Cape students design sustainable net-zero-energy house

Winona Griggs

Cape students create an eco-friendly home powered by renewable energy

Hey there! I have an amazing story to share with you about a group of students from Cape Town who have designed a house that is not only sustainable but also produces zero net energy. It’s pretty impressive, so let’s dive in!

Imagine living in a house that doesn’t just take care of you, but also takes care of the planet. That’s exactly what these Cape students had in mind when they set out to design this innovative home. They wanted to create a living space that was not only comfortable and functional but also environmentally friendly.

So, how did they do it? Well, one of the key features of this house is its energy source. Instead of relying on non-renewable energy like most houses, this home is powered by renewable energy. The students installed solar panels on the roof to harness the power of the sun and convert it into electricity. This means that the house can generate its own energy, reducing its carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels.

But that’s not all. The students also made sure that the house was well-insulated to keep the temperature comfortable all year round. By using energy-efficient materials and insulation, they were able to minimize the need for heating or cooling the house, further reducing energy consumption.

Another amazing feature of this house is its water-saving system. The students implemented a rainwater harvesting system, which collects rainwater and stores it for later use. This not only reduces water wastage but also helps to alleviate the strain on the local water supply.

This sustainable house also includes a vegetable garden where the residents can grow their own food. By growing their own food, they can reduce the need for transportation and packaging, making their lifestyle even more eco-friendly.

Overall, this project is a great example of how we can design homes that not only meet our needs but also take care of our planet. By using renewable energy, insulating the house, implementing water-saving systems, and growing their own food, these students have created a home that truly embodies sustainability.

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So, next time you’re thinking about designing or renovating your own home, why not take inspiration from these Cape students? By incorporating eco-friendly features into your living space, you can make a positive impact on both your own life and the environment. It’s a win-win situation!

Cape students design sustainable net-zero-energy house

I’m thrilled to share with you the incredible journey of a team of eco-innovators from two universities in Cape Town, South Africa. They recently had the honor of representing their country in the first-ever energy innovation competition held in Africa: the Solar Decathlon Africa 2019 (SDA). This groundbreaking event took place in the beautiful ‘green city’ of Ben Guerir near Marrakech, Morocco.

Starting in May 2018, twenty different university teams went head-to-head, all vying for the prestigious title of winners in the inaugural Solar Decathlon Africa. The competition revolved around creating a house that excelled in design, efficiency, and cost-effective innovation – a true test of skill and creativity.

Let me introduce you to Team Mahali, the remarkable group behind this incredible achievement. The name ‘Mahali’ comes from the Swahili word meaning ‘place,’ and it perfectly represents the team’s mission. Comprised of African students from Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town (UCT), Team Mahali stands as the only sub-Saharan team in the competition. Together, they form a powerhouse of talent and dedication, ready to make a lasting impact.

Cape students design sustainable net-zero-energy house

Image: Team Mahali

Hey there! Let me introduce you to Mahali, an exciting project that I had the opportunity to be a part of. My name is Sharne Bloem, and while I was studying for my masters in Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University (SU), I took the initiative to start Mahali. During my time at the SU Sustainability Institute, I focused on the energy efficiency of green buildings in my thesis. This background in architecture really came in handy for this amazing project.

But I didn’t do it alone. I reached out to the University of Cape Town (UCT), and they were thrilled to join forces with us. The UCT Centre for Complex Systems in Transition joined hands with Stellenbosch, and together, we embarked on this journey.

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Our main goal? Well, it was to create an affordable and innovative net-zero-energy house that would be perfect for the African geographical context. We wanted the dimensions of this house to be between 55m² and 110m².

Now, let me tell you how we achieved this. We combined solar technologies, green building design principles, and local materials. By bringing these elements together, we created something truly special.

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a competition that had been in the works for 18 months. It took place in Morocco from September 13th to 27th and was organized and hosted by the Moroccan Research Institute in Solar Energy and New Energies (IRESEN), Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, and the local government ministries.

Our team, Team Mahali, gave it our all and ended up placing 14th out of the 18 teams and houses involved in the solar decathlon. While we didn’t come in first, we did achieve something special. Our sustainable housing project received Second Place in the Architecture category of the competition.

Cape students design sustainable net-zero-energy house

Image: Team Mahali

Welcome to the Mahali House

I’m excited to tell you all about the Mahali House, which stood out among 17 other houses in the Moroccan solar village known as the Green Energy Park in Ben Guerir. This village is special because it’s the first of its kind in Morocco, designed to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.

What sets Mahali House apart is its unique design, which drew inspiration from the beautiful Moroccan architecture and the traditional riad houses. These riad houses have a special feature – the living space is built around a central courtyard.

The architects behind Mahali House were amazed by the exceptional performance of this design over centuries. It provides excellent climate control, security, privacy, flexibility, and adaptability.

I live in a house that’s pretty unique. It used to be a shipping container, but somebody turned it into a beautiful home. They used some really cool techniques and ideas to make it super energy-efficient.

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Inside the house, there are some really innovative water systems. Instead of just relying on the regular plumbing, they figured out how to harvest rainwater and even installed a special kind of toilet that doesn’t use water. It’s pretty amazing!

And the house also generates its own electricity. They put these things called photovoltaic panels on the roof, which soak up sunlight and turn it into energy. It’s enough to power the whole house, which is pretty cool.

The design of the house is really interesting too. It’s designed to look like a tree, with a strong steel frame and columns that branch out into the roof. The whole thing is super sturdy and flexible.

Oh, and the people who turned this shipping container into a house also had to make it comfortable. They used sustainable materials and methods to furnish it and make sure it had all the things you need to relax and have fun.

I think it’s really cool how they took something old and turned it into something new and amazing. It shows that with some creativity and thought, we can make our homes more sustainable and efficient. Plus, it’s just a really cool place to live!

When I heard about this amazing structure, it blew my mind! Can you believe that some of the cladding was actually made from repurposing plastic packets? The local women from Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands knitted this incredible material called ‘plarn’ which stands for plastic yarn. I mean, talk about creativity and resourcefulness!

What’s even more impressive is that Team Mahali, who made this structure, is all about supporting the community. They’re not just focused on creating something beautiful; they’re also dedicated to developing skills, creating job opportunities, and fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship. They believe in using local materials and knowledge to embrace the mahali spirit – the spirit of place.

If you’re as intrigued as I am, you should definitely check out more about this incredible local venture. Just head to to learn more. Trust me, it’s worth it!

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