Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


We Won!!

gghggh_email_signatureCongratualtions to Chen Segnelli and the team on winning the AfrisSam-SAIA Sustainable Architecture Award.  Awards are wonderful for recognizing achievement but they also generate further media interest which keeps increasing our awareness and consciousness of the importance of building with more thought and sensitivity.  Come on everyone, what about thinking about your Christmas bonus and investing in just one thing that can make a difference to the way you live and is kind to our struggling planet. Thank you to all the friends and blog followers who have supported and sustained us on this journey!







GGH in the running for AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architure


headingIt is very exciting to announce that we have been shortlisted to a group of 5 in the ‘House’ Category for the AfrisSam-SAIA Sustainable Architecture Award.  Of course the award goes to our Architects Sengelli and Associates if ‘we’ win but we will be happy to take some credit for the project coming to life!  Its really exciting to see how consciousness of the importance of building in a more sustainable way is growing and awards like this can contribute to incentivising all who participate in this sector.


Barn-house has also been shortlisted

Judging Criteria

Judges look at three main criteria that entries must demonstrate. These are:

  • Regeneration
  • Reconciliation
  • Restoration

Project entries are required to demonstrate how they make the world a better place by minimizing the environmental impact of building. The projects are also required to bear the hallmarks of great architectural or social design. Entries are submitted under two categories, one for built work and the other for works of social importance, including research.

Here is the the full range of entries


Friday morning at about 7:05 South Africa time I will be interviewed on the the national morning show Expresso.  Eeks, its one thing to partake in a film where you can re-shoot any mumbling or lame moments.  Live TV is a terrifying prospect.  Send me all your positive energy please!!

The awards are to be announced tomorrow evening October 27.  Watch this space.


Join the Rooftop Revolution, it’s the Solar Solution!

Join the Rooftop Revolution

We’ve got 24 hours for South Africa to Go Solar!


In the midst of a crushing electricity crisis, Greenpeace considers it a right of every South African to produce their own power, and to feed extra electricity into the grid and get paid for it as a long-term energy solution.

This means being permitted to put solar panels onto rooftops and connecting to a decentralized energy system, where energy can be generated near the place where it is needed. This would have a double impact of increasing energy efficiency, while allowing electricity production to finally be in the control of the people who need it.

As we have seen in examples in more than 50 countries, a rooftop revolution is not only feasible, it is ready to go.

So this is great news!

What is holding this back? Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork, with barriers imposed by the South African government.

YOU can change this!

Greenpeace is urging government to make the process feasible for South Africans.
we are sending a formal submission to NERSA (the National Energy Regulator of South Africa), and with your help we can put the pressure on NERSA to simplify the regulations governing installing solar panels and feeding extra electricity into the grid.

It’s pretty technical, but essentially we believe that if you sign this petition to NERSA then there is a clear indication of support for simplifying the regulations, and focusing on helping people install solar panels, rather than burying them in paperwork. 


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Greenpeace Bust Myths Around Renewable Energy




The evidence is in: Renewable energy is viable, reliable, and ready to go – all that’s missing is the political will to kick start an energy revolution in South Africa.

On this page we’ve grouped some of the most common myths about renewable energy, explaining why they are just that – myths that don’t stand up to reality.

But here’s the thing, although we’ve busted the myths here, we need you to make the myth busting go beyond this page.

Please share it widely. Tweet, Facebook, and talk about it freely.

Now, let’s get going!





Right now, renewable energy is actually already cheaper than coal and nuclear power at every step.

  • A unit of electricity from Eskom’s new coal plants will cost about 97c while a unit of electricity from renewable energy will only cost 89c. Source

In addition, there are no input costs for wind and solar energy. So for example, while one needs to buy coal for a coal-fired power plant to generate electricity (and coal mining itself has massive environmental costs), solar and wind energy don’t have input costs like that – sunlight and wind are free.



Market price aside, coal and nuclear power have huge hidden costs that aren’t included in the price that you and I pay for electricity.

For instance, Eskom is currently building the Kusile coal-fired power plant, and it’s estimated that the coal plant will cause damage of up to R60 billion for every year it operates. We’re talking the costs of water pollution, human health impacts, the plant’s huge water footprint, and climate change.

These massive costs aren’t taken into account when the price of coal power is calculated — but they are still very real!




Renewables technology is ready to go, and is working reliably in countries around the world.

  • Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, already gets 25% of it’s electricity from renewables, and is aiming for 80% renewable energy by 2050 – source
    [See graphic below]

  • In 2012 China generated 104 billion kilowatt hours of electricity from solar power and wind power – source [Note: Page is in Chinese, so use a translation service]
  • Portugal generated more than 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources during the first quarter of 2013 –source
  • South Africa is the third-best solar location globally as it has one of the highest and most stable solar radiations in the world.

