The Original Ecohouse Cottage Had an Energy Efficiency of Less Than One Star

The original EcoCentre structure was a 1966 brick veneer build, in a fenced off garden corner that was home to the Park-Keeper of the St Kilda Botanic Gardens.

Connecting to community and environment, and encouraging care for biodiversity, is our foundation.

In the late 90s, the City of Port Phillip supported local community members including Earthcare St Kilda to use the old Park-Keeper’s cottage as a local ‘environmental hub’ – this was the beginning of the Port Phillip EcoCentre. Many locals didn’t want to wait for problems to be solved, but to get together and spark solutions. 

The Port Phillip EcoCentre was created to be a base for environmental groups to promote sustainability and community action. By 2003, the community fundraised to increase the structure’s energy efficiency rating of less than one star to become a 5-star efficient EcoHouse, with award-winning design for the time.

EcoCentre Committee and staff meeting in the multipurpose room, a repurposed carport. (2016)

Sustainable Living in Practice

The 2002/2003 project team included: Peter Barker (EcoHouse Project Coordinator), Jo Samuel-King (EcoHouse Strategic Coordinator), Peter Ho (Building Architect), Martin Reeves (Landscape Architect) and Fooks Martin Sandow Anson (Construction Management). The team were successful in increasing the 1960s brick cottage’s energy efficiency rating by retrofitting the following sustainability functions to the original house and garden space:

  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Community Garden with Indigenous flora and functional plantings
  • Use of recycled materials (e.g. timber, carpet and furnishings)
  • Passive solar design, featuring solar panels and thermal mass flooring that would be adjusted to provide passive cooling or heating.
  • Treated black and grey water, recycled to water the garden


The EcoHouse successfully showcased ease in sustainable living practices, through growing your own food and recycling waste and water.

Clockwise: A new deck from reclaimed timber; teams building the front pergola to grow vines for green shade; a big delivery; installation of the underground rain tank in what is now the Wominjeka Garden.

An EcoCentre Where We All Belong

When the EcoCentre launched, a community meeting room, resource library and an internet-linked computer supported a new era of collective community action. But now participation levels and program scope have truly outgrown our beloved domestic cottage. 

As the EcoCentre’s educational programs and community offerings have expanded, so have the organisation’s needs to re-design the space and upgrade facilities for full accessibility, cutting edge science, and growing community group usage. With up to 120 students per excursion, 18 specialist staff, 19 Affiliated member groups, and 3000 volunteers, contemporary and flexible spaces are needed.

In 2022, the City of Port Phillip and the Victorian Government are collaborating with us to redevelop a beautiful community EcoCentre in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. 

The redevelopment will triple and modernise community space (without increasing the built footprint), and will showcase sustainable building design and technologies selected to secure a ‘World Leadership’ Green Star rating. The new EcoCentre will model carbon neutral construction and operation, using existing tech, practices and design features available for all civic buildings and homes. It will also reincorporate many elements of the current building into the new design, from bricks and timber to plants from the veggie beds and Wominjeka indigenous garden.

As a base to stimulate connection, education and action, our new EcoCentre will contribute to a thriving future where humans live sustainably, with equitable access to clean air and water, healthy soil, abundant wildlife and renewable energy. And more of us can get together to tackle these projects together! For the latest on the EcoCentre’s next phase, visit Our Future Hub page and make sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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The EcoCentre acknowledges the Kulin Nations, including the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung language group, traditional owners of the land on which we are located.

We pay respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Elder members of our multicultural community.