Developer Lukas Reichmuth’s ‘Greenest Village in South Africa’

Blue Rock Village is a new residential estate on the shores of Lake Blue Rock, near Cape Town. Blue Rock is special. It is dubbed “the Greenest Village in South Africa”, as it is an eco-village project with green living codes and standards, designed by Swiss developer Lukas Reichmuth of Swisatec in Cape Town. Club Africa asked Mr. Reichmuth about his ‘green’ living ideas.

What is your definition of a Green Village?
“The specs incorporated in the design of the buildings of Blue Rock Village reduces energy usage by a substantial amount. Not only do we save electricity, but also water. Built based on European standards, each apartment will be equipped with eco-friendly and cost-saving features and technology innovations, such as the 2.4-metre rubber-sealed thermal-break double-glazed glass windows, full insulation, LED lighting, 2.8-meter high ceiling, water underfloor climate control to ensures a moderated room temperature (eliminates the use of air conditioning and heaters), floating floors for noise reduction, self-generated solar power, central water heating system (no apartment is equipped with geyser), non-toxic paints, irrigation systems such as the shower to sprinkler system and A++ rated appliances for energy efficiency. All these factors benefit to the well-being of the residents.”

“With that being said, the village is also designed in such a way as to provide a place for residents to Live – Work – Play: our ethos. Most people travel far to work and reside in residential areas on the outskirts of the city, for example, many people in Somerset West travel daily into the centre of work, using time and energy. We want to create a lifestyle where residents can simply walk to work, socialize here and live nearby. We also pioneer the Car-Free Living concept.  The Village’s Car Free Living system is one where pedestrians dominate cars and cars are kept underground, away from the living spaces. The principle is based on one ring road that serves the whole Village and leads cars directly to the underground parking area. No cars are allowed to park in open spaces in the Village, but drop-offs and emergency parking is permitted in the widened spaces between landscaped pots. This way of living reduces stress, reduces transport costs and fuel usage (carbon emissions) and adds to the well-being of each resident.”

What is the track record of Swisatec for green villages?
“With over 30 years in the building industry, we completed similar projects in Europe before I immigrated to South Africa. Swisatec is currently busy with a private household that will have all the features that are going to be in the apartments in Blue Rock Village. I saw the need for a forward-thinking approach for residential developments in SA. Swisatec is pioneering the way by implementing these innovative ways in the design and building materials of the village. Building using these techniques is common practice in Europe. There are so many ways that we can reduce energy usage especially in the 21st Century. We should be implementing these techniques in today’s building industry.”

How is the project rated?
“We were nominated by the Green Building Council South Africa as the flagship project for green villages. The evaluation of the Village project by the Green Building Council is a continuous procedure yet has shown successful results and we are excited to announce the results once completed. Our aim is for a 6-star Green Star Communities Rating and we are implementing all the necessary steps to accomplish this accolade. This will be a major accomplishment for Swisatec as we strive to create innovative, green village developments.”

How do you rate the market for green villages in South Africa?
William Pienaar, Senior Manager of Blue Rock Village: “Green Building is a fast, upcoming topic in the country. Green building is initially costlier than most building materials and techniques and is, unfortunately due to the inconsistency of the rand, not a norm in South Africa. To reduce the day to day costs of a household is initially costly, yet saves energy and costs in the long term. Other countries with green villages are proving their success and we anticipate that Blue Rock Village will motivate the industry towards this new age of building.”

What is your opinion on the future of solar in SA? 
Reichmuth: “The South African climate is a positive way to turn the electricity issues we have faced in the past around. With long sunny days, solar is an obvious answer to sustain households and businesses with electricity. The maximum optimization of this method will be used to sustain the major sections of the village. This, with the building specifications such as double glazing, hot water under floor heating, LED Lighting and A++ Appliances as well as the shower to sprinkler systems allows for residents to save up to 80% on energy and up to 50% on water. The South African market is already experiencing the advantages of solar power with households and businesses converting to this method. Our major water crisis that we are currently facing is also hair-raising and I’m sure many South African’s are trying to make a change to save more so I certainly think that the market is mature.”

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