Tag Archive for: green design

green annexe

I recently had the novel experience of trying out a low carbon stay in Cape Town’s city centre. Now cities and low impact are not usually synonymous, especially for a country girl like myself for whom a city embodies high input and high output of resources and consumerism. And yet, the densification of people and buildings certainly has its merits, as I soon discovered, because you are able to minimise your carbon footprint by using the most eco friendly mode of transport around, your own two feet! Saving time, money and well, a whole lot of carbon into the already burdened atmosphere.

I was lucky enough to stay at the Green Annexe, part of The Hollow on The Square, where every care has been taken to be a low impact hotel. It was built using recycled materials and has energy saving features such as double glazed windows, A-rated appliances, eco light fixtures and has a real organic feel compared to most hotels with its cork flooring, bamboo furniture and upcycled wooden picture frames. And isn’t it exciting that we have great innovations at our fingertips like saving on electricity by only allowing the lights and air conditioner to work when the hotel card key is inserted in the card slot, which makes sure guests don’t leave the room with everything blazing (that is if you absolutely HAVE to use the air conditioner). I think the lesson that can be learnt here is that luxury does not need to be lost when creating a green hotel experience.  On the contrary it makes the stay all the more real and feel good.

So there were no taxis, trains or traffic jams involved in my trip to Cape Town, I simply stepped out the door of the Green Annexe and walked 5 minutes through well treed squares and avenues to the international convention centre. And it felt so good! I also walked up through town for the most sublime ethical breakfast in the calm haven of Dear Me, but that story deserves a blog all of it’s own… So while Uber may have revolutionised the way we travel within foreign cities we must not forget that walking was the original and ultimate way to experience a city…and by far the best if you’re conscious of carbon.


green annexe eco atlas


hollow on the square eco atlas


green annexe cape town


eco accommodation cape town



To search for this hotel or other eco friendly accommodation or activity options in South Africa, use the Eco Atlas search tool.



The secret of the Garden Route is its surprises. Hanois Crescent winds up the side of a Plett hill that appears fairly ordinary and urban. Getting out at number 45 is a point of departure as well as arrival. You know that wands are made from trees, right? Maybe that explains the magic …


Winding down wooden steps, I came to a bright doorway that suggested a Bauhaus for hobbits: clean, cute and classy. It opened to a ‘reception’  that felt more like a huge tree house that blends dining room, kitchen, patio and bush. A cascade of creativity and nature and optimal use of space: that’s Feo Sachs’ touch. He’s the resident architect responsible for every building in the spell or, rather, dell. Entire walls of glass and clever angles lend each separate building grandeur and nature in equal proportions. It’s mesmerising. And perfect for guests with dogs as TreeHaven is pet friendly.


After introductions, Feo’s wife, Carol, whisked me off on a maze of lush pathways snaking through dappled milkwood and wild olive boughs.  On the way I met worms with their own farm. “Vermiculture” said the artist slash tour guide, “we give them all our organic waste, and I feed all my plants with their juice and encourage my staff to sell it for extra cash.” The ingenuity and generosity of a good person with a natural plan still curls through my mind with the paths, like the lines in her paintings. You’ll see them spotted around the dwellings, celebrating life.


For a change of mood from your own balcony or view, take a walk around the garden and find the little bench amongst the jasmine bushes and you’ll understand why the proprietors think of it as their own private biome.


The studio I stayed in is a corner of paradise replete with nesting Loeries and a north-facing patio that tracks the sun season in, season out.


Immersed in natural isolation despite having neighbours nearby, I didn’t leave for the rest of the day, though the beach was calling and the weather near perfect.


When strains of Carol and Feo’s classical music faded, I tuned in to a myriad of other winged ones singing the song of a sunny afternoon in a private idyll. By nightfall, the frogs sang too, and sleep was deep.


Tip  : use insect repellent. Big mozzies from the bullrushes below.

To find out more about their Eco Choices or make a booking, visit the Treehaven page on Eco Atlas.

Cobhouse in Muizenberg

These days, an increasing number of my life decisions just don’t feel complete unless I’ve taken into account the factors upstream and downstream that relate that decision back to the earth and our place on it. And when building our eco-friendly cob house, as well as completing the portion that now runs as an organic B&B, my partner Carey and I did our best to choose sustainable options in as many areas as possible. But without compromising on this, there are still plenty of ways of saving costs too!

 Most obviously in our case, the building material itself didn’t cost the earth – literally. ‘Cob’ is not something you can buy off the shelf from your local hardware store; it’s an ad hoc mixture of sand and clay that varies in its proportions according to what’s available locally and even what the weather is like on the day you’re building (hot dry ‘bergwind’ days needed a lot more moisture in the mix, for example!). And the clay isn’t the high-end stuff used for making regular baked bricks: it’s best if it’s got a decent amount of sandy grains in it as you want it to bond nicely with the sand. Most of our sand came from our foundation digging rather than being pulled out of sensitive dune systems; and the ‘clay’ was reclaimed and recycled from the municipal landfill site nearby, where other builders were dumping it (as “useless” material!)

We searched around for the straw – some of it being shipped in wholesale from an out of town farmer, at a fraction of the cost of the animal feed places. And our gum poles, which form such a distinctive feature of our house, were being cleared as aliens. They were treated by Somerset Timbers (in Somerset West) who were the only wood-treatment plant we could find that would use an organic/eco-friendly treatment process that was acceptable for building standards. We relied somewhat on our excellent structural engineer, who erred on the side of caution in all things – too many well-meant natural buildings have crumbled through lack of care or knowledge in either construction or maintenance.

Sure, our costs crept up somewhat again, after the huge savings we’d made on the wall materials, because of the length of time our labourers needed for a building process that wasn’t conventional – though we still saved compared to regular building methods. And the time taken in itself meant we gave men steady work for longer rather than wasting our money on bricks. And if we come back to the all-important question of the costs to the earth, it’s clear that the energy saving from building in cob, not only in production but in the ongoing heating and cooling savings for the house, are well worth it. Of course, cob is not the only natural building method out there, and you can compare the costs with straw bale, timber frame, adobe, sandbags, to name a few of the more popular options. The main problem we face at the moment in South Africa, though, is that these options, while often traditional building methods here, are not understood enough by financial institutions to make financing of alternative building technology straightforward. Given our housing shortage, that’s a great pity.

But have no fear, if you’re rather looking to refurbish or renovate an existing building, there are still plenty of options for going green, more of which I will share about in future columns!


About the author:

Simric grew up alongside the green movement in the UK but has lived in South Africa since 1996. That year, when working for an environmental NGO, he discovered natural building technologies, in particular cob. With his partner Carey he co-built the first modern cob house on a suburban street in a South African city; and now co-manages it as an organic B&B, in Muizenberg, Cape Town.

Simric has written and spoken both poetry and prose on a range of topics, often with a holistic/ sustainability theme but with a positive and uplifting perspective. He is also an accomplished teacher in the holistic Waldorf/Steiner system of creative education, and he runs conscious/green day tours of the Cape Town region.

The Cobhouse on Eco Atlas