LOCATION

Kalk Bay, Cape Town
South Africa

CLIMATE

Warm mediterranean climate with mild, moderately wet winters and dry, warm summers. 759mm rainfall
per year.

GREEN FEATURES

165sqm Food Forest
Biodigestor
Greywater Wetland
Solar Water
Rain Water & Ground water Harvest & Filtration
Eco/sustainable Renovation

KEY CHALLENGE

Water Security

Cape Town has very hot and dry summers, meaning that 35 000l of water was required per month to irrigate the 160sqm food forest. A borehole was the chosen solution. To ensure that it was sustainable it was shared with 2 neighbours and a comprehensive groundwater recharge strategy was put in place with all stormwater run-off channeled into the soil.

70,400 litres

Water Saved p/year

1,976 kg

CO2-e Saved p/year

144,000 litres

Rainwater Captured p/year

Exploring Urban Sustainability

The Nook is an off-grid eco-home situated in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. The home is a 1980 Timber frame construction that was renovated in 2016 with the aim of making it off-grid, sustainable and resilient to climate change. At the same time, it was important to showcase that this can all be done whilst still maintaining a beautiful aesthetic as well as increasing the homes market value. The Nook is the home of Andrew Jamieson, owner of Leaf & Stone, and his family. 

Urban PermacultureAll wooden flooring seen above is either stone pine or gum, both alien vegetation that was cleared and obtained cheaply. The plaster in the bathrooms and kitchen is Tadelakt, an ancient Morrocan lime & sand rendering that is waterproof, beautiful and low impact (sand obtained on site). All furniture, shelves seen above are made from reclaimed Oregon Pine.

“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos." - BILL MOLLISON 

There are 3 main facets to off-grid living. Energy, water and dealing with your waste. The nook is partly off-grid, as it has off-grid water and deals with all waste on-site but the owners are still waiting to put the Solar power in place. 

“We wanted to do everything we could first to make the home as efficient as possible in order to see how much power we needed to cater for with Solar.”
- Andrew Jamieson

The Eco Renovation

The home was 32 years old when it was bought and was in a poor state and in much need of maintenance. In 2016 we did renovations to the house before moving in.

The primary objectives were to make it more energy-efficient and to make it a beautiful and functional home.

  • Rhinowood was used to reclad the exterior. Rhinowood is made from sustainably grown pine and is treated with biodegradable wax. It doesn’t need to be oiled or varnished and has a live span of 40 years +. www.rhinowood.co.za
  • The walls where insulated with recycled plastic fibre.
  • Cleared Alien vegetation such as Stone Pine & Gum where used for the floors
  • Tadelakt in the bathrooms
  • Reclaimed timber was used for all structural changes
  • All bathroom vanities, tables & beds where made from reclaimed oregon pine.
  • All paint used was zero VOC powder paint. No toxins, no waste.
  • All wood was oiled with Pronature wood oil.
  • All lights changed to LED
  • Low energy appliances installed.
  • All shutter board & OSB board used was Formaldehyde Free & VOC free
  • All sealants used VOC FREE and water based.

“I have always been passionate about living sustainably and wanted to take responsibility for what I had control over; our own home. Everything about this house has not been done out of a sense of duty but mostly because for us, it is a beautiful way to live.”
- ANDREW JAMIESON

Food Forest

We planted a food forest with up to 21 fruit trees in a 160sqm garden. 80sqm of that space was reclaimed from the paved driveway. Trees including oranges, apples, papaya, avocado, mango, almonds, peaches, olives, macadamia, goji berries, nectarines & pomegranate.

A food forest is a productive garden (food, medicine, fuel etc.) that closely emulates a temperate climate woodland or forest. Perennial fruit trees, flowers, herbs and vegetables all co-exist as they would in nature to create a diverse ecosystem of plants, animals and soil life. Therefore it is resilient and low maintenance. 

All our storm-water is channeled into infiltration swales under the garden pathways feeding the plants and trees. It is a vibrant and thriving slice of nature that is exponential in the yield it creates and a marvel to interact with daily as it attracts birds and wildlife.

This shows just 1 year of growth where the starting point was bare, sandy soil.

Grey Water Wetland

All the grey water from the house runs through a man-made wetland before it feeds papaya and banana trees. The wetland & fruit trees clean up the water of excess nitrates, keeping the groundwater clean and returning the nutrients back into the soil and the plants.

Biodigestor

The house was fitted with a 3000 litre biodigestor that is buried underneath the ground. The biodigestor processes all sewerage from the home reducing the waste by 80%. The biodigestor creates 45 min of cooking gas per day which is used in the kitchen.

Water

Cape Town has very hot and dry summers, meaning that 35 000l of water was required per month to irrigate the 160sqm food forest. A borehole was the chosen solution. To ensure that it was sustainable it was shared with 2 neighbours and a comprehensive groundwater recharge strategy was put in place with all stormwater run-off channeled back into the soil.

The borehole water is high in iron and is treated and filtered using an ozonator and a DMI-65 system.

We also harvest rain water into a 5000l tank which is used for cooking & drinking.

A timelapse of a permablitz. This was the planting of the fruit trees that took place in July 2018.
KEY CHALLENGE

Sandy Soil

The soil we are working with is essentially an old dune. This makes it incredibly hard to retain nutrients and water. Building the soil is a long term strategy of putting biomass and biochar into the soil. We have found a waste stream of biochar from the charcoal industry which has enabled the soil tp start coming to life.

Tours & Workshops

If you are interested in organising a tour for a school or organisation please email [email protected]

We also run workshops, permaculture trainings and talks at regular intervals. Join our mailing list to find out more.

0 litres

Water leaving our property

21 fruit trees

Inside 165 square meters

Where is the Nook?