Sustainability

Eleven studies of the site were undertaken between 1991 and 2013, so we are fortunate to have a lot of information about the flora and fauna and its history. We continue to add to this data. Many of our team have worked with this site for long periods of time.

Since acquiring the property our team has carried on the excellent revegetation works, feral animal control, weed control and waterway maintenance that was undertaken by the previous owners. We continue to maintain and improve habitats. Some of our ongoing works and management practices include:

  • Co-ordinated fox control activities with National Parks and Wildlife Service and Livestock Health and Pest Authorities, with positive signs of reduced numbers.
  • Assisting Byron Bird Buddies, Marine Parks Authority and Council Rangers with the management of dogs at the Belongil Estuary.
  • Continuing to fund and work in partnership with WetlandCare Australia in the rehabilitation of the critically endangered littoral rainforest.
  • Ongoing vegetation management and fauna monitoring, including a koala SCAT survey to analyse how koalas may use this property as a corridor.

On the 50 acres developed as Elements of Byron resort the total building footprint across the site is 3.8%, or just under 10% of the developable area. The developed area contained roads, dilapidated buildings, landscaped gardens with introduced palm species and man-made water bodies from previous tourist development. It was some of the least sensitive land within the Elements of Byron site and within the broader 230 acre land holding.

With four unique ecologies – rainforest, dunal, wetland and eucalypt – the property is an ecological hotspot. There are 13 acres of critically endangered littoral rainforest – the largest privately owned parcel in the region. There is almost two kilometres of absolute beach frontage and the property abuts Belongil Creek, a tidal tea tree estuary home to a range of rare and endangered nesting shore birds.

The key design driver was and is nature. The vision was to let nature, not buildings, dominate. Each landscape has its own story. The villas were painstakingly sited around the existing mature trees and the effect is pure Tolkien, with trunks and branches curved around walls and decks and buildings designed to accommodate specific limbs. All non-native vegetation was removed and 175,000 native plants and trees were added to extend core habitat.

19 endangered species have been recorded on the property including birds, bats, koalas and the long-nosed potoroo. The careful integration of development into the less sensitive areas of the site coupled with extensive re-planting of endemic flora and ongoing environmental management ensures the protection of these species in perpetuity.

The overall strategy was to work with rather than against the site’s characteristics including climate, established ecosystems, existing infrastructure and hydrological conditions. Ultimately this fostered a design response which minimises energy and water consumption, utilises passive design principles including natural ventilation and solar orientation and touches the earth lightly.

Passive solar and water sensitive urban design contribute to energy efficiency as do solar panels on the housekeeping building roof. A decision was made not to place panels on the accommodation villas as they generally sit beneath mature trees. The site’s hydrology was deliberately left undisturbed, however rainwater is collected from the central facilities building for toilet flushing. An onsite bore provides water (which is first filtered of iron) for irrigation and to fill the 850,000 litre infinity lagoon pool. The best practice pool filtration system does not create load on the sewer and is a “closed-loop” solution.

A state of the art Energy Management System in each villa is coupled with an energy monitoring and display function. This allows guests to watch their energy usage in real time via the TV and iPad in each villa (for example if you turn on the hairdryer you can watch the figures on the screens rise). The Energy Management System controls power and temperature and room access and is responsive to human presence through motion detectors. So when a villa is inactive the system will shut down the power, lighting and air conditioning, saving around 40% of power consumption.

Environmental education is integral to the guest experience. Complimentary Guided Rainforest Walks and Bird, Beach and History Walks are held four times a week and at additional times by appointment. Guests can sample bush tucker as well as get up close and personal with the resident fauna. Staff receive training regarding the sensitivities of the site including the Belongil Estuary. Signage directs guests away from areas of greatest sensitivity. Subtle interpretive signage helps guests understand the different flora. iPads in each villa share information regarding the different ecologies and explain how these are interpreted through the villa interiors, landscape species and wayfinding. The colour palettes, fabrics and design reflect the ecology in which each particular villa sits, connecting guests to the land.

Scheduled to open in 2018 an onsite Eco Education Centre will extend the educational focus to incorporate environment groups and schools as well as resort guests. Crafted from repurposed buildings from previous development on the site, the Centre will be surrounded by 500m2 of market gardens and an organic waste composting facility. It will be 100% powered by the sun and harvest its own rainwater.

Through Byron Bay Railroad Company, a not-for-profit heritage rail organisation, the owners of Elements of Byron are reinstating the local train service. This will operate along the three kilometres of track linking Elements of Byron, the Sunrise Beach community and the Byron Arts Estate with the town centre. The service is for the general public as well as resort guests and other tourists and is scheduled to commence late 2017. Byron Bay and in fact the Northern Rivers region has been without a train service for 13 years. Public transport in the town is limited. The entry to Byron township along Ewingsdale Road experiences gridlock, particularly during peak periods. The 40 metre wide rail corridor has laid fallow, providing no public benefit apart from buffer land for adjoining neighbours. Byron Bay Railroad Company has repaired the tracks and a bridge and in addition has built two platforms, a train storage shed and restored the two car rail motor in its heritage colours. The project makes use of discarded infrastructure, revitalising both the rail corridor and the 1949 era heritage train.

The Byron Bay train has been converted to become the world’s first solar train. The “world first” status has been confirmed by both the Australian Solar Council and the Australia Institute. More at www.byronbaytrain.com.au

Accolades to date include

- Award for Excellence for Development across Regional NSW and Canberra, UDIA (Urban Development Institute of Australia) 2017

- Sustainability Award, Australian Institute of Architects Qld Chapter 2017

- Commendation in the Commercial Category, Australian Institute of Architects Qld Chapter 2017

- Best Large Scale Corporate Retreat, Qantas Business Travel Awards 2017

- Best Hotel Design, Society of British Interior Designers International Design Awards 2016

- Best Hospitality Building, NSW Master Builders Association Awards 2016