‘Green’ trends be­gin to hit home

Lea Jacobs dis­cusses green trends and the im­pact that these are be­gin­ning to have on South African prop­er­ties

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

GO­ING green has moved on from sort­ing out the rub­bish and re­cy­cling the odd can. These days the con­cept has started to take off in a big way and peo­ple who are de­ter­mined to do their bit to save the planet have be­come far more con­cerned about the way they live and what they live in.

Es­sen­tially home­own­ers are far more ed­u­cated in global warm­ing and other fac­tors that im­pact the planet. Ris­ing costs in ba­sic ser­vices have also played a role and so­lar geyser wa­ter catch­ment sys­tems have be­come a com­mon sight in sub­urbs around SA. This, how­ever, is just the tip of the ice­berg and there is a grow­ing trend amongt home­builders to build “green” homes that will not only save them money in the long term, but will also hhelp to pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment.

It ap­pears that al­though the trend to build eco-friendly houses rests with up­mar­ket in­vestors, the lower seg­ments of the prop­erty mar­ket are cer­tainly not sitting back idly. Faced with rises in ba­sic ser­vices tar­iffs, many home­own­ers are look­ing at ways of con­serv­ing en­ergy and have adopted many of the sys­tems that have been in use in colder cli­mates around the world for years.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of South­ern Africa, re­cently noted that cost-sav­ing green trends were driv­ing de­mand and as such were adding value to prop­erty. He said that a re­cent sur­vey con­ducted in the US dur­ing 2010 by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors in­di­cated that en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly fea­tures re­main a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor, with 88% of buy­ers say­ing that heat­ing and cool­ing costs were im­por­tant, while 71% de­sired en­ergy-efficient ap­pli­ances and 69% wanted en­ergy-efficient light­ing.

The need to con­serve is be­gin­ning to hit home and judg­ing by the in­creas­ing num­ber of “green” prop­er­ties that are com­ing on the mar­ket, it is a trend that is set to con­tinue. It is not only the res­i­den­tial sec­tor that has changed its mind­set. Com­mer­cial prop­erty is also com­ing un­der the eco spot­light. Colin An­der­son, a di­rec­tor with the Ra­bie Prop­erty Group, says that the new buzz­word in the com­mer­cial prop­erty mar­ket is “Green Build­ings”. He says that if one con­sid­ers what is hap­pen­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally, then one has to as­sume that it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore the trend be­comes the norm in SA.

It is, how­ever, on the res­i­den­tial side that things are re­ally be­gin­ning to hap­pen with ar­chi­tects mind­ful of the en­vi­ron­men­tal needs of their clients. Pam Gold­ing Prop­er­ties have listed a home on the Pezulu Es­tate in Kyn­sna that has been de­signed to not only max­imise the ex­cep­tional views on of­fer, but also en­dorses a truly green life­style.

”Priced at R15,9m, the tech­nol­ogy cer­tainly doesn’t come cheap. How­ever, the price in­cludes fea­tures such as a hot wa­ter and ducted air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem that uses a heat pump sys­tem to heat or cools the air. Sim­i­larly, an­other prop­erty in the area has been de­signed to al­low nat­u­ral sun­light to pen­e­trate deep into the build­ing. The house that is on the mar­ket for R15m is equipped with hy­draulic un­der­floor heat­ing that is con­trolled by a cen­tralised so­lar heat pump. In ad­di­tion, sewage is col­lected in an on-site, un­der­ground sys­tem that con­verts the ef­flu­ent into clean, re-us­able wa­ter which is then used to ir­ri­gate the in­dige­nous gar­den.

Price it seems is not the ma­jor concern of in­vestors who want to do their bit for the en­vi­ron­ment. Goslett says that re­search in­di­cates that in gen­eral, US home­buy­ers are will­ing to pay be­tween 11% and 25% more for green homes. The de­mand for green homes in the US is ex­pected to rise 900% over the next five years — an in­dus­try in­crease from $2bn to over $200bn.

“In tough eco­nomic times, buy­ers are look­ing for ef­fi­ciency and qual­ity and over the past three years the US mar­ket share of cer­ti­fied green homes has grown de­spite the eco­nomic chal­lenges it has faced. En­ergy-efficient and health­ier homes con­tinue to gain more at­ten­tion and of the new homes sold in the US dur­ing 2009-2010, al­most 25% were green homes,” says Goslett.

One house that ticks all the right boxes on the green front is cur­rently be­ing mar­keted by Jawitz Prop­er­ties. Sit­u­ated in Cale­don in the Cape, the home has been built us­ing a sand­bag method.

Michelle Wes­sels, the Jawitz agent who is mar­ket­ing the home, says that the ad­van­tages of this con­struc­tion method are nu­mer­ous and in­clude the use of un­skilled labour as well as the speed of con­struc­tion and sav­ing on build­ing ma­te­ri­als. She says that ser­vices such as elec­tric con­duits and plumb­ing are sim­ply laid amongst the sand­bags. An­other ad­van­tage is the flex­i­bil­ity of win­dow and door po­si­tion­ing com­pared to other pre­fab­ri­cated con­struc­tion meth­ods.

Build­ing with sand­bags is, of course, noth­ing new. How­ever, a re­cent in­no­va­tion has been the de­vel­op­ment and de­sign of sand­bag con­struc­tion homes us­ing a reg­is­tered con­cept called Eco-Beam, which was de­vel­oped and patented by Mike Tre­meer.

This pre­fab­ri­cated beam, used to con­struct the wall frames, is man­u­fac­tured from 300mm wide tim­ber and gal­vanised steel lat­tice re­in­forced frames. Spe­cially de­signed bags are filled with sand and packed in and against the frames. The walls are then cov­ered with chicken wire mesh and plastered or fin­ished as for tim­ber­frame con­struc­tion.

The owner’s brief re­quired a gothic roof with dou­ble vol­ume in the liv­ing area, al­low­ing one to en­joy a view of the roof con­struc­tion as a fea­ture.

The hard­wood Vic­to­rian sash win­dows and ‘happy doors’ were cho­sen to com­plete the ru­ral feel of the house. He sug­gested hav­ing the dou­ble doors made to form sta­ble doors, which greatly as­sists ven­ti­la­tion. The owner is also very im­pressed with the ther­mal in­su­la­tion af­forded by the sand­bag con­struc­tion method and thick­ness of the walls. Con­tact: Jawitz Prop­er­ties Michelle Wes­sels 082 943 5915

This ‘green’ home sit­u­ated in Cale­don, Cape Town, which was built us­ing a sand­bag method, is on the mar­ket through Jawitz Prop­er­ties for R1,3m.

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