Getting off Grid
Great strides have been made in the development of green technologies that reduce consumption and increase sustainability within the built environment. However, traditional building methods continue to be popular. With decades or even centuries of best practice to prove their effectiveness, these methods offer guaranteed results and competitive pricing. Newer materials and technologies offer incredible benefits but need revolutionary clients to help them prove their worth. One young couple challenged themselves to build a home entirely off grid, using the most sustainable products available for the lowest overall cost. The endlessly innovative Architecture for a Change (A4AC) assisted them in their quest. They used upcycled shipping containers and lightweight steel framing to form the base of the structure. Their choice of window materials was simple. While still considered relatively new in South Africa, uPVC has been proving its effectiveness in Europe for over 50 years. It is a truly sustainable material. It takes minimal energy to manufacture from a renewable source (rock salt), lasts for decades while in use and is fully recyclable. uPVC windows and doors offer significantly more insulation than common alternatives which has a significant impact on energy consumption. Teva Windows, the most experienced supplier and installer of uPVC windows and doors in South Africa supplied double-glazed products, to ensure maximum energy efficiency. Installation of the windows into the containers proved simple under their expert guidance. Other materials included cork flooring from recycled wine bottles and additional insulation in the form of recycled plastic bottles. Natural light and ventilation from well-placed windows, LED lights where necessary and solar panel energy allow the home to function largely without municipal electricity connections. Bottled gas is used for cooking. Water is provided by a borehole. This home was affordable to build and its monthly running costs are extremely low. Its impact on the environment is equally minimal. The modern exterior, cozy interior and stunning views make it a beautiful place to live. In partnership with A4AC, these owners have shown that sustainable architecture can be an affordable reality in South Africa and on the continent.