The Producers – Michelle & Riaan
With a love for the environment and all creatures within, celebrity Eco-Couple Michelle & Riaan Garforth-Venter pioneered the building of South Africa’s first Bio-Climatic family home.
The most ambitious aspect of the house that the two Earth Hour Ambassadors built in Avianto Estate, a new eco-development in Muldersdrift, is their intention to be completely off the National electricity grid. As a qualified nature guide Michelle is deeply concerned about the state of the Planet and making a difference starts at home.
Their desire to ‘walk their talk’ has resulted in yet another TV first as the Garforth-Venter’s chose to document the build & produce a 30-part reality series on DSTV’s Channel 182 The Home Channel – inviting viewers into their daily lives and relationship, revealing how they juggled their busy careers and schedules while building and furnishing their first bio-climatic family home, in a reality TV show format. And mid-way through production, the couple welcome their first child Rainn Ashton
A few Clips from the Series
We Re-Thought Everything
What is SANS-204?
This standard addresses the Planet’s energy crisis and specifies the design requirements for energy efficiency in commercial & residential buildings with natural environmental control and artificial ventilation. It concerns all construction aspects of building, foundations, fenestration, walling, glazing, roof and ceilings of all future builds. This standard specifies the design requirements for energy efficiency in buildings with natural environmental control and artificial ventilation or air conditioning systems
What is the Green Star Rating
Climatic-house is not just about energy efficiency. The Green Building Council of South Africa had just completed the first Green Building RatingTool. It was the rating tool for offices, but we used it as a green guide for our house anyway.
Reduce, Re-use, Recycle & Re-Think it
Bioclimatic House Features
Our beautiful home is built in a temperate interior climatic zone 1, namely the Muldersdrift area closer to Pretoria. One of the challenges in the zone is the huge temperature variation from a cold winter’s night into the temperate winter’s days; only to plummet as soon as the sun goes down. With this is mind, we tried to incorporate as many of the principles of passive design as possible.
The first principle of passive design is correct orientation. Being in the Southern hemisphere, the best orientation is the living areas to be North facing – totally opposite to North America.
Thus, the solar exposure for this specific climatic zone is cornerstone of on-site positioning. We used optimum shading over the windows to allow for the ingress of the warm winter sun, but to minimize the amount of hot summer sun entering the house. The windows were low emissivity glass which also decreased the amount of heat into the building. All glazing frames were made of wood and sealed the home well. The positioning of the glass doors and windows allowed for great, natural cross ventilation, making the house cool and breezy on summer’s days.
The ceiling was well insulated to contain any heat generated within the house in winter, making it schnuggly comfortable in every room of the house. In summer, this insulation decreased the amount of heat from the blazing sun from entering the roof void. The PV panels on the roof provided the bulk of the energy needed to run this home and all appliances were rated as energy efficient (?) Natural cooling was sufficient and no air-conditioning was required. Minimal heating was needed for winter.
The solar exposure for this specific climatic zone is a cornerstone of on-site positioning. We built our eco-house in accordance with two regulations: Government’s new green architectural guidelines SANS-204 and the Green Star Rating from SA Green Building Council.
We achieved 100% from both entities!
Green materials are materials used in construction that have least impact on the environment and offer the highest level of performance.
Green construction materials have less impact on the environment, require less energy and chemical processing, are more locally sourced to reduce transportation and are either renewable (timber, bamboo, natural fibres, etc.) or highly recyclable. They have superior performance characteristics in terms of thermal performance, maintenance, longevity, stability, strength, and lightness, among others.
While researching & writing their BOOK and like-titled TV series “GREEN LINE: A South African Guide to green living”, Michelle established an understandable and accessible approach to the complex world of sustainable-living. Most content can be filtered under 4 Pillars:
- Energy Saving
- Water Saving and Quality
- Waste Management
- Chemical Concerns
Riaan & I retrofitted our existing home extensively, but addressing insulation concerns prompted us to build new. With extensive nationwide research below are tips to assist you building your dream green home.
