The House with No Bills

PR Blurb from property company
….this might be harder than you think
An Australian housebuilder has launched a search for a family to live in its prototype Home with No Energy Bills.

Mirvac is building the house in a suburb of Melbourne – the least sunny spot in Australia, with a total of 2028 hours of sunshine per year. The problem is striking the right balance between free energy from the sun, and power-hogging cooling bills in the hottest months.

The company is currently searching for a photogenic young family to live “free” in its “house with no bills” “for a year.”

And the idea that a brand new prototype home will generate no bills is laughable when you consider the number of little things that go wrong in every new home during the first year. The moving costs alone on this project will be excessive.

It will be hard to find just the right individuals – sassy enough to give good interviews, but willing to play along as the PR department dreams turn into a DIY nightmare.

Mirvac has teamed up with a group of tech companies around the Pacific rim including Fujitsu and Fischer & Paykel, both renowned for putting PR stunts ahead of reality.

Off-Grid forecasts the story if it appears, will be less than forthcoming about the actual cost of the huge number of batteries that will be needed so that their typical family can always flick on the light switch. There is also considerable doubt over the size of the solar panels and inverters. These numbers will no doubt be kept away from prying eyes as part of the “ proprietary information” that will give Mirvac the “commercial edge” in its future eco-builds.

The company is trying to wrap itself up in the sustainability flag, while building developments of 2,000 homes. Surely the local media outlets are not going to fall for that one?

“The first ‘House with No Bills’ will become home to a key worker family of four over a 12 month period,” says the press release. In an industry-first initiative, Mirvac will utilise a long-range study to follow their energy useage (sic) within the home to uncover how average families consume energy and how the house design and associated sustainable technology performs.”
Leaving aside the bloopers, how will a 12-month freebie for this unfortunate family turn into a “long range study”? And given the energy is all free for the family, what possible motive will they have to limit their consumption? Saving the planet is all very well, but once the “key worker family” are tucked up in bed and one of them remembers she left the lights on in the kitchen, will she really respond in the same way as if she was paying?

The rest of the PR blurb runs as follows: “The House with No Bills is an innovative initiative forming part of Mirvac’s ambitious sustainability strategy ‘This Changes Everything’, which aims to drive a more sustainable future for Australians. This strategy focuses on not only reducing environmental impact but also considers social impact.
The home will look, feel and operate the same as a typical home but has been designed to reduce its reliance on electricity to the point it will not generate any bills with methods including increased roof insulation and the installation of solar PV panels and batteries, use of LED lighting, energy efficient appliances, intelligent controls and smart metering and monitoring systems, which will assist homeowners in keeping track of where and how their energy is being used.
“By gathering data on the trial family’s everyday energy consumption, it will shed light on how to best roll-out this home model on a wider scale.
The study is an important step towards creating affordable energy efficient communities across Australia. The adoption of greater sustainable and green building practices in residential communities could be achieved by offering such market-based solutions to buyers, similiar to those featured in the ‘House with No Bills’.

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