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How a small Australian hostel became a 'big boy' by environmentally friendly and sustainable facilities - TQ©


21 november 2012

ECO OK
Cooling and heating
Energy efficient

Hostel Tim’s Place (Halls Gap, Australia) is the only one which became Runner Up twice with the Green Initiative Award of STAY WYSE. Over 60 entrants from all over the world entered the competition. Five businesses were shortlisted in 2011 and seven in 2012. Laura Daly, STAY WYSE Association Manager, thinks this is great for such a small accommodation as Tim’s Place. “After all it’s easier for big boys to spend money on environmentally friendly and sustainable facilities.” How did the owner Tim Walsh managed it to get on the shortlist? What are his eco-friendly choices to eliminate carbon output?
For the regular visitor the eco status isn’t the most important thing. Happily for us organizations like STAY WYSE stimulate hostels to take initiatives to keep our world green, clean and healthy. And on their turn they make the travelers more conscious. A reportage by Bernadette Koopmans.

  
Tim Walsh: In business it is never how much you earn that is important,
but rather it is how much you spend that determines success or failure.

   

It starts with enthusiasm, with ideas, ambition and passion. Tim Walsh built Tim’s Place in 2005 with the assistance of other trades peoples. It’s situated in the little village Halls Gap, surrounded by the beautiful mountains of The Grampians (Victoria, Australia), by kangaroos and a lot of different birds. I stayed four days in Tim’s Place and it was hardly enough to discover the mountains and to enjoy the great hospitality of Tim and his friends Maree and John Rudge, who help Tim when required. But it was enough to got the information for this article.

Maree tells Tim was a builder, an ambulance driver and a gardener in the past. “He is used to do things on his own. He built his hostel to lodge a maximum of 22 persons, with 3 - 4 beds a room. It has rooms for backpackers and apartments. Earlier he had a bigger accommodation, but he didn’t like that. So he started with a new and smaller one.”

John describes Tim as a very energetic person, working wherever he’s going. “He has a high commitment to the local community. He’s always visiting people and making connections. He travels in Australia and Europe. He also has a three hundred year old house in France. Not a hostel, but a rental house. It’s a beautiful house in a beautiful area.”
Tim’s Place differs from real Youth Hostels because of its sociability. Tim’s Place has a living/dining room combined with a kitchen, and a closed veranda with a TV. Another difference is the cleaning. John: “If you keep it clean, people keep it clean. We never have much troubles. The only troubles come from Australian visitors. Not from people overseas. People tell us Tim’s Place is clean and it has a feel like a home, with good coffee. That’s the sort of thing they tell us.”
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ECO OK
In the area of sustainability Tim’s Place has led by example in the community. Tim Walsh is always willing to share his knowledge with others. ‘Being Green’ is good business, he says. The business’s gross takings have appreciated 3 - 19% per annum over the last four years. The costs have been decreasing at a similar rate as systems improve. In business if you have a positive point of difference to your opposition it increases your visitation.
Tim Walsh registered his accommodation as ‘Green Hostel - ECO OK’. And there is no doubt it’s green: it’s surrounded by nature and so by a lot of animals! Kangaroos visit the garden daily and out the back door you walk into a mob of twenty kangaroos grazing on the grass around Tim’s Place. Wild birds are encouraged into the garden with the daily visit of cockatoos, corellas, ducks, rosellas, wrens, currawongs, magpies and finches. Tim: “They eliminate bugs around the garden but also make it difficult to pick fruit. They are mostly too quick for the staff. The guests love to take photographs of the kangaroos and birds.”
But what are Tim’s eco-friendly choices to eliminate carbon output? Tim’s Place have very diverse facilities. He has facilities for dividing waste, to use as little as possible energy, water and cleaning agents. According to Maree Tim uses environmentally friendly washing powder and for cleaning he only uses vinegar. The waste water runs onto the garden to the fruit trees, herb and vegetable garden. There is a clothes line in the garden and the dryer is only used when required.
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Cooling and heating
Tim Walsh summarizes his sustainability initiatives: “My accommodation uses passive green technology. The building length runs east-west with the living areas facing the north. A pergola is built along the north side. It is covered by a transparant laser light sheeting which reflects heat, reflects UV rays and lets light through. Deciduous vines growing along the pergola provides for a cooler place during the summer and a warmer building during the winter. A terrazzo concrete floor through the building gives thermal mass to retain heat during the winter and to cool the building during the summer. The building has north facing clerestory windows along the roof line which warm the building during the summer and provides light into the building late into the evening. By opening the windows during the summer months it also allows for hot air to escape and cool the building. The building has double glazed windows and highly insulated walls. The heating system works by hydronic heating. It is powered by two heat exchange hot water tanks that in turn are partially powered from the solar system which produces electricity for Tim’s Place. Initially I was told that this concept would not work with this type of tank. But with the knowledge of an electrician the system was installed. This method of heating is now becoming more popular as people realise it can be done.”
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Energy efficient
Tim’s Place also has four rainwater tanks with a capacity of 70,000 litres storage. By using clean energy for heating (not wood heating and resultant ash on the roof!) the water can be collected for drinking and washing. For 6 – 8 months of each year Tim’s Place is self sufficient with water collected from the roof. John: “The water is used for everything in the hostel, for the kitchen, the showers etcetera.” But Australia has restrictions. Maree: “In the summer you always have to keep some water in the rainwater tanks because of the fire season. And then we change over to the main water.” Obviously another problem is a dry period, which can go on for years in Australia.
The solar panels on the roof for electricity results in a daily electricity bill of $5 per day during the busy summer months and an electricity bill of $15 per day during the quieter winter months. The extra $10 per day during the winter is due to the 24 hour operation of the hydronic heating system and less hours of sunlight to produce power. At the beginning of winter the heating system is turned on and five months later turned off. All guests compliment the heating at Tim’s Place. John: “Tim runs his heating system from the electric heat exchange hotwater tanks which are powered partially by electricity
produced from the solar panels on the roof. It is so cheap to run it! Before this he had another heating system with a much bigger gascylinder.”

    

Tim’s Place is now so energy efficient that the daily expenses of energy (electricity, gas and water) amounts to between $10 and $20 per day depending on the season. The model has been designed to show leadership to other operators. Tim Walsh is happy to speak with anyone who may have an interest.

   
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