The Drought Evolution of Cape Homes
The drought in the Western Cape has been affecting residents’ daily lives dramatically due to water restrictions. To meet the demand for eco-living, homes have evolved. While some see this as a reactionary measure of temporary circumstances, others see this as a natural progression in the way we design and build our homes.
The interaction between our homes and the environment has always been a contentious point, with design purists maintaining that a home should incorporate itself as much as possible into the space that it occupies while using the natural terrain as well as indigenous building materials. And while there are few indications that the current weather conditions are adversely affecting property prices, research shows that future buyers will be willing to pay higher prices for energy efficient homes.
In response to the drought in the Western Cape, homeowners and developers are encouraged to rethink the way they
incorporate the “green factor” into their homes. The inclusion of energy- and watersaving devices into home design ultimately changes the way we see our homes, creating houses of the future that will have the future of the planet in mind.
A home’s garden is where a lot of water saving can be done. Gardening experts, Starke Ayres, who have been in the industry since the late 1870s, shared some useful pointers on how to effectively garden your home:
By reducing the size of shrubs, their need for water is decreased and thus the rate of evaporation is, too. Mulch:
Mulch all planted areas with a layer of organic material such as peach kernels. Apart from feeding the soil, mulch also dramatically reduces water loss and keeps soil cool.
What to plant:
Everyone knows that succulents are a must and there are numerous options.
The inclusion of energy- and watersaving devices into home design ultimately changes the way we see our homes, creating houses of the future that will have the future of the planet in mind.
Your water-wise plant list includes aloes, as they are low-maintenance, offer unexpected Winter bloom, and also attract sugarbirds and butterflies. Other options also include: crassulas, vygies, and cotyledons that are all more likely to require less water than the average plant.
Boreholes and water tanks:
If you are equipped with a borehole or water tank, you should water deeply and infrequently. Saturate an area while aiming to mimic a good rainfall and you may get away with only having to water every few weeks.
Small manageable areas:
Hone in on your gardening efforts by focusing on small areas such as a collection of herbs, succulents, or potted plants. Be creative with decking, pebbles, and stepping stones to minimise lawn areas.
Additional future design trends to take note of:
Windows allow solar energy to enter a home. While this is desirable in Winter it can be a curse during Summer. In the Southern Hemisphere, houses should preferably face North. North-facing windows should be larger than South-facing windows but not too large. The position of the Sun in the sky also changes seasonally and an appropriately designed overhang or awning will limit sunlight entering the home in Summer and let in more sunlight during Winter. The addition of an overhang or awning to the windows of your home is a cost-effective and a sustainable method of temperature regulation.
One of the best ways to make a house more energy efficient is to reduce the flow of heat into and out of the house. Ceiling and roof insulation conserves heat in Winter, and maintains cooler temperatures in Summer. In milder climates like the Western Cape, comfort can be achieved without much heating or cooling, if appropriate thermal designs are implemented.
The inclusion of water saving features appeal to the sense of responsibility that we all have, and will no doubt add to the appeal of a home. With good maintenance and simple water-saving initiatives, toilet water consumption can be significantly reduced. Older toilet cisterns with a syphon flushing system hold nine to 12 litres of water, while modern toilet cisterns hold about six litres of water. Converting your toilet to a multi-flush system, which flushes for as long as the handle is held down, or a dualflush system, which offers long and short flush options, can cut water consumption by up to 20%.
Water-efficient showerheads deliver around six to 10 litres of water per minute. They reduce the amount of water that flows out of a showerhead, without affecting the quality of the showering experience. This is done by adding air to the flow of water, increasing the size of water droplets much like a high-pressure hose. A water-efficient showerhead saves up to 50% of water, and also reduces water-heating electricity consumption.
Making smart choices when buying a new household appliance can have a significant impact on your water and energy use. Dishwashers use an average of 40 to 75 litres of water per wash, although very efficient machines can use as little as 13 litres. More efficient machines will also use less electricity. Machines with economy or half-load washing cycles will reduce water consumption by 37% and energy use by 29%. High-efficiency washing machines use about 30% less water and 40% to 50% less electricity. Look for machines that consume 37 to 45 litres of water per wash.
Boreholes and well-points draw underground water for irrigation purposes. A well-point is normally an installation with a pump mounted at ground level that draws up water via a suction pipe from a maximum depth of eight to 10 m. Boreholes, in turn, can be shallow at a depth of about 30 m, or deeper at 100 m or more. Installing wellpoints and boreholes is expensive and should be fully researched beforehand. Also, all groundwater is not necessarily ideal for irrigating plants. Although they are generally not considered a sustainable solution to water conservation, boreholes can help reduce our dependence on fresh drinking water for garden maintenance. Groundwater plays an important role in the environment. During dry periods, groundwater replenishes low-flowing rivers. During wet periods, the opposite occurs: The rivers and surface drainage replenish the groundwater. To ensure that borehole water is not polluted or overexploited, the amount of groundwater that is extracted needs to be monitored, and all boreholes must be registered with the municipality. In recent months we at Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate have seen a significant increase in the sale and appeal of homes with boreholes and automated irrigation systems.
Potential homeowners and investors are on the lookout for homes with suitable green features as it not only makes their home living experience hassle-free in dealing with the current climate, but also adds value to the home in the event of a future resale.
While our current drought status may not be an everlasting issue, energy-efficient homes certainly will be.