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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 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.