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Creating a new way of being BY LYNDA WILSON

CERES (Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) is an award winning, not-for-profit, sustainability centre located on 4.5 hectares on the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, Melbourne. I visited it for the first time last year, and was amazed at the variety of alternative building structures found all over the site.

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THE OWNER BUILDER o 170 April – May 2012


Photo: CERES Community Environment Park

Photo: CERES Community Environment Park

In 30 years, the site has been transformed from a barren block that had been a bluestone quarry and then a municipal tip, into a fabulous showcase for productive organic gardening, green technology and alternative building ideas from around the world, interlaced with everyday items that have been transformed into objects of beauty and interest.


THE OWNER BUILDER o 170 April – May 2012

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Coupled with green technology, an urban farm, cafés, a nursery, shop and regular organic markets, it is a wonderful demonstration of food security, sustainable agriculture, energy efficiencies, renewables and water conservation in action.

Mongolian ger Gers (also known as yurts) are the traditional portable homes used by Mongolian nomads. They are handcrafted using wool, felt, cotton, horse hair and canvas, with hessian insulation and traditional camel and goat hair ropes. This ger was graciously donated to CERES by Tent of All Tents (

African hut This hut was built in the mid 1990’s, of mud bricks made on site, with a roof of indigenous Common Tussock Grass (Poa labillardieri) collected along the Merri Creek, which runs alongside CERES.

Indonesian puppet theatre (Wayang Room) and Indian classroom The Wayang Room has been recently renovated using radially sawn timber and the old ferroconcrete roof has been replaced with corrugated steel. This was due to the fact that the 300mm x 75mm oregon timbers at the base of the roof were bowing significantly under the weight of the roof. There was also concern that the hardwood timber structure was very dry, probably due to the cement render drawing moisture from the timber. The Indian classroom was built of pressed mud bricks.

Straw bale office This building progressed over a number of weekend workshops over 10 years ago, and includes mud brick, straw bale, insulation and double glazing. It is possibly the best thermal performing building at CERES. It is adjacent to the workshop, yet the ear splitting thicknesser that creates headaches for staff 50m away cannot be heard at all inside this building. They experienced a bad wasp infestation in the straw bales several years ago, which has since been remedied. © • 0402 428 123

Pizza oven This consists of ferroconcrete sides and roof, an oven base of kiln bricks and heat insulating sides and roof of steelreinforced vermiculite.

Calearth dome – earthbag cubby This dome was built over the course of two 6–day workshops, taught by CalEarth Institute ( It was constructed using 300m diameter plastic woven rice bags purchased from the manufacturer as a roll before they were cut into bags, so it is a continous tube laid as rings. This was filled with 90% soil from the site and 10% cement, and then finished with sand cement render.

Sweat lodge

and ‘development’ issues more generally. Over the years they were subject to persistent arson attacks and have been rebuilt several times. Every layer of the mud brick huts is reinforced with barbed wire and has a bluestone edge. CERES is open everyday except for public holidays. They also run a fantastic range of education programs, workshops, courses and tours, as well as hosting some great festivals and events. Check out their website, or better still – visit! 

Links & resources 


Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East Vic 3057. Melways 30 B7. The CERES Eco House is open to the public every Saturday from 10:30am to 1:30pm.

03 9389 0100,

The sweat lodge is a sacred ceremony most often associated with Native American traditions. However, there are many such practices throughout the world. In all these cultures, the central action is the same: heated rocks are placed in an enclosed space, water is then poured on the rocks to produce intense waves of heat, sometimes herbs are burned or crushed in the lodge or added to the water to produce a soothing fragrance. The doorway of the lodge faces the East, the origin of new beginnings, the place where the sun begins its journey at sunrise each day. The thatched houses of the African and Indonesian villages were first built in 1988 with financial help from Community Aid Abroad to educate students about Africa

THE OWNER BUILDER  170 April – May 2012


Owner Builder Magazine CERES Building Styles  

An article in Owner Builder Magazine.

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