Tag Archives: Ecotect-Architects

What can Architects do to help with bush fires? The answer is plenty….

The massive scale of the current bush-fire crisis has shocked Australians.

The rebuilding necessary across Australia after the fires will require an army of architects, builders, electricians and plumbers, and many others. Thoughtful design have help shape the reconstruction efforts so that our homes become more resilient against future fires, and they can also be more socially and environmentally conscious that what was lost possibly.


The basic BAL requirements should be seen as a minimal requirement not a set of rules for designer and builders to get around when building a house.  Like all rules they are to stop worst practice and help protect peoples’ lives and property. However, if one is intent in living close to a bush setting you can still do a lot more to protect your family and your home.  It will cost extra money but it will be an investment in your future.

Extra Design Solutions

With most widows facing north in Australia to a cleared solar access zone of 25 to 30 metres there is a natural buffer between the house and a raging bushfire.  Having double-glazing is an added barrier thermally and an extra barrier to infrared radiation from a fore wall.

The use of solid mass materials as an outside skin, concrete slab on ground and thermal insulation will greatly buffer occupants away from the ravages of the peak of the fire as it passes. Avoidance of suspended timber floors where a scrub fire can get underneath a home is also fundamental. Having the home built on a plinth as well will provide an extra fireproof barrier to stop this happening.

Having a timber floor, a roof space with timber is not a good idea. Of course stopping the fire getting into a roof space is also fundamental. Having open eaves is a no-no.  Make sure that all gutters are leaf build up proof, or no gutters at all.

Building close to a natural all year round water source of have a battery driven emergency pump to spray water over a metal roof, heavily insulated is a primary protection as well. This should be operable for the internal escape zone.

Fire retardant landscaping and provision of a escape-zone accessed from inside the house will ensure you won’t have to out-run a fire.

Coastal Houses

“ Communities flanked by forests along the coast and ranges are highly vulnerable because of the way fires spread under the influence of strong westerly winds. Coastal communities wedged between highly flammable forests and heathlands and the sea, are particularly at risk.

As a full picture of the extent and location of losses and damage becomes available, we will see the extent to which planning, building regulations, and fire preparation has mitigated losses and damage.” (source: http://theconversation.com/drought-and-climate-change-were-the-kindling-and-now-the-east-coast-is-ablaze-126750)

Apart from the risk of rising ingress of oceans in coastal regions, fire resistance is now an obvious result of Human Impact on Climate Change (HICC)

Zonings need an environmental plan to accompany development at the subdivision stage. We have all got away with less stringency to date. But it is obvious that Climate Change is incompatible with the normal ravages of droughts and fires. We need to do more.

We are currently working on a checklist/ tool kit to provide this information to not only home owners but also insurance companies and banks as well as Local Government.  For information on this or our free architectural advisory service for those affected by the fires across Australia please see our news story http://ecotect-architects.com/category/news/

Railway Station Experience

Ecotect-Architects, principal Garry Baverstock AM (also Director of Wise Earth PL) and chief associate, James Shaw were lead consultants employed by the Town Of Cottesloe to master plan alternatives as part of the 2008 Enquiry by Design. The same team is part of the NEXUS Architectural team, as well as being founders of NatSCOPE initiative, along with architect/colleague Sasha Ivanovich.

The EbD was an exhaustive study that eventually led to the revision of the planning scheme LPS3 after much public consultation and Government interactions in Cottesloe in about 2011. Apart from the concept for the Town Centre Railway precinct, shown below a number of urban planning and design schemes were created.  This included transformation of the beachfront and other key localities in the Town of Cottesloe. 

As head consultants for this project, we liaised with all authorities and planners attending the event to explore all possibilities for this important exercise. Owing to many complex reasons many of the ideas have not been implemented, mainly due to Local Government inaction.  However, we consider the ideas have economic voracity into the future and are ecologically sustainable.

 Sketch – Urban Plan Concept, Master planning concept for the Cottesloe railway station

Swanbourne Precinct Projects

Swanbourne Village Trust

In 2018 the Swanbourne Village Trust project known as ‘Ilios’ was approved for DA. This project is opposite the Swanbourne Railway station and will be the first phase of a ‘evolutionary-type’ TOD. This type is similar to older areas such as in Melbourne (particularly the Melbourne to Sandringham line) and in Sydney.

