Advice and Opinion

Sustainable living: the future of real estate?

Green living

Sustainability is one of the most current and important issues to consider; a ‘hot topic’ in the home and construction sectors. 

Often the thought of being more energy efficient makes one think of expensive contraptions, modern interiors or fittings, and a lot of extra work to make the home more eco-friendly, however this does not need to be the case. A green home is attainable with a few simple adjustments, while the results may not be physically visible all the time, doing your bit in your home on a daily basis is not as difficult or expensive as you may think, and can even save you money in the long run” advises Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.

We all know that climate change, global warming, depletion of ozone layer and resource depletion are real and their impact on human and animal lives can be devastating. By altering our lifestyle, it gives us an opportunity to adopt actions for sustainable living that can help to reduce the environmental impact“.

Eco-friendly housing is the future of real estate

The key to encouraging more green building is to educate home owners. If they decide to go green, they can have a more durable, more energy- and water-efficient and healthier home for about the same cost as a conventional home and can benefit greatly by gradually starting to implement green features. As the cost of living increases, and our society becomes more environmentally conscious, eco-friendly homes will see an increase in demand.

Johann du Toit, Area Partner from Engel & Völkers Stellenbosch, has already had first-hand experience with the advantages of green homes with clients from Sweden who had had a selection of properties available to them. In light of the current water shortage in Cape Town, they opted for a particular property in Stellenbosch, after being presented with a number of alternatives, as it had its own supply of tested and approved water for human consumption, a swimming pool running from borehole water and a solar system supplying the hot water.

It shows that having more eco-friendly sustainable homes have become strengths in effecting the choices made by tourists as well as for buyers. We believe that this will add a handsome premium to the price of accommodation and real estate” says Craig.

Green Estates

An increasing number of people are deciding to purchase green homes; as everyone enjoys the savings on utility bills, making green homes a wise investment and also providing better durability, energy savings and water savings. If you’re selling your house, highlighting your eco-friendly features can be a major selling point to potential buyers.

Kobus Taljaard, Engel & Völkers, Licence Partner from the Winelands region says that developers and management of two estates Val de Vie and Pearl Valley have been very pro-active and have turned the negative water issue into a positive. Both these estates have disconnected municipal water and have become totally self-sufficient from underground water supplies on the banks of the Berg River and grey water purification. The switch over took place just before Christmas when the newly installed purification plant took effect – there will not be a day zero in these two estates – at least not in the very near future.

Water restrictions still apply as enforced elsewhere in the province, but the fact that the taps will not run dry is used as a marketing positive. New development phases will continue as planned and property prices will not be affected” concluded Kobus.

Engel & Völkers Potchefstroom also has quite a few estates implementing green features, one such estate is de Land Estate, which has dedicated herb gardens & fruit orchards. Carl Venter, Licence Partner of Engel & Völkers Potchefstroom has been researching green and energy efficient living since 2010.

This year, our Engel & Völkers Green Projects division will be building the first energy efficient home on Lekwena Wildlife Estate. Keep an eye out for the process as the house will be monitored to calculate the efficiency rate, providing valuable information for clients looking to make their own homes more energy efficient-definitely an industry first in Potchefstroom” Carl added.

Properties which are green and have water saving systems and boreholes will be more desirable going forward and will be priced accordingly.

Turn your own home into a green zone

Replace your shower heads: The simplest, cheapest and quickest way of saving water is by switching your regular shower head to a low flow, water efficient shower head, this will half your shower water consumption. Shortening your showers, and turning the taps off while washing yourself can save a considerable amount. By placing a bucket in the shower you can catch your grey water, which allows you to save and recycle water by reusing it in your garden.

Upgrade your toilet cistern: Older cisterns can use between 9-12 litres per flush, while newer cisterns use about 6 litres. Installing a cistern with dual-flush, that provides a button for a long flush and a button for a short flush, will save on water. Alternatively, place a plastic bottle or brick into the cistern to displace the water this will allow less water to flush out whenever the handle is pulled.

Install a timer on your geysers: Heating water is one of an average household’s biggest electricity spends. Install a digital timer on your geyser, so you can program in exactly what times you want it to turn on and off. Alternatively run in tandem with your regular geyser a system to pre-warm the water that goes into the main geyser, so that it’s not constantly heating up the water intake from cold. This could be done through an actual solar geyser, or just through a home-rigged system of black pipes coiled on the roof, warmed by the sun.

Solar panels: Use the sun’s energy to power your home. Solar power can be used to heat water and provide electricity for lighting and appliances. This works best when the panels are exposed to as much light as possible on a daily basis. It is a once-off expense that keeps producing results for years.

Use energy saving lighting: LED light bulbs are becoming more affordable now, but not everybody can afford to switch over the whole house to LED lighting in one go, even though the energy saving makes it worthwhile in the long – term. Start by replacing bulbs in the most used areas, the kitchen, the hall light that you leave on all night, and gradually work up to converting the whole house.

Start to recycle all grey water: Grey water is the water that has already been used around the home used to irrigate the garden.  When using grey water, be careful not to store it for too long as it is particularly susceptible to bacteria and gas production, rather, let it run directly from the bath or washing machine into the garden or collect it in a bucket and use it immediately. The reuse of grey water may take a little preparation and forethought, however, the economic benefits as well as the enormous advantages to your immediate environment, it is certainly worth the preparation.

Green your walls and roof: Having plants growing on your walls and roof has so many beneficial effects. They insulate the building, prevent noise pollution, emit healthful oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.