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Paarl, Drakenstein Municipality, Western Cape, South Africa
An EcoVillage designed by the FairValley Association members at the heart of the Cape Wineland

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Historical visit by Senior Drakenstein Municipality Delegation

A delegation of senior councilors visited Fairview today to learn about the FairValley EcoVillage–
Councilor - Ms. Sharon Davids - Infrastructure portfolio & deputy Rural Development portfolio
Councilor - Mr. Arthob Petersen - Housing portfolio
Councilor – Mr. Martinus Le Hoe - Rural Development portfolio
Official - Mr. David Delaney - Planning & Economic Development

Mr. Petersen while concluding the meeting said: “I am not in a position to say Yay or Nay, but I can’t see a reason why we should not support this pioneering well presented project”.

The dignitaries met with Mr. Charles Back, the members of the executive committee of the Fair Valley Association and the project’s professional team. Mr. Back thanked the guests for taking the time and making the effort to visit Fairview and FairValley. He expressed his vision about genuinely empower the Fairview farm workers, by allowing them the opportunity to own their own homes and properties, regardless of their employment. “This is a voluntary process. No one is forced under any circumstances to leave the farm. Those who chose not to move to FairValley are most welcome to stay on the farm”, he said.

A presentation was given to the guests, by Ori Ilan, covering the main issues relating to the FairValley EcoVillage - background of the FVA, the acquiring of the land in 1997, the 11 years that had gone by without real outcome and the challenges that this project is still facing today. Ori emphasized the moral obligation to compensate the beneficiaries for the lost time, while their rights to own their own home on their own land were denied from them for so many reasons.

Ori also described the process of the last 4 months, through which the leaders of the association, along with a small team of professionals, reconstructed the development strategy into the current EcoVillage concept. He explained the holistic rationale and the advantages of the Eco-approach, which put together as a one whole - environmental benefits, sustainable physical development, community building and business/employment opportunities.

The Association pleaded the Municipality leaders to put the FairValley EcoVillage on the top of its priority list, to support the rezoning of the land and the installation of the Eco-friendly bulk services. The municipality is also expected to partner with the community building efforts and to provide its municipal services in due time.

Mr. Petersen concluded on behalf of the guests. He extended the Mayor’s apology for not been able to attend the meeting in the last moment. He praised the plans, emphasized the importance of farmers coming forward and become pro active in initiating housing projects for their farm workers. He said that out of 32,000 families waiting for houses within the Drakenstein Municipality boundaries, the farm workers are by far the most vulnerable sector being entirely dependent on the farms’ owners. He also said that 5,000 families are of professionals who fit exactly to the FairValley’s target market. He expressed his positive feelings about the FairValley EcoVillage and suggested that soon he will schedule a presentation of the project for the Mayoral Executive Committee. Mr. Petersen thanked the FVA committee members and Mr. Back for the invitation and the hospitality.

The meeting ended up at the "Goatshed" for lunch, where the guests and the FVA committee members had a chance to chat around the table and get to know each other better. Marlene Van der Berg discovered that she and councilor Sharon Davids are family – real blood line takes them to the same all-mighty-grandfather who had 12 children. Attie Adams, who happens to be related to the same grandfather, reunited with his teacher, councilor Petersen. The engineers, Neil Lyners and Mario Filippi had a chance to discuss some technical details with David Delaney and Ori Ilan. David assured the team that his department will process everything that in their hands – as fast as possible. There was a serious discussion about rugby at the Boland, led by the experienced councilor Petersen, who was trying to satisfy Ori’s fresh curiosity in the subject.

Unique Real-Life Experience for Overseas USB Students in Fairvalley

The Stellenbosch University Business School (USB), hosted last month (16-26 January 2008) 16 students from the FHDW – University of Applied Sciences in Germany, for their overseas training. In conjunction with Fairview Wine & Cheese Estate and the Fair Valley Association, made of Fairview’s workers, the USB offered the students a uniquely exceptional real-life experience. 5 out of their 7 weekdays spent in Cape Town, the students worked on their academic assignments in Fairview.
The task for them was to address 4 major issues in regard with the FairValley EcoVillage that the Fair Valley Association is busy planning for its beneficiaries these days. The 4 teams presented their papers on the following 4 subjects –

