Eco Cottages Greg Phipps with his band of willing workers: Chris Blair production manager, Phillipe Saquet third year mature age carpentry adult apprentice, Georgie Brachold designer, Nic Morris second year carpentry mature age carpentry apprentice, Kolby Vemeulen first year carpentry apprentice from NDSHS and Kayne Gill third year cabinet maker apprentice just completed apprenticeship from NDSHS
Eco Cottages Greg Phipps with his band of willing workers: Chris Blair production manager, Phillipe Saquet third year mature age carpentry adult apprentice, Georgie Brachold designer, Nic Morris second year carpentry mature age carpentry apprentice, Kolby Vemeulen first year carpentry apprentice from NDSHS and Kayne Gill third year cabinet maker apprentice just completed apprenticeship from NDSHS

Business booming for local success story built to last

One of Cooroy’s most resilient COVID-19 businesses, which builds modular homes that repel destructive termites is set to secure its production future for the next two decades.

Noosa councillors next week will consider entering into a new lease arrangement for Eco Cottages’s factory at Jarrah St worth more than $3 million and set to expand further.

The locally-owned firm, which started from scratch in Pomona and makes its prefabricated modular buildings mostly out of termite resistant native cyprus, has weathered the COVID-19 downturn with business back on track.

And for the company founder and managing director Greg Phipps could not be more upbeat after regaining $5 million worth of work in two projects at Agnus Water and Mount Warning in News South Wales lost earlier in the year due to the pandemic shutdowns.

“We had literally $5 million worth of work that just sort of came to a grinding halt (when COVID hit),” Mr Phipps said.

A real Cooroy success story is keen to sign a lease at its council-owned Cooroy production site for the next two decades.
A real Cooroy success story is keen to sign a lease at its council-owned Cooroy production site for the next two decades.

“That said, we had a lot of work so we didn’t put anyone off we just kept going.

“Those two clients came back, they survived that and we’ve go over a year’s worth of work in contracts.”

Mr Phipps said the long-term lease with council would offer his operation security and he was glad he ignored advisers who said he was crazy not to buy a property for the business.

“I said we can’t afford to spend a million dollars on a block of land and then spend a couple of million dollars on a purpose-built facility,” Mr Phipps said.

Eco Cottages began as a father-son operation that has kept on expanding over the years while retaining its strong environmentally sustainable ethos.

Mr Phipps, who has a degree in environmental planning and management, refuses to kiln dry his timber stock and allows the timber seasoning process to occur during manufacture in their climate-controlled factory spaces in an “holistic” process.

An innovative collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Eco Cottages starting in 2017 resulted in the high-quality cypress glue-laminated beams, which have helped deliver cheaper, more sustainable housing and won high praise from Agricultural Minister Mark Furner.

The company’s factory air-flow is powered by solar panels, with the excess electricity generated and the company harvests its rainwater.

Department of Aigriculture's Bill Leggate, Eco Cottages head Greg Phipps and department project manager Dr Robbie McGavin with an Eco Cottage modular home under construction.
Department of Aigriculture's Bill Leggate, Eco Cottages head Greg Phipps and department project manager Dr Robbie McGavin with an Eco Cottage modular home under construction.

“We resource all our cyprus from regional Queensland around Chinchilla and Cecil Plains from sustainably managed forests,” Mr Phipps said.

“We get hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cyprus, so it’s very good for regional employment as well.”

Eco Cottages is also powering on as a local jobs generator with a new apprentice and a senior joiner set to start work there next week taking the staff level to 27.

“We don’t use subcontractors, we only employ full-time staff and we have a relationship with Noosa State High School and take on school-based apprentices,” Mr Phipps said.

Council property adviser Denis Wallace said the proposed 20-year lease with a five-year extension option will provide certainty for both parties with long-term tenure reflective of Eco Cottage’s significant investment.

“The new factory has allowed Eco Cottages to grow in excess of its predictions, with it more than doubling staff to 25 people, including six apprentices and a PHD student,” Mr Wallace said.

“To date Eco Cottages has invested $3.6 million in the site, which was raised through its own equity and private investment.”

The company has also request a 200m site extension to its 2600sq m facility.

He said Eco Cottages recently wrote to council outlining a desire for longer-term tenure to help it obtain bank finance in future.

“Eco Cottages has been an excellent lessee and property staff are supportive of its request,” Mr Wallace said.