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The benefits of building green homes

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31 Oct 2012

Arguably the single most important feature regarding green architecture is the design of a living space that encourages as much outdoor living as possible.

A low-maintenance, high visual-impact garden can be achieved in just days and within a budget of around R10 000 with water features, bird bath, water-conserving ground cover and indigenous plants that ensure lively colour in both summer and winter,according to Mark Corbett, chief executive officer of Century Property Developments. This home on show currently was designed by Studious Architects.

This creates a virtuous cycle - less power is consumed by using indoor electrical appliances and artificial lighting and waistlines are kept smaller by encouraging outdoor physical activity, explains Mark Corbett, chief executive officer of Century Property Developments.

He says estates such as those created by Century have a strong emphasis on activities such as local hiking, cycling to shops instead of driving, taking dogs for a walk, horse riding and even bird watching.

“Outdoor living promotes better health – both physical and mental,” he says.

Century launched its 2012 HomeShow last weekend at the Waterfall Country Estate located between Sunninghill and Midrand in Gauteng.  

The homes showcase the latest concepts and trends in design, power efficiency, landscaping and the latest green technology for home building.

It is the centerpiece of an eco-friendly housing development at Waterfall Estate which is setting the benchmark for ‘green’ homes, says Corbett.

The homes greatly vary in size, finishes, innovation, landscaping and other vital factors that influence end costs. 

Home and stand inclusive range from around R4.5 million to R6 million for the Waterfall Country Village homes and from around R8 million to R12 million for the Waterfall Country Estate homes (up to 720 square metre home on a 1 200 square metre stand).

The HomeShow will take place again on 3 and 4 November.

Property24.com caught up with Corbett to find out about the importance of building green homes.  

Corbett points to three main important benefits of building green homes:

1. Running Costs

By introducing energy-efficient concepts and home automation, it reduces the electricity bill.

He notes that electricity costs have doubled in recent times with guaranteed additional increases approved over the next two years.

Arguably the single most important feature regarding green architecture is the design of a living space that encourages as much outdoor living as possible. Designed by Louise O Architects and currently on show at the Watefall Country Estate, this home took the Best Architecture award for its oustanding design. It is selling for R12.4 million, add R1 million if you want the furniture as well.

Furthermore, Eskom is looking at charging a ‘time of use’ premium for peak-time consumption at some stage in the near future, he says.

Taking as much consumption as possible off-grid at these peak times (early morning and early evening) will result in exponential future savings for residents.  

“This is why the value of a house built with ‘green’ technology will have far greater value in the immediate future and running costs will begin to adversely affect homes that are Eskom thirsty and inefficient.”

Eskom has submitted its application for average increases of 13 percent over five years for its own needs plus 3 percent to support the entry of new independent power producers – a total of 16 percent over five years.

This would see the average electricity price increase from 61c/kWh in 2012/2013 to 84c in real (inflation adjusted) terms by 2017/2018, for Eskom’s needs only, or 96c/kWh including Independent Power Producers.  

2. Property value

As the trend towards environmental awareness grows, a 'green home' will become more valuable and command a higher resale value as this awareness evolves.  

This is going to be a factor when one is paying twice and three times the monthly running costs of a home in the future when one could be taking that money and spending it on the capital investment of the home, he says.

3. Aesthetics

An energy-efficient home is by definition more tuned-in to its natural environment.

“People want such homes because it is the right thing to do, and creates a closer bond with the environment in terms of earthy colours, indigenous water-wise plants, and natural finishes which have a better and appealing natural texture.”

It is also a home which is oriented and ventilated using passive climatic design techniques, which tend to have more windows and cross ventilation - giving the home more natural light and fresh air, and making it generally comfortable.

Going green at home

Asked about costs associated with building or going green at home, Corbett says it is definitely cheaper to create a green home from scratch and that is the very purpose of the Century HomeShow.  

Corbett points out that there are four basic principles that should be entrenched in any design of a ‘green’ home - it must minimally incorporate each of the following: orientation to the north, insulation, energy efficiency and sustainability by means of natural materials and colours. Designed by Urban Concept Architects CC and currently on show, this home is selling for R5.9 million.

However, building and retrofitting a home to be green is becoming far less expensive and ‘available’ in South Africa every month.  

Technology is also enabling the fast availability of information, which home buyers and homeowners can tap into.

Corbett points out that there are four basic principles that should be entrenched in any design of a ‘green’ home - it must minimally incorporate each of the following: orientation to the north, insulation, energy efficiency and sustainability by means of natural materials and colours.

For renovations, this provides a convenient time to implement extensive insulation, repaint in natural colours and either renovate existing features such as furniture rather than buy, or replace with natural products rather than synthetic.

While the orientation of a house cannot be changed, the north-facing side can be opened up with fenestration as much as possible to allow in natural light and create natural ventilation, he explains.

At a minimum, all globes should be replaced with low-energy LED globes, and if a heating appliance needs replacing, this should be replaced with a non-electrical heating source and preferably a gas-based appliance.

A low-maintenance, high visual-impact garden can be achieved in just days and within a budget of around R10 000 with water features, bird bath, water-conserving ground cover and indigenous plants that ensure lively colour in both summer and winter, he says.

One can use a bark fibre mulch to help reduce the occurrence of weeds and retain moisture in the soil.

Soil organisms such as earthworms will work the mulch into the soil - the mulch provides a habitat for small insects on which birds can feed.

A shallow ready-made pond will provide a place for birds to drink and bath.

Rocks/pebbles should be placed in the pond to ensure that the water is not too deep.

Grindstones will also provide shallow water for the birds to bathe in or drink.

Pebbles serve the same purpose as the bark fibre mulch, he says.

“Indigenous plants really show up during winter when our aloes colour the entire countryside, some of these new hybrids are less susceptible to fungus and insects.”

He says the inclusion of a water pond at the entrance of a house promotes regulated temperature conditions while maximising on cross ventilation, especially where the home uses large sliding doors near the pond.

“Technology advances mean there are many heating systems and appliances on the market today, which reduce reliance on electricity from lighting to stoves and heaters.” – Denise Mhlanga

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