· Community Organization – Community organization is aimed to manage and maintain the eco-lifestyle once the Village is been inhabited. The team recommended that a Property Owners Association is to be formed and suggested two models over two stages of the development – outsourcing all logistical matters to an outside expert entity and manages directly only the community affairs. With time, the Property Owners Association will acquire the skills from the management company to run the logistics as well. It became apparent that the Fair Valley Association must take and pro-active approach toward this matter, as the POA must be up and running prior to any marketing of properties begins. Buyers must know in advance what they are buying-in to, which means constitution must be in place as integral part of the deed of sale.
· Business Development – Businesses are integral part of the EcoVillage lifestyle, as it requires cutting off commuting lines – the more people work from home, or from their close vicinity, the less travel it is. Therefore the team worked on ways to encourage future residents to start their own enterprises. The team suggested an holistic approach comprised of 3 pillars – ecological/social/economical and built a model for a comprehensive support system for the Village to establish by bringing a few forces together – financial institutions; big corporations (using mainly but not only their BBBEE resources evolve from the Enterprise Development element on their “scorecard”); USB with more academic support from students and staff, and governmental agencies from three tiers of government. The team also recommended selecting an overall theme for the businesses in the Village to create specialty and strength. The theme suggested is all-around Eco-Lifestyle, health, organic food, natural products, etc.
· Business model – This team’s task was to present 2 business models for the FVA to chose. They were given working assumptions for their calculations, so that the 2 models can be compared. One model is when the FVA develops the land on its own and the other option is that the FVA does it in partnership – a joint venture. The results show clearly that the first option is much better financially for the FVA, but nevertheless requires much higher financial risks, doubtfully should be taken. The work also shows that by developing first hand, the FVA can generate enough funds for their own beneficiaries’ houses based only on the residential component of the development. In this case the commercial segment is a financial bonus. At the JV option the FVA gets “only” its houses out of the deal.
· Marketing Plan – The marketing team was assigned to present two alternate marketing models for all the properties in the FairValley EcoVillage. Since the financial requirements are to leverage the land and the future properties towards the FVA beneficiaries’ houses, the target market for the residential dwellings selected from the emerging SA middle class 30+ years old young families of professionals, who can afford the price range of R500k-R800k per house. The team recommended the “direct marketing” approach of which big companies in the region will be offered plots and houses for their employees of this target group. The team indicated that this would be much better cost/benefit strategy compare to the “open market” model. As for the commercial properties, the team recommended similar approach, identifying enterprises which have some relations to the business themes of the EcoVillage, under the slogan – “Friendly Business Environment for Environmentally Friendly Businesses”. The team emphasized the benefits for businesses, like centrality, accessibility and exposure of the site. Benefits for home owners are - healthy lifestyle, affordability, and relatively low running-costs of the ecological friendly houses.

The students who participated in the programme were - Andreas Binder, Yvonne Börner, Peter Donners, Anika Hülsmann, Sevgi Kabukcu, Alexander Karmann, Dustin Sebastian Kersberg, Alexandra Landen, Andreas Pastor, Anna Eva Rosenthal, Johannes Schachten, Georg Schmickler, Marius Schmitz-Knierim, Esther Siegmund, Thomas vor der Sielhorst and Daniel Willms.

Tony Harris and Ori Ilan conducted the programme on behalf of USB, Fairview & FVA.

Many thanks to Charmaine Kapp – the USB International Office Administrator, and special thanks to Hennie Olivier - Head of International Programs at USB for their outstanding support.

Many thanks to Charles Back, the Fairview and the Goatshed staff, for accommodating the programme, for the warm hospitality, the great food, the wine & cheese tasting, the internet facilities, the superb dinner and the fantastic environment offered to the students for this amazing learning experience.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Highlights from the planning team meeting 7.1.2008

The objective of this session was to brainstorm the initial planning issues, so the planners can begin narrowing options and that we all start speaking in common terms as follows: The materials prepared were presented for discussion purposes.

The session followed the previous one held at the Green Building, Westlake in which the team brainstormed alternative technologies – water supply, drainage, treatment and recycling of waste water, renewable energy and carbon-credit trading, energy and water efficiency / saving, collection, recycling and disposal of solid waste, and selection of suitable equipment, fittings, materials and road construction. This information was used in preparation of preliminary site layout for discussion.

Target Market

We are all in agreement to target middle class 30+ young families, professionals on they way up in their careers, own at least one car and earn at least R16,000 a months per household. (– quickly calculated as repayment of bond @14 %.). It was also noted that the family might have more than one breadwinner, and an average of two children and two adults.
This definition requires a change in our initial category of “Gap Housing” to “Gap+”. The target house Selling Price range will be app. R450,000 to R800,000.

