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Deakin students get sustainable construction masterclass in unique case study

Property and real estate students at Deakin University now have a real-life case study to learn from when it comes to world-class sustainability practices, thanks to DBS property academic, Tom Keel.

Tom has launched a new unit on sustainable property construction within the Bachelor of Property and Real Estate, which features analysis of his own newly built sustainable property, known as the Bimbimbie Project,

The house was built in The Cape, the award winning housing estate at Cape Paterson. Thanks to a Deakin seeding grant, the property has been thoroughly documented online, with 3D walk-through imagery, so students can explore the construction and finished house virtually, without having to visit the site. 

Tom says sustainability is becoming increasingly important when it comes to new builds in Australia. 

“Just to keep up with regulations, we all need to get greener,” he says. “We have probably 8 million houses in Australia and, if you’re measuring them firstly for energy efficiency, there's a rating scale that goes up to 10 called NatHERS

“You can be up to 10 NatHERS in your energy efficiency. Ten means no emissions, no costs – the house basically runs itself for free,” he says. “The average house in Australia is 1.8. It is appalling, and this is why everyone has such big energy bills because they have to pump things all day long to stay comfortable. The law came in a few years ago saying you have to be 5 for new builds, it is currently 6, and in 2024 all new builds will have to rate 7. 

To keep up with the new energy efficiency requirements and to embrace broader sustainability issues, Tom says students need to learn how to design and create sustainable homes. The idea to build one himself came to Tom after a land developer from Cape Paterson visited Deakin’s property students as a guest speaker.

“He is extremely sustainability minded, which at the time was unusual for property developers, you could say,” says Tom. “I decided I wanted to test our taught theory, so I bought into his estate and [built the home] in his estate. So we’ve got all the combined benefit of not just a really good house in any old place, but a really good house surrounded by a great sustainable housing development. So this house is in the most sustainable community in Victoria as well.”

The sustainable construction unit, which has been offered for the first time this year to undergraduates, could also be developed into a post-graduate offering. Its launch has been met with enthusiasm from the students lucky enough to study in its first trimester. 

“The students love it,” says Tom. “It's important for them to understand construction and this is the way construction is moving. They recognise that, and they love the hands-on role as well, because I gave them the design plans, I gave them the costing sheets, everything about the project, and they – many for the first time – could immerse themselves, like if they did it themselves. And they loved the fact that they were trusted to do that and come up with a good analysis of their own.”

You can learn more about the Bimbimbie Project at Sustainable House Day, and you can learn more about studying the Bachelor of Property and Real Estate at Deakin.

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