Building Update: October 2020

Long-awaited Ecovillage house designs

After much ado, we have now publicly released our suite of pre-designed, tailormade Ecovillage houses. They comprise 16 separate designs that are correctly oriented and sized for each of our three block types (six designs for Groupie lots, five for Cottage and five for Family lots).

All of the homes offer excellent passive solar design outcomes – many rating more than 9 stars in the thermal assessments (NatHERS). This means virtually no heating or cooling costs throughout the year. These homes are consistent with the Building Design Guidelines and compliant with the Local Development Plans and the Lifecycle Assessment requirements. All homes have a timber frame structure (with various cladding options), excellent insulation, double glazed windows, and zincalume roofing. Some homes are also offered in hempcrete, and others include elements of strawbale and internal recycled brick. All homes have accompanying structural engineering designs completed. Hopefully, the range will offer a good design option for most households at a price point that won’t break the budget.

These designs have come about through a lengthy and detailed design and costing exercise over the past six months as a collaboration between the Ecovillage Builders Guild and the Ecovillage In-House Design Team. The homes separate into two categories:

  1. In-house designs that we put out to tender and selected a preferred builder in a competitive tendering process, and
  2. Builders who commissioned their own designs that they priced and offered to the marketplace.

In both cases, if you’re interested in a particular layout, please contact the listed builder for more information about the house in question. They will be able to provide more detailed drawings, specifications, and inclusions, and also make minor modifications to suit your family or lifestyle.

Pre-designed buildings on our website do not need to go through our normal thorough design review process. If you are not making any substantial changes, after a cursory review of your final drawings, you can go straight to Building Permit application with the Shire, saving significant time. Please submit final working drawings and specifications before lodging to receive our formal letter of support.

Changes to Building Design Guidelines

We have recently made some small but important changes to the Witchcliffe Ecovillage Sustainable Building Design Guidelines (BDGs), which has been updated on the Document Library of the website.

  • Greywater plumbing only required from the bathroom (not laundry due to lint and alkaline water).
  • Timber framing should comprise studs, appropriate building paper / foil, battens, and then cladding.
  • Fibre Cement board is allowed to be used internally in wet areas and as lining for eaves / outdoor ceilings.
  • Pellet heaters must meet emissions requirements, no efficiency requirements
  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) on north facing windows – minimum 0.45 (change to recommendation rather than requirement).
  • Recommendation to construct homes to BAL 12.5 standards (general bushfire risk area).
  • Clarification to allowable cladding options including James Hardie’s Linea weatherboard profile.

Local Development Plans approved

Local Development Plans for stages 1 and 2 have now been formally signed off and are uploaded on the Document Library of the website. The LDPs provide important site information pertaining to boundary setbacks, carports and driveways among other things. One key change to note in these LDPs is a new provision that allows balconies over carports on the Cottage lots of Cluster 1B only with the same 1.5m setback as carports to facilitate views of the central dam.

Design review process for custom homes

We’ve now started the design review process in earnest, with 10-15 new custom homes currently in the design phase. Many of the proposals offer interesting and creative responses to site and program constraints within the parameters of our guidelines. These individual designs will provide spice and variety to the Ecovillage and are a welcome addition to the various streetscapes.

The full design review process is outlined in Section 9.3 of the Building Design Guidelines, but essentially comprises a series of concept design reviews and then a final sign-off prior to Building Permit submission. The design reviews are best done in person if possible, which allows for discussion and resolution in a way that a static remote process does not. However, we recognise the constraints of distance and can undertake reviews via email and phone conference if necessary.

Bushfire Assessment

We have fielded some questions recently about the bushfire requirements relative to house design and approvals. In general, most lots in the Ecovillage are considered low risk of bushfire (BAL-Low). However, some lots on the eastern side of the project are subject to higher bushfire risk and will need to consider this in the design of the associated homes. If your lot is identified on the Local Development Plan as being subject to bushfire risk, you will need to design your home accordingly and commission a Bushfire Certificate that is submitted alongside Building Permit drawings.

The current starting point for this assessment is our approved Bushfire Management Plan and associated Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Contours. However, relative to an individual lot, this assessment is indicative only and needs to be specifically confirmed. To assist in this process, we are commissioning a ‘Determined BAL Contour Map’, which will reconfirm the original work and provide dimensioned CAD contours relative to the impacted lots that can be relied upon for design work. This should be ready by the end of October. Designs that then comply with these contours can get assessed for consistency with the mapping, and the Bushfire Certification issued quickly and inexpensively. This is then submitted with your Building Permit drawings to the Shire for approval.

Building grants update

The WA government is administering both the State and Federal building stimulus grants and has released more information and clarification of the process. If you are planning to apply for either the Homebuilder (Federal) or the Building Bonus (WA) or both of these grants (which you can do on the same form), we strongly recommend you click on these links and read through the conditions to ensure you understand the requirements.

Some conditions to note include:

  • Construction must commence within three months of the building contract date but extensions of up to three months may be given where the reasons for the delay are unforeseen and beyond the control of the parties to the contract (for the WA Building Bonus).
  • You may submit an incomplete application for the Federal HomeBuilder grant from November without all the supporting documentation (for example, evidence of having commenced building) in order to meet the 31 December deadline.