Ecological aspects / criteria suggested for house design

This is just to bring us all to a better understanding of what EcoVillage means in concrete terms.

Passive Solar – Orientation, ventilation, insulation & energy storage in thermal mass of house.
Renewable Energy – Solar water heating, solar/wind electricity generation, bio-gas digester;.
Recycling – “Black” water (sewage); “gray” water (waste water from showers, kitchen, washing machine, basins recycled to flush toilets and irrigation); rain-water harvesting; solid waste.
Building materials’ selection – Preferably local materials to avoid distant transport; least embodied energy materials; use of least toxic content of materials. These should be from renewable sources and create least waste and pollution during construction. Materials also be suitable to local skills, training and job creation, contracting.
Appliances – Energy saving (home appliances, light bulbs etc.); water wise adjustments.
Others – Natural swimming pools; water saving / indigenous vegetation.

Community Organization

It is utmost important for the planners to take into consideration the ways the EcoVillage will be managed when it’s completed. The maintenance, operation and renewal of infrastructure, services, public open space, safety and security needs are important part of development business plan.

Several issues need to be addressed –

Rules and regulations – eventually this must become the constitution of the Home Owners Association of the entire Village. It must include planning and building guidelines, rates and duties, property ownership transactions, life style issues etc. These will probably need to be attached to the title deeds of the property – conditions related to the land, and services.
Logistics & Administration – Efficient structure to allow managing of the communal properties, maintenance of the infrastructure, collecting money and representing the residents.
Enforcement – Efficient means to enforce the constitution, rules and regulations / title conditions above.

We are all in agreement to investigate different ways to handle these issues. The two major options mentioned in the meeting are - An HOA self management vs. outsourcing urban management company for an intermediate period. These will need to be done in partnership with the Drakenstein Local Authority, and could possibly look to share responsibilities as the Eco-Village becomes inhabited.

It was strongly emphasized and agreed, that any opportunity for the FVA to take upon themselves any tasks within the framework of running the Village, even if it is under the auspices of a contracted management company, must be explored (a contract with a management company should possibly look to help the HOA set of the capacity and operational mechanisms to take over those management functions which they think appropriate).

It was also suggested that the project will need to retain a portion of its income (1 %?) as a “maintenance / development fund” for the future.

Planning and Houses designs

Mike Schroeder presented his initial sketches of land use and lay-out plan of plots and a few different initial designs for houses – single and double storey, on different shapes of 250 sqm plots. It was emphasized that this is not proposals for the layout plans or house designs. Mike had used the EcoBeam/sand-bag construction technology to inform his ideas, and had been assured by Eco-Beam that the house-types presented should be able to be built within the budget. The presentations were to initiate discussions and identify questions and information required. This they did! Questions were raised included:

Density - On the lay-out issue there was an agreement to re-examine the density, without still taking any decisions until we know how the officials at the municipality feel about it and what their thoughts about the nature of this new “urban edge” area, including densities. At the moment our “wish-list” presents the maximum number of plots possible (the layout plan presented approximately 310 plots of 250 sqm each – to accommodate 80-120 sqm houses, either on one level, or two. Some terrace housing was also suggested, along with land set aside for a commercial and community centre, public open space, and an area for cultivation.
Pattern – It was also agreed / suggested to “break” / soften the grid-shape of the initial lay-out sketches, and possibly look at inner-circles model and its implications on the density/number of plots. Aspects such as the need for community activities and safety and security were also raised, and discussions about the access to and use of amenities and facilities will also be discussed further.
Commercial & Communal facilities location – Two options were discussed – locate the public center close to the entrance to the Village and create links and easy access to facilities for visitors, consumers and suppliers (and perhaps a future exposure on Route 101) vs. a central location within the residential section. Each contain trade-offs that we’ll need to examine further.
Plots – size of plots should vary. As suggested 250 sqm will be the minimum but we must consider offering a mix of different sizes. It is suggested to investigate allocating 50% of the plots – 250sqm; 30% - 300sqm; 20% - 350sqm.
Houses – a few types of houses were presented. It is too early stage to take any decisions in regard with the specific designs. It is agreed though, that since the development guidelines mention the “incremental / expanding house” concept, every design in the future must show three options – 80sqm; 100sqm; 120sqm, or similar options to provide affordable options.
Security & Safety – This is very important consideration to be taken, including elements like an entrance gate to the Village; surrounding fence; separation between vehicles and pedestrians; bicycles’ routes, community surveillance of open space, and a general ability for the community to be able to control their Eco-Village, etc.