Blackheath's community centre is going green, with solar panels to provide all the power needed in the two halls, library and neighbourhood centre on site.
The climate change initiative also hopes to eventually feed power back into the grid.
The project is a joint effort of the Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre (BANC) and Blue Mountains City Council.
SmartenUp was conceived in late 2019 as a response to the growing climate emergency.
The initial aim was to make the centre a carbon neutral, sustainable building within two years.
But after last summer's bushfires, the project has been expanded to create a neighbourhood safer place (NSP) within the halls on the corner of the highway and Gardiners Crescent.
Currently, the adjoining gardens are an NSP, a place of last resort for people to shelter during a bushfire. An NSP is usually part of a back-up plan when other plans can't be implemented or have failed.
"It is evident that vulnerable people, including older people with mobility issues, people with disability, families with very young children and people with mental health issues, may require a building of last resort in which to shelter when an emergency such as an extreme bushfire threatens,' said BANC board member Henry Lebovic.
"Many of these vulnerable people do not have family or friends out of Blackheath who can offer them shelter, so the absence of a suitable place of refuge in Blackheath requires attention."
An NSP is not the same as an evacuation centre but can certainly provide refuge as a bushfire front passes.
Last summer, many people escaping the fire ended up in the halls, some getting donated food and drinks, others just finding some cushions or air mattresses for much-needed rest.
The project will also improve and modernise the facilities. The BCC is not only the home of BANC, but includes the local library sub-branch and the popular and historic Bates and Phillips Halls, home to a variety of community activities.
The full list of upgrades includes:
- Off-grid solar photo-voltaic system with battery backup to power the entire centre;
- Ducted reverse-cycle air-conditioning to replace the existing LPG heating systems in the Phillips Hall and BANC;
- Water harvesting and water storage;
- Roof sprinkler system to improve protection during bushfire emergencies;
- High-quality theatre style drapes in the Phillips Hall for improved acoustics and thermal insulation; and
- A suite of energy efficiency improvements to maximise the use of solar power generated on site, with the aspiration of becoming a net supplier of power to the grid.
BANC is currently working towards securing multiple funding sources for the project with a view to starting work by mid-year.