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Retro-fit project complete – Old Fremantle House

Welcome to a project close to our heart – the Old Fremantle House, a retro-fit project completed by Ecotect Architects. The home now feels light and fresh, especially the new modern walk-through dressing room with beautifully chosen tiles and subtle lighting. The indoor/outdoor room features an aluminium solar pergola and Everbright cover and the addition of retractable blinds provides extra shade and shelter while maintaining views of the feature random-stone wall and leafy garden. The wrought iron and limestone front wall have attracted comments from many approving neighbours and are the result of diligent research by the client and excellent workmanship. Although the original stone house is from the 1890s, the modern additions sit very comfortably with the old, and enhance the liveability of the home within the local lifestyle.


Check out our video –

Pop Up Cottages

As we welcome our newest associate John Tolhurst to the Ecotect Architect team, we are learning more about his latest research, which all started on a trip to Darwin last year.

For this trip, John was part a specially chosen team asked to determine whether a technology centre could be created to address remote Indigenous health challenges across Australia’s tropical north. The approach for the health research centre would be to focus on preventative health technologies that allow communities to improve their overall health and well-being. It was widely recognised that housing is probably the most needed technology for healthy living because of the widespread overcrowding in many remote communities.

From that study flowed an architectural research goal: Could an appealing building be created that would be completed in a factory, shipped to site to be erected into a small accommodation unit by a single person, in a day, and without special equipment? The other challenge would be that they wanted this building to not be a converted sea container or a low-spec mining donga. Instead, could it be a net-zero building and be deployed at a fraction of the cost of the usual methods?

The funny thing was that John thought it could and a year later, after developing and testing his solution, it is gaining interest across regional Australia. The solution uses a 500kg capacity hoist motor and cable to both lower a folded floor system and to then raise the roof. Revealed inside is a fully fitted out bathroom and kitchen – with electrics and plumbing already complete and ready to go. To do this means the systems must be tested before being shipped.

According to John, the vision is that after putting the building up, it rewards you with your afternoon cup of tea. His ‘pop up’ cottages can be implemented in a range of scenarios and settings at a fraction of the cost that would normally accompany these types of developments.


Prototype building during development




Internal view showing kitchen and bathroom area on right

Ecotect Architects Welcomes John Tolhurst

Well known for numerous inventions of mainly architectural designs, Richard Buckminster Fuller was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist. Fuller decries specialization as the enemy of synergy and proposes a reframing of culture that could “get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous social behaviors that will avoid extinction.”

Although he may not be Buckminster Fuller, Ecotect Architects is pleased to welcome John Tolhurst as an associate, bringing his multidisciplinary studies and consulting experience to provide a broad generalist base to our team. John’s several achievements in community-based research and analysis, business planning, industrial design, innovation and entrepreneurship are notable and is a welcome addition to our line-up of original thinkers.

First studying Architecture, John also stepped into anthropology as a means to better understand a building’s relationship with culture, graduated with a Visual Arts second major, and then worked with Fitzroy Robinson Architects in London, including in its CAD development arm to better connect the emerging technology with the various project teams.

In Australia, John then completed an MBA and helped in the formation of many Centres of Excellence in Perth, working with Dr Doug McGhie and Science Matters. Resuming his design endeavours, he developed and patented a re-engineered bicycle that would go on to set the 12-hour and 24-hour world records, among others.

John’s role in Ecotect Architects is to support the use of lightweight building materials with high insulative value in particular projects, including those where a net-zero carbon impact is targeted. In this way, he hopes to help society ‘do more with less’, to use Fuller’s words.

His current research involves plans for an easily erected building to provide remote accommodation. Be sure to check back as we keep you updated with its progress.

John Tolhurst’s patented bicycle sets the record for the fastest woman crossing of America

Design Statement from Ecotect-Architects for Ilios

The Vision

The vision for Swanbourne for the next 10-15 years is based on ‘Quality over Quantity’ and to appeal to people who can afford the superior sustainable lifestyle.  A project, such as Ilios, is not just an investment in the current generation, but the next and beyond. The use of so called general term “market”, is based on populist consciousness, and thus by nature, belongs to the “Lowest Common Denominator”. So what is the reason why most people don’t get the positive attributes of this particular project? Well in our opinion, it simply needs better understanding.

