The Lynedoch EcoVillage is a showcase for sustainable living in practice, and an attempt to reconcile social and environmental sustainability in the Cape Winelands, says Prof Mark Swilling, divisional head of sustainable development at the school of public leadership of the University of Stellenbosch, and who was instrumental in setting up the Sustainability Institute and EcoVillage 14 years ago.

Managing director Louise Bezuidenhout concurs: “The mission of the Sustainability Institute (and Lynedoch EcoVillage) is to study and live sustainability, which is based on practice and applied research. The Institute’s objective is to educate and inspire a generation to take the lead in sustainability challenges in government, business and communities.”

And to show just how much they endorse this philosophy, Bezuidenhout and her husband Durr have implemented it in their own home at EcoVillage.

Designing House Bezuidenhout on the 200 m2 site was a challenge, says Vaughan Russell of Field Architecture. Creative thinking resulted in a floor area of 256 m2, which provides ample living space for the family of three and includes a private outdoor space and parking.

The external walls facing north and west are 400 mm wide to maximise thermal efficiency. Recesses in the walls frame the sliding shutters that help with solar control. A light well washes natural light from the roof down into the kitchen on the ground floor. The staircase is a sculptured and corbelled focal point in the middle of the house within the volume of the double storey.

“Our intention was for the house to be honest to the materials used, and to celebrate them by leaving them exposed throughout,” says Russell.

Paul Laros, the structural engineer on the project, says the main green principle employed was the use of recycled material to construct all the walls. The clay bricks were reclaimed from demolished buildings, cleaned and selected for hardness. The walls were bagged and not plastered, which further reduced the carbon cost of the building, says Laros.

Internally the brickwork is also exposed, but selected walls were painted to maintain a balanced light quality.  The structural timber used throughout the house was treated with an environmentally friendly product, says Laros.

The floor on the lower level is constructed using corcoleum, a 40 mm “screed” consisting of 80% recycled wood shavings,  an environmentally friendly product with excellent insulation properties.

The house is heated in winter using fireplaces, and small high-level vents in the gables can be opened in summer to allow trapped heat out of the building.

LED lighting and some compact fluorescent lights were used throughout to reduce the energy consumption to the minimum. LP Gas is used as a cooking fuel and hot water is supplied via solar heating panels with electrical back up.

Bezuidenhout says that when they applied for a home loan, it was originally declined by Nedbank due to the fact that this bank deemed recycled bricks to be of inferior quality. “We wrote Nedbank a letter to explain that these recycled bricks that survived a demolition were as robust and strong as the strongest new bricks. A company like Cape Bricks manufactures recycled bricks and receives SABS approval for those. They (Nedbank) accepted our explanation and granted the loan.”


* The full article appears in the June – July 2013 issue. Images: Danie Nel (