Refer to website www.swanbournevillagetrust .com and expressions of interest brochure attached:

SVT project Brochure

The Whole Railway Precinct at Swanbourne

The NEXUS Architectural/NatSCOPE plan for Swanbourne Precinct Development Trust has been scope for the next 15 years. Already this vision is being used in many ways for communications with the property owners of the precinct, key residents of the area and explain to Main Roads and other authorities with any interest in how the precinct may evolve and what Local Government and Sate inputs would be needed to ensure unhindered evolution of the vision

Cross – section showing the future Commercial strip development on the north side of the railway station

The east end near adjacent, connecting lane to the railway station

The western end of adjoining commercial strip along the railway line

A stage-by-stage plan starting from 2008 leading through to 2030 and beyond has been scoped for discussion purposes and hopefully will for a solid platform for detailed planning. Seeing a total concept will undoubtedly be useful for identifying the infrastructure expenditure needed to make sure the vision is economically viable and flexible enough to accommodate each stage of the development.

One of the critical aspects of scoping a vision is sketch visualization early in order to alleviate anxieties from stakeholders and local residents. Fear of the unknown is always an impediment to getting good initiatives implemented.

It has been our experience that sketches like what we have done for Swanbourne will enable serious planning and detailed urban designs to proceed with less ambiguity once the process starts in earnest. This is always a recommended approach by our team as a precursor or a preliminary review of previous work, prior to commencement of master planning and schematics in more realistic ways.

Corner sketch showing the heritage corner and future apartments at the rear

The economic viability for whole development of  TODs are generally not viable and will destroy the market if developed at the same time. Stage releases is much better where the supply for the particular demographic over a period.  In that way the viable price will ensure that the market is not flooded and allow time for quality to rein over quantity.  Recent experience in Australia as exposed by 4 Corners recently has shown that evolution is better than revolution and market flooding.

The Swanbourne project has been devised to suit the economic conditions over time to re-risk the whole vision. Scoping out the existing railway precinct at an easy overview scale was the first step for designer and clientele understanding.

Phase 1: Understanding what is there -Swanbourne Railway precinct as existing

Phase 2 : Completion of the SVT project and commencement of the tourist hotel

Phase 2 Addition of a Tourist Hotel over existing cafes + apartments behind

It is envisaged that this development along with a roof top bar will greatly enliven the precinct and make all the businesses at the TOD far more viable.

The rear apartments added will start to show that the downsizer lifestyle for the wealthy demographic is alive and well. The SVT has attracted great interest and a release of similar upper market apartments at the rear of the hotel will satisfy this market without flooding it, balancing supply with demand.

Future stages were planned to diversify and attract a younger demographic in the area with more affordable living alternatives.

Phase 3

Bridges, town square and community facilities + more apartments

Apart from adding diversity to the choice of accommodation and lifestyles, it is highly probable that Main Roads would have completed the bridgework that fits in with this basic concept. Naturally having MRA support to build the town square and facilities as well as platforms for mixed development each side of the new road traffic bridge makes a lot of sense and could save at least $5million for the tax payer, provided there is satisfactory commercial interest in doing so early.

At the western courtyard based apartments are planned to have a mixed demographic and extend upwards 4 -5 stories in the middle to maximize density and minimize visual impacts for the surrounding precinct established residents.

Once competed finalization of the commercial strip can occur and also extended density mixed development occur both sides of the track.

Phase 4 Stages both side of the track

The final result over the next 10 to 15 years can be shown by the sketch Phase 5.. This phase would be built on the infrastructure initiatives on railway land and the interrelationships crated to enable iconic, land mark pieces of architecture to be created, providing wealthy aged care living, underground paid car parking, more offices and pent house apartments.

Social housing, ‘Baugruppen’ type collaborative housing projects could be located on the south/western approach to the eventual village precinct.

Swanbourne will eventually be a very aesthetically pleasing, European /Mediterranean precinct that will house up to 150 to 200 apartments and new living unit and a higher density buffer of R40 around it adding even more vitality and interaction to the area. Certainly the use i=of the train will magnify at many times over.

But it needs to be created in stages and quality maintained each step of the way with quality buildings and architecture, amenities, services and activity.

Phase 5 shows the art of the possible:

Phase 5

Future Swanbourne: The next 10 -15 years becoming the ‘Prahran of Perth’.

The railway is at the right level, the bridges need to be replaced anyway and there is already a wealthy aged and growing mixed demographic using the commercial facilities and using the train service.  It could be made to explode with smart strategic infrastructure and stage project management of prudent developments on the railway land.

Hopefully this scoping of the future may further progress and create a far more relevant and exciting future for future generations