* Book & TV series – nominated for the David Attenborough ‘International Green Award” for Best Green Education & Awareness Category.
True NorthPassive design notes optimal true North orientation and makes use of natural light in the abode, enhancing natural air flow for cooling in summer, and noting the arc of the sun for natural warmth in winter
Floor Insulation30 millimeter thick polystyrene under concrete floor slab; insulation in double-brick walls – as per SANS-204
Low E GlassA suitable alternative that creates improved insulation in the SA climate to double glaze windows (which are expensive)
LED BulbsLED Energy Saving bulbs: interior & exterior
CookingGas Stove; 1x Gas oven; 1x ‘electric’ or solar feed oven; gas fridges are available for purchase
InsulationSaint Gobain: Insulation in floors, walls, ceiling as per SANS-204
Eco BricksBrick, paving, concrete, natural local stone used as construction materials. (porous cement mix for exterior floors to ensure rainwater seepage to water table)
Fly AshFly-Ash: a by-product of cement as a result of burning coal is used to bulk up concrete & make bricks, a new green use for tons of fly-ash that is traditionally dumped
Efergy Energy Calculating unitsWe are able to view our home’s energy usage by the hour with monetary value showing as energy unit of output.
Steele Roof TrussesLight-gauge Steele roof trusses with wood over-hangs
Double Glaze WindowsDouble Glaze Windows in wood frames: the first made in South Africa, including the sizable double volume ceiling to floor length. These windows are now the benchmark for all wooden framed double glaze windows in the country – as per SABS Construction Standards Division
Solar Water Geysers & Photovoltaic PanelsSolar Water Geysers & Photovoltaic Panels for electricity generation – building a CBD that is off-the-grid. *Eskom back-up power will still be required for points such as security cameras and fencing. Eskom rebate to be included for converting existing structures to greener buildings *Heat Pumps are under testing at a second location
Insulted PipingInsulating hot-pipes
Rain Water Catchment System3x 5, 000 litre jo-jo tanks re-inforced on the inside with galvanized piping, so that the pressure of the outside soil does not collapse the plastic structure.
Geyser wise UnitWe can monitor & control our geyser’s energy consumption (Love the cell phone communications it allows)
No GrassJust wild flowers and veld grass.
Duel Flush ToiletsDuel Flush Toilets
Red-Water GadgetsInstalled at all geysers close to the water outlet. This cold water from all showers, baths and basins is diverted to the garden, swimming pool and herb garden before being up-to-speed with a warm temperature suitable for task.
Permeable PavingPrevents huge run-off into municipal storm-water systems. Rather allow rain water to naturally seep down to water table level – we made use of a permeable concrete mix for the drive-way.
Drip Irrigation System.
Grey Water RecyclingBaths, showers, basins – pumped for usage inot the indigenous garden and for washing cars.
Flow reducing valvesFlow reducing valves on all taps
Water Saving ShowerheadsWater Saving Shower heads efficiently utilising water-flow
Indigenous plantsIndigenous plants for a water-saving garden brings bee’s birds and butterfly’s to your garden.
Vermiculture or composting Wormeries
A chicken run.
Interior Bokashi compost bins.
Door-Frame Size Veggie Gardens.
Sink Grinders for wet waste disposal through the homes sewage system.
An Indigenous Water-Wise Garden
Grey water recycling means only using biodegradable bath products and cleaning products that are chemical free. Avoid parabens, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS).
Products like V.O.C free paint.
