The Drought Evo­lu­tion of Cape Homes

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Contents - Text: Mike Gre­eff, CEO of Gre­eff Christie’s In­ter­na­tional Real Es­tate Im­ages © Gre­eff Christie’s In­ter­na­tional Real Es­tate

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.

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