Eskom: is there a green lining for homeowners?

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

Eish, Eskom! (Shakes head). You’re driving us mad!

But wait. There’s actually a green lining to our national electricity supplier’s dilemma: the inconveniences of electricity shortages are getting more and more of us to think about how we’re treating our planet - which is a good thing, since societies change when each one of us begins changing the way we think.

And while man’s greatest achievements have often come out of our (excuse the pun) darkest moments, we’re also in the happy position of sometimes being able to see them approaching - and when we do, to adjust our behaviour accordingly. Even if that’s usually only just in time.

But when it comes to preparing our homes for a sustainable (even off-the-grid) future, where do you begin?

According to the founder and director of Ecolution Consulting, André Harms, it starts with a look at your lighting, cooking, and hot water requirements, and at how you use your water and dispose of your waste - and it can even include luxuries like air-conditioning. (And no, you won’t necessarily have to forego your luxuries.)

André, who holds a BSc. in electro-mechanical engineering, speaks with conviction since he was inspired to start his business after spending 10 months as the team leader and head engineer at South Africa’s Antarctic base - where the group “lived in complete isolation,” and he “became acutely aware of mankind's reliance on energy as well as our propensity to produce waste.”

BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE

André understands that the move to sustainability rests on behavioural change, and said that his services include consulting with homeowners and corporates - both those who want to improve the sustainability of existing buildings, and those who’re planning new ones.

In response to our question, he said that yes, his services are affordable.

“We can make an assessment and recommendations in just a two-hour meeting, or we can bring additional benefits to your project by empowering you and your team by briefing you on the principles and practices involved.

“The more time we put in, the more impact we can achieve; likewise if you’re tackling a more complex project, there are often more opportunities for improvements and optimisation.”

On the question of the costs of installing sustainable technologies, though, he wouldn’t be drawn.

“Every house is unique, and every house will present its own challenges - which you can resolve in various different ways.”

SOUTH AFRICA LEADS

Interestingly, many South African companies and individuals are leading the way in sustainable building - as the example of Cape Town’s Hotel Verde would suggest.

Known as Africa’s greenest hotel - it’s achieved platinum level LEED certification for new construction from the United States Green Building Council, and it took the World Responsible Tourism Award for Best City Hotel at last year’s World Travel Market - it’s also, according to André, proving that a holistic approach to sustainable design pays handsomely.

“The owners of the hotel have taken a serious and completely holistic approach - which includes everything from managing the socio-economic impact, to the installation of wind turbines and a greywater plant, and even to the selection of the art work on display - and the results work,” said André.

Although the Hotel Verde isn’t a private home, of course, “the principles that guided the selection of technologies can be adapted to most - if not all - building projects.

“Designs often end up unique to the scale and type of the project, and the Hotel Verde shows that luxury and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive - while its social, economic and environmental successes (which include considerable savings on energy) prove that even large-scale developments can be made to work with, rather than against, the environment,” he said.

... And you can’t help imagining where Eskom would find itself if we all worked towards that goal...

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