The Loft

The Home Base blog

Passion Project

This limestone owner-built house pays tribute to its Fremantle heritage


You’d be hard pressed to find a couple more passionate about sustainable housing than Alice and Greg.

The Fremantle duo have spent the past five years painstakingly planning and building their dream home and while the project is not quite finished, the results are both astonishing and enchanting.

Artistic touches such as crazy paving, polished concrete floors dotted with shells and rocks collected by Greg’s grandparents over a lifetime, and bespoke iron balustrading are just the icing on the cake.

What lies beneath is even more impressive. It’s an environmentally friendly build which appears on first glance to be part of its historic surrounds and yet is also uniquely modern.

It started with mountains of research, investigation and thought.

“We sat down and tried to figure out what our dream house would look like and we basically made that the starting point,” says Greg, a fly-in-fly-out ship’s officer.

There’s no containing his excitement for what he and environmental engineer Alice have been able to achieve since then.

The centre of the limestone home, designed by Mike Richardson, is a massive open-plan living area with soaring ceilings and iron-clad glazing.

A mezzanine level featuring bedrooms and a bathroom overlooks this central living space.

Tucked to the side is a galley-style kitchen which leads to a double-storey self-contained one-bedroom apartment which will eventually be used for short-stay accommodation.

One of its many endearing features is the toilet, which is the retained outdoor dunny from the previous house. Its quirky coloured kitchen complete with all the mod-cons and concrete floors is also a winner.

The property is Tardis-like, with so many incredible surprises packed into its 301sqm block.

“There are lots of benefits to being an owner-builder,” Greg says. “There’s no question it is hard work but taking control of everything definitely has its benefits. There’s no way we would have been able to have this house if we had gone to a builder, they just couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it.”

The couple joined Home Base’s Owner-Builder Support Network which they say was a great help, particularly the free building inspections which gave them peace of mind at crucial milestones during the project.

Building it themselves and sustainably meant the home was never going to be completed at speed. The stonemason took nearly three years to complete his part of the project.

But neither Alice nor Greg have an ounce of regret. “Even if we were finished, we’d be working on maintaining it and when we do eventually finish, we will never stop working on it because there will always be something to do,” Greg says. “We’re in it for the long term,” Alice says. “There’s no need to rush.”

Alice and Greg’s sustainable plan

  • Recycle as much of the old house as possible. Up-cycling of waste materials such as bricks, timber, limestone footings, concrete slab, tiles and windows.
    “This means less waste going to landfill and the satisfaction of having these materials incorporated into the new house,” Alice says.
  • Build with natural and recycled materials with minimal processing requirements and good thermal properties.
  • Insulate the building envelope well with above-average insulation. “This is a long-term investment that should pay itself off over time,” Alice says. This includes R4.1 stand-alone roof insulation using refrigeration panels within the cathedral ceiling, Phenolic foam insulation within limestone wall cavities, and double-glazed windows with thermally broken window frames.
  • Underfloor heating to 80 per cent of floor areas using hydronic water piping in polished concrete floors with the use of evacuated tubes (solar water heating).
  • Waterwise practices including a 1000-litre water “thermal store” to provide domestic hot water and hydronic floor heating, a 22,500-litre rainwater tank, and dual plumbing system (black and grey water) to facilitate water recycling.
  • A slow-combustion wood room heater with wet flue to heat water in thermal store in winter when solar collection levels may be insufficient.
  • Lighting with minimal energy consumption using LED lighting as much as possible.
  • Smart wiring to assist with the management of power consumption and the control of ventilation of living spaces and roof cavities. “We want a system that can teach the house to regulate its own temperature,” Alice says. “We didn’t want an audio-visual system that manages an air-conditioner and central heating from an iPhone. Just a smartly designed house with a bit of added intelligence.”

To find out more about the Home Base Owner-Builder Course, click here or to find out more about the Owner-Builder Support Network, call the Welcome Desk team on 9388 1088.