Eco-contemporary design in South Africa
Did you know?
Hemp was first used in central Asia 2800 years ago, before spreading worldwide.
In times gone by, when someone showed you a cob house in South Africa you may have thought he was a Hobbit who had lost his way from Middle Earth.
These days, however, there is a cob explosion in South African home building, and a growing interest in the technique of using rammed earth instead of bricks and mortar.
But that’s all just the thin edge of eco-contemporary design in South Africa. With this kind of green habitat – which involves solar solutions, harnessing the wind and a raft of power-saving inventions – comes the concept of an eco-village.
Take, for instance, the Khula Dhamma Eco Community Farm outside East London in the Eastern Cape. It’s an eco-community promoting living light on the planet. Judging from the blogs emerging from newly arrived members, most of them are working out ways to stay longer than planned.
Drive up into the Eastern Cape Amatolas to the forest village of Hogsback to the Voice of the Earth Eco Shrine and suddenly, among the menhirs and soulful follies, you feel at peace. That’s also eco-design at work.
Find yourself in a 6th-floor apartment in central Johannesburg, an urban space formerly shunned because of inner-city decay and crime, step out on the porch and be faced with a superb cityscape that throbs with energy. There’s some eco-design at work there, too. Also, there is the raw magic of central Johannesburg.
And then there is hemp, the magic plant. You can weave it, you can turn it into plastic, use its leaves, seeds and stems to many uses, you can run vehicles on it, you can make vehicles from it – and you can even build a whole house out of hemp.
That’s exactly what a hemp advocate and a Dutch architect have done, in Noordhoek in the Western Cape. They built a 7-room ‘hemp house’ to showcase the incredible potential of the wonder plant as an all-round building material.
The walls and most of the furniture were made from hemp, all water is treated and recycyled, the floors are made from sustainably sourced cork and the whole house is partly powered by solar energy.
The Green Building Council of South Africa is planning an official ‘green certification’ for the design and completion of multi-unit residential buildings. South African architects on the cutting edge of their professions are embracing green building using sustainable and eco-friendly construction materials.