To a mantra of “reuse, rather than dispose”, renovators at the Christian Brothers Centre in Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch, demonstrate that true sustainability is about adapting and adding to available resources.

Careful attention to detail, a quest for truly sustainable solutions and working within a tight budget have driven this project since its inception in 2010.

The centre showcases aspects of building, renovating, recycling and reusing existing structures. Features include grey water and solar energy systems, rainwater harvesting and clever use of natural light and cross ventilation.

“We have concentrated on making the centre sustainable, energy efficient, natural and environmentally-friendly while reducing water and electricity bills,” says the centre’s sustainable building design consultant, Malcolm Worby.


Using the existing raised foundations, a new light-gauge steel structure replaced the prefabricated structure. This consists of six twin bedroom units, a meeting room with kitchen, an office and houses the “eco-hub” in the basement.

“The foundations were originally designed to handle a wood stud wall with lap siding, and therefore lightweight steel frame was selected so the foundations could be reused,” Worby explains.

He reused the original wood floor joist system, while ceilings and the interior walls are finished with gypsum board. To maximise thermal efficiency, Isotherm fills the exterior wall voids.

To replicate original farm roofs, corrugated zinc, with a factory finished colour, was installed.

Ten rooftop solar panels generate electricity and two geyser panels produce hot water. Six additional panels will be added during the next building phase. The foundations shelter the true heart of the centre: two grey-water tanks and the solar power supply system.


“The centre is equipped with a solar photovoltaic power supply with Eskom as the backup,” says Frank Spencer, sustainable and renewable energy engineer at Emergent Energy. “This consists of ten 235Wp solar PV modules, a total of 24 530Ah 2V batteries, a 3kWp grid-tie inverter and a 5kWp bi-directional battery inverter.”

The solar panels charge the batteries that supply electricity to the building. These auto switch to the Eskom system if battery levels drop below 40%. The distribution board will eventually feed into all of the centre’s buildings.

“The system has primarily run just on solar power for the eco-hub,” says Spencer. “It can be regarded as carbon neutral.”

The dam collects natural runoff and enables rainwater harvesting. It provides water for irrigation, which is supplemented with borehole water.



A youth centre, built on two floors of a remodelled barn, contains two dormitories with bathrooms, en-suite supervisor’s rooms, a large kitchen, dining hall and activity rooms.

Alterations by Dunkley Construction involved removing and replacing the roof, insulating walls, adding an energy efficient water system, connecting to the PV system and providing shading for an activity area. Worby, working with Stellenbosch architect Carl Morkel, maximised natural light and facilitated cross ventilation throughout.

Pierre Bessinger, project engineer at Genergy, installed an energy efficient solar hot water system with a 1 400 L capacity and 18 kW electrical backup. He added a solar loop extending 10m, along with two flat-plate solar collectors. This system should halve energy consumption costs – a large saving for a 56-bed establishment.

Elsewhere on the property, alterations to an old garage, shed, laundry and workers’ quarters have added several accommodation units.

“We did not destroy old structures. Rather, we adapted them and added a number of sustainable features,” says Worby. “This is sustainability in action.”

To a mantra of “reuse, rather than dispose”, renovators at the Christian Brothers Centre in Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch, demonstrate true sustainability is about adapting and adding to available resources.


The full feature appears in the February-March 2014 issue. Images by Danie Nel.