How to power a country on renewables

Looking for more tweet-friendly renewable energy facts? Click here



The key to getting a constant supply of electricity from renewable energy is to have a mix of sources: solar and wind power, natural gas, and anaerobic digestion plants. By having a mix of sources which are spread over a wide area, we ensure there will always be a supply of energy.

As the sun goes down, so wind production generally increases, and as the winds drop in one region they pick up in another. During peak times, biogas and natural gas can bolster our energy supply, and can also be used to meet sudden peaks in electricity demand.

How to power a country on renewables



The reality is that South Africa’s grid – the system that connects power stations to consumers – needs to be improved or replaced regardless of the power source we use. It would be far more efficient to upgrade to a new smart grid system than waste money on old system that will continue having problems down the line. It’s similar to the the choice between repairing an old VCR or buying a new DVD player.


A smart grid is a system that can connect (and swtich between) a number of energy sources (solar, wind, etc.), at many different sites, to provide a constant flow of electricity to users. It allows us to create a network of electricity production sites that spread over a wide area. So for example, it would allow you to create solar power on the roof of your house, and feed extra power back into the grid. This is part of what makes the grid “smart”: components can “talk” and “listen” to each other, making the supply of electricity much more flexible, reliable, and efficient.





Birds and bats: A common argument against wind farms is that they kill birds and bats. However, if environmental impact assessments are conducted and migratory patterns are assessed before construction, this impact is greatly reduced.

Also, while every effort should be made to minimise this impact, it should also be looked at in the context of other projects and their affect on birds. Coal and nuclear power plants have a far greater affect on birds, as do power lines, domestic cats, and cars. source.

Noise: Studies have shown that noise complaints, especially those related to wind farms, are often unrelated to actual noise. In most cases it was found that people were actually opposed to the farms on aesthetic grounds – which would be the same with coal or nuclear plants. It was also found that ‘noise’ complaints dropped off rapidly when local communities derived income from the renewable energy projects in question.

Land use: The land used for renewable energy projects, like wind farms, can still be used for farming and cattle grazing. International experience has shown that livestock are completely unaffected by the presence of wind farms and will often graze right up to the base of wind turbines.

Footprint of renewables: Unlike coal and nuclear RE pays off its carbon footprint and does so relatively quickly. Depending on where they are made, solar panels offset their carbon footprint in about four years.




The Energy [R]evolution is about a gradual transition to renewable energy. It’s a blueprint for how South Africa can decrease its reliance on coal and nuclear over time, while investing increasingly in renewables.

Fully switching over to renewable energy time, and involves 3 steps.

Increase our energy efficiency: this is about using our electricity wisely, so that we get more done while using less and less electricity.
Start investing in our renewable energy projects now, and steadily increase investments over time.
Stop investing in coal and nuclear plants while also shutting down old coal-fired stations as they reach the end of their lifespans.


The good news is that South Africa is investing in renewable energy projects – but not nearly fast enough. Given the incredible renewable energy potential we have and the thousands of new jobs that would be created, there is no time like the present for an Energy [R]evolution in South Africa.We’ve created a practical blueprint for just how such a revolution could take place – getting our country fully powered up on renewable energy: 94% by 2050.Click here to download the report and find out more – and don’t forget to share this page so it can live up to its true myth-busting potential!

Download the RevolutionJoin our Energy Campaign


Great News: Gorgeous Green House to be an Embedded Generator!

Every sector has its share of jargon and the renewable energy area can be very confusing.  Two years ago the title of this post would have been meaningless to me and now it’s cause for celebration!

Embedded generation is the term used for any electricity generating ‘plant’ that is connected to the regional electricity distribution networks. In other words our solar energy system will be designed and set up to feed into the ‘grid’.

So what?

Firstly, once the municipality has the infrastructure in place (and we’ve signed off on all the paperwork known as Power Purchase Agreements) we will be able to export our excess electricity for profit.  It also means that the set up cost of our system is substantially reduced as we don’t need to invest in batteries to the same extent (approximately $8 000.00 saving).  This is because we have now decided not to be ‘off-grid’ i.e. not totally independent but rather ‘grid-tied’ so we can also draw electricity if we have very protracted cloudy weather. In other words we are to be part of a bi-directional metering pilot project. We need only invest in batteries to tide us overnight (and a bit extra in case of outages).

The bigger picture, of course, is that significant growth in embedded generation (of all kinds; wind, bio-fuels etc.) will contribute to a reduction of our dependence on ‘dirty’ energy (ESKOM Coal in the case of South Africa) which is important for the environment. It will also reduce the cost of energy which is currently predicted to increase 16% annually in South Africa.

