Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Eco-friendly Investment and Sponsorship

To find out what this is all about have a look down the blog (and to our older posts) where you can see pics and also impressions of the final result. If you support us - please copy this info and send it on to other interested people, or organisations (particularly the second part!). And, of course, send us your money...!



Bureaucracy makes it tricky for us to get finance for such a cutting-edge eco-friendly building, but this means we’re opening an investment opportunity to raise our final R80 000 – a small amount in the property market, but what we need to really make our organic Bed and Breakfast house a success. R80 000: that’s just 80 people investing R1000 (£70) or 16 investing R5000 (£350) each! And, as you can see below, it is a safe and worthwhile property investment.

Your investment gets you 2 possibilities:

  1. Timeshare
    You (or anyone you nominate to enjoy it) can cash in any amount of your investment for organic B&B accommodation* , whenever you choose (subject to availability), and always at special highly discounted prices that will stay fixed until the end of 2009, and thereafter only increase annually strictly in line with inflation rates. A R1000 investment would get (in 2008) 2 nights in peak season for a family of 4 – or 5 nights for a couple off-peak! For big investments we are also willing to vacate the whole house for a negotiable period we are also willing to vacate the whole house for a negotiable period, again at a discount for investors.
    For 2008/9, standard B&B prices for investors:
    Off-peak (May-Sept) : R100 per person per night (R50 per child)
    [Typical Muizenberg prices: R200]
    Peak (Oct-Apr) : R150 per person per night (R75 per child)
    [Typical Muizenberg prices: R250]
    * Our unique fully organic B&B accommodation will be available for up to 4 people, in an area with a separate entrance and ensuite shower/toilet. You will experience organic food, in rooms made and furnished with organic materials, all in a beautiful holiday home, with toxic chemicals avoided wherever possible in the building process. Muizenberg’s famous beach amenities, vlei, public transport and shops are a short walk away, and the mountain towers impressively above our garden.
    We anticipate being open for business at the beginning of 2008, but if there are any delays in the final touches we will contact all investors with latest news at the beginning of the year.
  2. A financial return on the sale of the house
    Any amount of your investment which you have not used for “timeshare” will be returned to you at a proportional rate if the house is sold i.e. if the house costs R1m to build and sells for R1,5m, a R1000 investment would be returned as R1500.
    Although it is difficult to accurately value an unfinished house, we have obtained a provisional independent valuation from a Muizenberg estate agent. If the house is completed with the finishes we plan, it would be likely to sell soon for between R1,8m and R2,2m, a fair profit given an outlay of approximately R1m (including the price of the plot).

We would ask you to commit to investing for five years. If we have not yet decided to sell the house after that time you would then be entitled to ask for your money back (assuming you had not made use of the 'timeshare' option), although we would then not be able to guarantee a return at property market rates. We would still, however, encourage you to keep your timeshare investment with us after that time! You can make your investment to bank accounts in the RSA or the UK and once confirmed we will send you a certificate showing the rand value of your investment and confirming your entitlements. Contact us by e-mail ( or on 021 788 6613 for bank details.

We are also very open to donations and sponsorship from individuals or organisations. Here’s why we think our house is worthy!

  1. Our house is the first “cob house” in an open suburban city street in South Africa, and has been seen by thousands of people during the building process. It is being built in an energy efficient way using recycled, natural and non-toxic materials like sand, clay, straw, and wood. It features walls that naturally keep the house warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and a passive solar design. It will include a grey water recycling system and on-site renewable energy generators to help us in our aim to be off-grid.
  2. The building site provides a safe and empowering experience for all ages to be involved in. Our prominent, convenient location has made practical education about eco-friendly building technology available to many people for the first time. The owner-builders are both qualified teachers and have run workshops on site with hundreds of people already. Besides workshops for the general public, we have had many school groups (at both primary and high school level), university students, teachers and lecturers (including many architecture students), and even a group of bankers on site getting muddy!
    We have attracted interest from officials in the municipality and government departments keen to learn more about green building, and hope to hold workshops with these groups as the building progresses. Once the main house is complete we will still hold open days, and workshops to practically build outbuildings – and so will continue to establish our home as a site for sustainable building awareness and environmental education.
  3. Building this way involves more labour and time, but uses much cheaper materials than conventional building. We are thus investing our resources in empowering skills development and job creation. Our “cobbing” team is led by a black foreman – the first fully black team we know of in South Africa - and as they become more confident with their skills they will be more able to lead workshops and train up future “cobbers”.
  4. One reason why more homes of this type are not being built to solve the housing crisis and create jobs, in a sustainable way, is a negative perception among most South Africans towards “mud huts” as old-fashioned. Building a stylish, elegant house like this helps shift that perception so that eco-friendly buildings can truly be aspired to by our people.
  5. We are building on a brown field site rather than a green field site. This means the house is in an urban area, on the site of a previous building (apparently a beach cottage, “Bonnyrigg”, once built for Cecil Rhodes!) Most new expensive developments in the Cape are on prime agricultural or resource conservation land. It will become increasingly important to preserve our “green field” sites around Cape Town as global warming affects South Africa’s natural resources.
  6. We are generating much publicity – in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV and on the internet – which would also be beneficial to any sponsors wishing to promote their green credentials. (Our first small business sponsor has been very happy with the publicity so far!) All donors would be acknowledged by being listed on a small plaque on the property, but obviously for larger donations we can converse about the exact ‘reward’ a sponsor would get.

Contact us at or on 021 788 6613 to talk further and to obtain bank details in the UK or RSA.

Learning curves

Here is a view of one of our lintels - old railway sleepers, with a special groove routed to help keep rainwater off the window and wall. You can see below the white limwashed wood that is becoming embedded in the cob walls, to help distribute the weight of the joists.

The walls in the 'sun room' in the east are complete now although we're leaving plastering for later.

The biggest headache for us has been the roof. This has nothing to do with the cobbing and ecological aspect, but is to do with the elegant curved, 'organic' structure our architect favours. It looks beautiful on paper, but finding carpenters and builders prepared to work with the complicated angles involved has taken a year and a half! We finally have an expert on site and so the curved trusses are at long last going up. The delay has held us up a little as we can only build the second storey cob walls in rainy weather once the roof has at least basic covering on. Meanwhile we have been continuing with workshops including most recently Muizenberg High School, who are keen to come again! One good thing about all the rain has been to see how well the walls have coped, even before the final lime plaster that is the real protection.

You can see here the north face, which gets most rain, and most sun. A couple of the large windows that will make up most of the face can be seen awaiting installation inside the house. Not much cob here: this should cut down on re-plastering on our most exposed face, gives us passive solar energy, and gives the house a magnificent mountain view.