When Leura restaurant owner James Howarth established Leura Garage in 2011, he revitalised a mechanic’s workshop that had previously been inconspicuous to Leura Mall pedestrians. James introduced a unique ‘fun dining’ experience inspired by his international travels with his family. His vision to create “an immersive space, inviting for all” was quickly realised. The menu highlights the best seasonal organic produce and wines the region has to offer, the interior design reflects modernity whilst paying homage to the past, and the business provides opportunities for others, investing locally whenever possible. Sustainability is its foundation.
James chose local multi-award winning building contractors Blue Eco Homesto re-develop the property, maximising its northern aspect and re-inventing the building’s core structure. 22,000 litres of rainwater is stored under the garage, providing the restaurant with enough water to be self-sufficient. Harvested water is also diverted into 300 metres of piping under the cement floor, heated with an evacuated tube solar gas boosted system. It produces a gentle, warm heat that is evenly distributed throughout the space.
Heating can be a major cost deficit for businesses in the upper Blue Mountains in winter. Joe Mercieca’s Blue Eco Homes team incorporated measures into the design of Leura Garage that were not only cost-efficient in the longer term, but proficient in energy production, self-reliance and environmental sustainability. Taking advantage of the north-facing aspect of the building, large windows were incorporated, with bi-fold doors and a skylight allowing solar light and heat to permeate and radiate. A 10kw solar panel system, covering nearly 100sq metres of roof space, generates sufficient power fed back into the grid, lowering the electricity bill by $6,500 annually. Heating initiatives save James $7,000 in gas costs.
Other sustainable initiatives include energy efficient LED and fluorescent lighting, 3- and 4-star rating bathroom fixtures, a light monitor sensor in the bathrooms, low-emitting VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint throughout and natural ventilation with assisted industrial fans. Leura Garage boasts two Master Builder Awards, a 2015 NSW Tourism Award and a gold rating from the BM Low Carbon Living program.
Another renowned local business taking sustainability seriously is Leura’s Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms. They have been reaping the benefits of Blue Eco Homes’ environmentally conscious renovations since 2013, resulting in a Low Carbon Living gold rating. Refurbishments to the 100 year-old building (circa 1917) took 19 months and were recognised by the NSW Master Builders Association, winning multiple awards. “After an extensive research, we could not have chosen better environmental builders,” says Maurice Cooper OAM (pictured, left) co-owner of this iconic business since 1992.
Hydronic underfloor heating using rainwater from storage tanks maintains a constant heat in winter. Insulation in the roof ensures the internal temperature remains above 13.5˚C. Double-glazed windows throughout the property retain the heat in winter and deflect direct sunlight in the summer. Fly screens allow windows to be opened and air flow to cool the interior.
The LCL carbon audit suggested novel sustainability options, and Maurice implemented what was possible, finding solutions to problems as they arose. Four watt LED globes in the chandeliers, display cabinets, utility rooms and kitchen areas guarantee 30,000 hours of lighting. A commercial curtain reduces fluctuation in the freezer’s temperature. Accumulated waste is separated into recyclable, landfill and organic bins, with organic waste composted and used in Bygone’s flowerbeds and offsite. Employees are aware of environmental practices and turn off lights in areas not being utilised. Limited table linen reduces laundry costs and tea towels are recycled. Bathrooms supply interleaf towels, reducing waste and toilets use grey water from the detention water tanks.
“It may seem that I’m overly conscious of managing a sustainable business in every conceivable way, and my employees may agree here, but the results are undeniably favourable,” says Maurice. He hopes to enter the BM Business Awards for Sustainability held in November this year, encouraged by the success of his ongoing efforts.