts negotiated with retirement villages may not provide the best return on investment.

Green buildings, on the other hand, generally meet or surpass economic sustainability criteria. This is just one of a whole host of reasons why the smart money heads for sustainable housing.

Green buildings have higher market and rental values. They are easier to sell and lease. They reduce their owners’ vulnerability to rising energy prices and risk of state energy infrastructure erosion. They increase not only residents’ comfort and quality of life, but also their productivity, research shows.

Modulus meets these criteria, and goes a step further: our homes’ lifetime maintenance and operating cost, including energy cost, are also expected to be lower than market alternatives. For market entrants and first-time homebuyers, our ‘PODs’ of three or more homes represent affordable luxury: high-quality homes with relatively low entry and ongoing costs, compared to stand-alone homes.

Wise use and conservation of resources are fundamental to our sustainable future. Today buildings account for 40% of global resource use. To make matters worse, building developers often tap forests and other resources in a way that depletes them, harms biodiversity, and generates pollution.

Developers may specify timber from threatened tree species, for example, or wood extracted from old growth forest ecosystems that are final refuges for highly endangered animals. This consumption drives native forest destruction, species extinction, and social unrest. Other materials or processes, such as cement production, can release large amounts of greenhouse gases. Still others create toxic waste. Finally, long-distance transport of materials generates unnecessary pollution.

Building a home should not cost the Earth. The solution is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient use of building materials, exemplified by Modulus’s holistic approach.

The importance of sustainable supply chains

When you purchase sustainable products you make the most of the planet’s limited resources, and help develop the stable, secure and equitable society we all want.

Unfortunately the words ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ are often co-opted as mere marketing buzzwords to make claims that lack substance. Discriminating this ‘greenwash’ from truly sustainable products can be a challenge.

Modulus only uses truly sustainable or recycled materials. Our developments must meet our own rigorous rating process for sustainability, as well as those of arms-length parties, including the Green Building Council of Australia. We also believe it should be easy for buyers to assess whether their purchases are truly sustainable. So we make this process open and transparent, by publicly listing our suppliers alongside their sustainability credentials.

Buyers seeking truly sustainable homes should take the broad view.

Your new home’s energy use should make you part of our vital transition to a clean energy future. It should be built with sustainably sourced materials, and operate with minimal use of energy, water and other resources.

Your housing purchase should also enhance and sustain your community and your connectedness, be healthy and liveable, and future-proof you against coming shocks. Finally, a sustainable home should build your prosperity, and allow you to capture ongoing savings garnered from efficient resource use.

So whereas solar panels and battery storage are a step in the right direction, in and of themselves they do not tick all the boxes. A truly sustainable home requires a holistic approach to minimise not just your energy use and emissions, but all the resources and waste entailed in building and operating a home.