Worms are king in Riaan and Michelle Garforth-Venter’s new house. The couple’s unlikely housemates are going to provide essential garden and homes services in return for their favourite meals – butternut and egg shells.read more
Michelle Garforth-Venter is no stranger to South African television viewers. In recent years, she has become something of an eco-warrior, championing the cause of endangered species and the environment in series like Wild LTD. Her latest venture pairs her with husband Riaan – himself the star of a number of DIY programmes – in Love & Mortar, which follows the couples trials, tribulations and triumphs as they build a truly green home.read more
Why do it? With some extra effort on our part our homes can provide us with a space that connects us to the pleasures of the natural world, keeping us in touch with the seasons and providing our families with a buffer against our fast paced lives. Eco-friendly homes...read more
Accolade ConstructionEnvironmental Site Management
Accolade live their construction beliefs by:
- Acting with integrity.
- Exciting our customers by providing them with the best products and service.
- Treating all people with dignity and respect.
- Promoting individual creativity and teamwork.
- Responding to our changing environment with innovation and enthusiasm.
- Respecting and safeguarding the environment.
Building in a green, energy efficient way.
- Identify Indigenous plants & trees on site. Keep in tact or carefully remove and replant elsewhere with a landscaper
- Remove invasive plants & trees and destroy during construction phase
- Any trees contributing to the harmony of the house are kept in tact
- Remove the Top Soil (good soil) from the construction area and stockpile. Use this as the final layers for landscaping. Avoid chemical spills on piled soil as it will impact plant vegetation
- CARBON FOOTPRINT – Excavate by hand where possible – example footprints instead of using a machine
- Human & Vehicle traffic – vegetation must only be cleared to provide essential access for construction purposes. Deep furrows lead to excessive soil erosion and can change water run off patterns
Recycling On Site
- General Building waste like cement, bricks, paper can be recycled by using as fill to surface bed.
- Items such as doors, frames, windows, pipes, gates etc can be reused at other homes or sold/contributed to needy organizations
- Organic waste can be used for compost and landscaping
- Rain Water Tanks: water can be reused for dust on roads, general cleaning, cement and plaster mixing
- Try to employ local suppliers in lieu of importing materials (Carbon footprint)
- Purchase re-usable products or visit demolition sites
- Establish waste recycling facilities for rubble, paper, metal, plastic, wood, glass etc
Anthony Papageoriou ArchitectsArchitecture Handbook Pictures
The house makes use of natural lighting, LED bulbs; motion detection and day/night switching; solar panelling for exterior, landscape and accent lighting; gas and solar geysers; a central vacuum system and the use of paints with a low VOC content help greatly to give our family a healthier environment.
Our best performance of the building to create a enclosed envelope is to ensure a low U-Value and a high R-Value, preventing heat gain and loss from outside to inside our home.
The use of wind lobbies, typically used in commercial buildings are under-utilised in homes, particularly in areas of extreme weather. These allow access to the home without losing valuable heat in winter. Wind lobbies can also be used in to trap prevailing winds in Summer helping cool internal spaces.
The Green Dictionary
What is the difference between your Carbon Footprint & your Eco Footprint?
Carbon Footprint: This is the tons of carbon dioxide each person emits. This is your personal contribution to climate change.
Eco Footprint: This is each person’s personal land usage during your lifetime. The land & water required to grow the food you eat, the materials, leisure activities, textiles & fuel you make use of – a figure of 1.8 hectares is sustainable for today’s population, but our world’s average is currently living and using 2.2 hectares per person
Stuff you can live without
- Disposable pens: Buy a good pen that only needs the ink-well changed
- Disposable razors: Invest in a razor that needs blades changed once
- Straws: NEVER use a straw
Projected extinction date of the African Penguin is 2030Almost a quarter of the World’s Mammal Species and 1 in 8 Bird Species are likely to be extinct in the next 25 years.
Set up Meatless Mondays at your home
Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table
- A half kilogram of beef needs around 40,000 litres of water to produce
- Compared to 200 litres for a half kilogram of potatoes
Never buy another plastic bag, use fabric bagsPLASTIC is the Serial Killer of the marine world & the bush
A pioneering project we completed to a true-as-possible green result with ‘partners willing to question the traditions of conventional construction.