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Waterwise Exemplars – Using Leadership Projects as Catalysts for Change

Josh Byrne presented a unique case study to delegates during day two of Connected by Water on how he built his own sustainable family home, an exemplar of integrated water sensitive urban design at the residential housing scale.

"How do we rethink the role of water?"

This was the first of many thought provoking questions posed to delegates from Keynote speaker Josh Byrne, an environmental scientist and urban design professional with a national profile as a consultant, researcher and communicator in urban sustainability. 

“Water becomes a great catalyst for better quality environments and in WA, we use the term water-wise to capture the essence of sustainable livability”

How do we embed water efficiency as a first step? Josh outlines the importance of water exemplars and presented case studies on a few, including showcasing his sustainable family home. 

Water Exemplar #1 - Josh's House

Josh’s House is an innovative housing-scale sustainable design and construction project based in Hilton WA, led by Josh Byrne in conjunction with Curtin University and the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living.

Consisting of two dwellings, the project aims to demonstrate that high performance water sensitive and energy efficient homes can be built at a comparable cost and timeframe to regular houses.

The homes have achieved a 10 Star Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) rating, they are net energy exporters and they optimise the collection and recycling of water. The landscaping for the property includes food production, shading and play spaces. The interiors incorporate ‘Healthy Homes’ (indoor air quality) and ‘Liveable Homes’ (universal access) principles. The dwellings also achieved Housing Industry Association (HIA) GreenSmart accreditation.Joshs house

Josh Byrne built his own sustainable family home with ambitions to prove:

  • Resource efficient homes are an available and viable option:
    • Josh’s House set out to prove that resource efficient homes can be built at a comparable per square metre cost and timeframe to regular Perth houses.

  • There are significant mains water savings to be had at the residential scale through a greater understanding of water supply and use:
    • Using an integrated approach to alternative water supply and water use optimisation, the Josh’s House project aimed to use less than one third of the typical Perth household mains water consumption.
    • Josh reduced his water use by an incredible 80%
  • How a more sensitive approach to residential subdivision can improve both sustainability and liveability:  
    • Landscaping that includes natural shading, children’s play spaces and local food production can result in important health and lifestyle benefits.

The average Perth home often uses 65% indoor Scheme water and 35% outdoor Scheme water. With a bore, reliance on outdoor Scheme water is slightly reduced but the reliance on Groundwater skyrockets, doubling the average water usage.

Josh's House was able to utilise a mixture of Rainwater, indoor Scheme water, Greywater and Groundwater.

The transition framework

Josh stressed the urgency to bring people on the journey for communication and engagement outlining the below transition framework.

Transition Phase Champions Platforms for connecting Knowledge Projects and
Tools and
1. Issue Emergence issue activists N/A issue highlighted issue examined N/A
2. Issue Definition individual champions sharing concerns and ideas causes and impacts examined solutions explored N/A
3. Shared Understanding & Issue Agreement connected champions developing a collective voice solutions developed solutions experimented with refined guidance and early policy
4. Knowledge Dissemination aligned and influential champions building broad support solutions advanced solutions demonstrated at scale refined guidance and early policy
5. Policy & Practice Diffusion organisational champions expanding the community of practice capacity building widespread implementation and learning early regulation and targets
6. Embedding New Practice multi-stakeholder networks guiding consistent application monitoring and evaluation standardising and refinement comprehensive policy and regulation


Water Exemplar #2 - OneOneFive Hamilton Hill

As one of DevelopmentWA’s Innovation Through Demonstration projects, OneOneFive Hamilton Hill targets the highest levels of sustainability and is delivering an ecologically sensitive development – minimising water and energy consumption, while retaining the site’s landform, trees and biodiversity.

The estate has been recognised by Water Corporation as a Waterwise Platinum development, the Urban Development Institute of Australia awarding the maximum 6 leaves for their EnviroDevelopment program and was also a winner at the 2021 Waste Sorted Awards. 

OneOneFive Hamilton Hill has a 96% resource recovery rate, having followed the transition framework by setting out with the following lot-scale initiatives:


Water Management



Objectives Objectives
  • Reduce reliance on Scheme water
  • Utilise local water sources
  • Create cool microclimates
  • Minimise heat gain and storage
  • Reduce hardstand material and embodied carbon
  • Increase Stormwater infiltration
  • Provide shade and create habitat


Water Management



Requirements Requirements
  • NCC+ water efficient fixtures
  • Dual plumbing to toilets and washing machine for rainwater supply
  • Efficient irrigation with climate control scheduling
  • Connect to community bore
  • Stormwater retained on lot (1% Annual Exceedance Probability)
  • $10,000 Waterwise Rebate available for Rainwater tank, pump, irrigation controller and Stormwater drainage
  • Max 40% hardstand
  • Max 20% of hardstand to be unshaded
  • Max 50% of soft landscape to be lawn
  • 25% of outdoor area to be deep root zone
  • No artificial turf on verges

Waterwise development pathway

Josh outlined the waterwise development pathway and how it aligns with existing industry and statutory processes and compliments other industry leadership initiatives and activities.

Waterwise Development Plan

Finishing an astonishing session on the two water exemplars and how to use the transition framework, Josh rallied the audience to consider reducing their water wastage in all aspects of business and personal living.

“For goodness sakes, it’s 2024, we put a man on the moon back in the 1960s! Water is everything, but we don't have much left of it.”

Find out more on the inaugural Connected by Water conference including photo galleries and recaps.