The reality is that a majority of people cannot financially afford to take up an opportunity like this in such a supurb location. These people therefore have had a tendency to put down the concept and vision, because they do not fully understand it.

What’s new in the world of Architecture? Good examples of style have always been almost impossible to get built right through history!

Highest Common Goal

As Architects, even with our social and affordable projects, we have never been Lowest Common Denominator – but rather Highest Common Goal. I think if one researched the economics behind all our projects (in relation to real estate values) the properties would be higher in value to the common approach in each locality.  In short, we are not about making a ‘silk purse out of a sow’s ear’.  Our quality objective has always been based on doing it well and once, by introducing low maintenance, long lasting fittings, fixtures and finishes, and a structure that will control cracking that lasts for centuries. The elimination of party walls is a big attribute, as well as its luxury house configurations instead of jazzed up flats.

Award Winning Cottesloe Example

The 1994 Architectural award winning home at 12 Clarendon Street Cottesloe, is a classic example of sustainable economics as well as (at the time of development) state of the art solar design. The timeless style, maximization of views, outlook and the respected street architecture of the vicinity, was reflected in the sale price many years later.

Just like ‘Ilios’, the house value in addition to the land, appreciated substantially while lesser buildings nearby sold for near land value after three economic cycles.


Apart from being a delight to live in for the family, it was an amazing investment for both the original owners and the following purchasers. It will undoubtedly become part of the heritage of the area, with the last sale around $7 million. Who will demolish this house? Likely nobody!

Poor Standard of Design and Building of Apartments

In comparison, we have no confidence in the low standards now deemed acceptable for run of the mill apartment buildings in Australia. Apart from the horrific damages costs that strata owners will be lumbered with as exposed by the ABC 4 Corners expose (that showed there is now a $6 billion damage bill created by builder developers over the last 20 years in Australia), it is much worst than that when comparing the lifestyle and living standards.

The lightweight party walls, lack of cross ventilation and social interaction areas, acoustic operation between floors, poor orientation and aesthetics that look like something that has evolved from a Lego set, all add up to a poor investment over time, and in addition to the future maintenance and capital replacement burden, makes for a bad economic decision. Slick marketing and sales, with mirrors, fancy furniture and impressive short term landscaping, all adds up to a complete illusion for the buyer. Added to the fact that the developer/builder is unlikely to be around to fix up any problems adds another ingredient to ‘Buyer Beware’ risks.

‘Ilios’ is the Ideal Answer for the Locality

At ‘Ilios’, the value is already in the land. Its sort after location will only increase in popularity during this 21st century, as the Swanbourne Precinct blooms into the exemplar Transit Oriented development it promises to be.

It will follow the lead of localities in Melbourne, such as the up market areas of Prahran, South Yarra and Windsor, where real estate values of the land component are already two times the prices in Swanbourne.

Despite the current anxiety in WA during these tough times magnified by COVID-19, they share similarities to past eras of 1920s and 30s, and top quality Architecture around the world seemed to continue if not increase during these times. So why in such a great location, is there reticence now? I guess it needs to be sold properly and professionally as soon as the community regains confidence in the future. Really, that is the next step needed.

Vision overcoming Fear

In unusual times like now one can understand fear and negativity, but the reality is the only fear we really have to worry about is fear itself (F.D. Rooseveldt, 1929). Panicking is not really a smart thing to do during lock down.  It is a time to be cool and considered.

However, it is a good time to buy and build while processes are low and contractors are freely available and appreciating the opportunity.

‘Ilios’ is the first stage of many over the next 15 years to transform the railway precinct into it fully sustainable destination.

Refer to the NatSCOPE staged concept Master Plan:

At present, the future of Swanbourne is in the hands of aspiring wealthy downsizers. Those who understand the lifestyle benefits and what it will represent to future generations will commit to be part of this community at ‘Ilios’.