When responsible architecture and building is already a point of interest, exploring the concept for real can deliver many home truths to eco a natural lifestyle. Those not yet familiar with the practicalities surrounding these concepts can explore it for themselves, by simply escaping the city to enjoy the realities of such a lifestyle. For those who have already made their choices of building from scratch, as opposed to buying an existing structure, even better to observe the exact workings of living in such a structure, before putting it into practice.
And so, last weekend brought the writer’s good fortune of a practical observation of sustainable building practice at play, through the eyes of visiting friends from abroad, themselves keen outdoor enthusiasts, passionate about preserving the environment for generations to come. Staying in a Cape Nature Reserve, where consideration of its natural diversity extends to every square metre of built area brought much admiration.
Driving in bright sunlight toward the green rooftops of the new Oudebosch cabins at Kogelberg Reserve near Kleinmond, amplified the already welcoming sight against the backdrop of the majestic Cape Fold Mountains. Rich combinations of stone and timber, in the surroundings of Cape Fynbos, highlighted the importance of passive design and optimum orientation, through astute architectural practice.
This venue also proved its worth against the harsh weather conditions that befell the Western Cape last week. So when staying indoors became no option, it was hardly punishment to hold in full view the magnificent mountainous surroundings through generous glass enclosures. Good insulation with timber flooring and roof and wall structures also meant that the high efficiency levels of the combustion fireplace easily warmed all the rooms for the night. Listening to the heavy showers that night, brought new appreciation for the rainwater catchment system at the reserve. Designed to simultaneously top up rainwater tanks, it nourishes the rooftop gardens, also designed for insulation of the cabins during summer. And when opening the doors and windows, the cabins enjoy optimum airflow and circulation, ideal for hot days.
A number of installations ensure minimal energy consumption of four people of approximately 2kW per day, facilitated through gas hobs, energy efficient appliances, solar geysers, as well as LED and CFL lighting. Water consumption is kept to a minimum with low flow shower heads, and composting toilets, where the absence of water flushing provides both a hygienic and low odour environment. Magnificent outdoor views are visible from both bed and bathrooms, through glass shower enclosures and windows, where reed screens allow optimum light during the day.
The timber verandas and braai areas were very much designed around outdoor safety to prevent fires, and plenty of seating is made available on modern timber outdoor furniture. Also providing a new learning curve was the eco-friendly swimming pool that features a natural filtration system of stone and plants at different levels that provides a crystal clear flow of water.
The enjoyment of the purest mountain and sea air, while listening to the tranquil flow of the Palmiet River once again emphasised just how going back to one’s roots can bring nature closer.