South Africa Lags Behind

Embedded generation is fairly mainstream in Europe, North America and Australia.  In South Africa the Western Cape is piloting 6 properties, Port Elizabeth a few more and currently, that is it!  We recently read in the press that 17 bidders have been selected by government to produce 1 500 megawatts of renewable energy and more will follow.  Good news but we have much catching up to do.

The time frame for Durban Municipality to come on line by July 2014 is ambitious if one studies the document ‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Small Scale Embedded Generators.’ Published at the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) convention that took place in October 2014.  It tells of a plethora of legislation that needs to be amended, technical requirements that are not standardised and the perception that local government is perceived as a blockage rather than and enabling agent.

Currently financial barriers are identified as the biggest barrier to investment.  In SA it is extremely expensive to set up one’s own system (see my post of October 2013, Solar Energy:  What does it Cost. How to Explore Feasibility).  Rebates for installing Solar Geysers (only) are about $1 000 on a $ 2 800 investment through the SHISA programme. It would help if additional incentives such as rebates, tax credits and financing mechanisms were provided to customers over and above the SHISA programme.  Offering our citizens a way to make money from excess energy generated is a logical way to mitigate the high initial outlay, will stimulate and demand and hopefully drive prices down.  Tariffs will need to be carefully considered.  It is unlikely that we will be remunerated at the same rate/s that we pay for electricity but if the differential is too great it will not be motivational.

Durban property owners who are interested in becoming Embedded Generators need to start by completing the application form which can be downloaded here.

Come on everyone!  The more of us that put up our hands and make our voices heard the more momentum this process will get.  It has to be part of our way forward in saving this beautiful planet. So if you have the means now, this can be a huge contribution you could make and with all things that are correct and true and have integrity, as the law of abundance teaches us; ‘What you put out will be returned’.


An example of the PPA can be found here.

You can learn more about the Shisa Solar programme here:  http://www.durban.gov.za/Resource_Centre/Current%20Projects%20and%20Programmes/energyoffice/Pages/Shisa-Solar.aspx


A Few Thoughts on ‘The Green Economy’

I was invited to an interactive seminar on the Green Economy a little while ago.  I might have been the only person in the room who doesn’t make their living providing ‘green’ products and services or is in a job related to the green industry.  So, as I had nothing but knowledge (and a few new friends) to gain I could sit back and take it all in.  For what it’s worth, here is my take on the day: The conversation about the opportunities and constraints of the green economy revolved around what I’m thinking of as the three C’s:  Consciousness, Compliance and Competitiveness.  A slight departure from the 6 P’s of traditional marketing wisdom.


  • Our reality is that there is not a huge level of green consciousness (yet).  This applies to all socio economic levels.  The average consumer is fairly illiterate about sustainability so if you want to build your market you need to invest in raising consciousness.  The research is showing that consumers who are aware start to care more and are often prepared to pay slightly more for a comparable green product or service. I.e. ethics/personal values can be purchasing drivers.
  • Although green consciousness is not yet all pervasive it is growing rapidly. Individuals and organisations are often conscious of the need to have a green image. This may or may not be driven by ethics, but it still represents an opportunity to vendors.
  • The consciousness and ethics of the vendor will determine their own sustainability in the market.  If any form of ‘green washing’ is practiced it is likely they will be exposed in time.  Participants also need to take a good look at their own lifestyle.  To what extent are they providing a positive model for green living?  As Ghandi’s taught us “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.  Participants in the green economy who are living authentically green lives will be assured a more enthusiastic response from the marketplace.


  • The global energy and water crises, coupled with the environmental imperative, are driving governments to legislate for change.  For example, in South Africa our new SANS 10400 ensures far greener practices in the building sector.  (Please see my post of 22 May to navigate some of those challenges).  Other examples include mandatory recycling in many countries, controls in manufacturing processes, banning/control/disposal of substances, protection of ecosystems etc. etc.  For each legal requirement there is a potential for green products and services to be offered.  As individuals and organisations achieve compliance, they are consuming!  The opportunities are growing at an exponential rate.


  • It seems it really is time to stop limiting ourselves with the negativity around the notion that ‘green is too expensive’.  People operating in the green economy need to start being a lot more creative in how they ‘sell’ the value of their offerings. (We already know that ‘preaching’ doesn’t always work!).  As with all classic marketing practice, vendors need to be answering the question ‘what’s in it for me’.  Strategizing for greater volumes at lower profit may also be an opportunity as there will always be a threshold at which the majority of people will not spend more.

Of course, with everything in life the 3 C’s are interconnected. As our consciousness grows, so does our green spend. As more green products and services become available so we consume more.  In time even those without green consciousness will be green consumers whether by choice or not, as the ultimate truth is, that if we don’t all make the shift there won’t be much of anything left at all!

The seminar was hosted by alive2green.