Parker & the Earth



Parker Cottage and the Earth - Image 1

Parker Cottage and the Earth - Image 2

Parker Cottage and the Earth - Image 3

Parker Cottage and the Earth - Image 4

Parker Cottage and the Earth - Image 5


Many people assume that concern for the environment and luxury were somehow incompatible terms. If you want an environmentally conscious holiday, you have to be prepared to sleep in tents, hug trees and wear funny clothes. But at Parker Cottage Guest House, we show clearly that luxury and a minimum impact on the environment can go hand in hand.

Our aim at Parker Cottage Guest House in Cape Town is also to show that heritage buildings can and should be adapted for an age concerned with energy efficiency and better waste management. Of course, it’s much easier to build a new house with energy efficient designs, but older houses have several elements about them that are very environmentally conscious. For a start, Parker was made with mud bricks, partially fired to much lower temperatures than bricks are baked today, using less energy. Most of the materials would have had to have been locally sourced from what were then sustainable sources (local pine forest) and of course, there were no carbon miles in 1895! Add to that the high ceilings, big roof spaces and thick walls for insulation and you have already a pretty sound house. So there’s simply no excuse for having a heritage house and not costing the earth.

But we’re not content to rest on our laurels. Our aim is that by 2015, Parker Cottage Guest House will the first and only urban eco-lodge in the whole of Africa. We’re going to try, if we can, to be totally ‘off-grid’ for water heating, water treatment, sewage processing, electricity and solid waste management. It’s an ambitious and fool-hardy project and that’s what makes it so exciting.

Below you’ll see our current planning and time frames. Some of this looks easy and some of it looks very hard. Watch this space!

Phase 1

Completion July 2010.
Install loft insulation to lessen heat absorption in summer and retain heat in winter Replace first electrical element hot water cylinder with a solar-ready one. Install ceiling paddle fans instead of air conditioning as necessary Plant only indigenous or water light plants in the garden of No. 1 Carstens Remove alien vegetation (yuka trees etc.) from garden Recycle 80% or more of household solid waste at local recycling site.

We have now gone dark, dark green on our solid waste recycling!  Our waste is now collected on foot (so no emissions) and disposed of very locally, where it is also processed.  More on this on our Facebook page.

Phase 2

Completion July 2011
Cost the installation of a biodigester and French drain and connecting all sewage to it.
Cost a centralized heat exchanger system to add additional cooling and heating capacity
Install 1 x 5000 litre capacity water butts to catch winter rain from the roof
Install first photovoltaic panel and deep cycle batteries in roof. Run at least one fridge off PV panel energy
Install first solar water heating panel
Replace all light bulbs with LED lighting.
use only chlorine free toilet paper and facial tissues in the guesthouse.

Well, we've learnt a few things here!  Some things are easy to do and somethings are not only really expensive, they make you question their actual 'harvest' (i.e. how much energy does the new device cost to make and recycle on expiry?) The answer is that most PV panels have a very poor harvest: they only 'make' about as much enery as they take to produce, so the planet isn't really gaining.  So we're not sure about them for now.
The heat exchanger debate is still raging here: we've had the electricity and temperature usage in the house analysed and it's looking very feasible, mainly because for the same kW you're using for heating water, you also cool the room.  Wow.  UPDATE: we hope to have the first heat pump installed by the end of the year.
LED lighting going great guns: 100% of the public room bulbs are either CFL or LED now and we're working on the rooms.
The biodigester is a whopping R40 000 and right now, out of budget. Ouch. We're also not convinced that we can really process enough black water successfully on site.
Water butts are coming when we can find one thin enough to fit on the sides of the house! Most are designed for rural areas with lots of space, a luxury we do not have.

Phase 3

Completion September 2013
Install a grey water system to reuse water from koi pond cleaning and laundry in garden watering.
Manufacture solar collector from waste materials to heat water for showers, coffee machine, etc.
Use a clay cooler/filter for bottled drinking water, along with recyclable containers (glass) instead of PET bottled water in guest drinks fridge

We're already on the way with this: the solar collector we hope to make from waste irrigation piping and flourescent tubing (to focus UV on the irrigation piping.
The clay cooler needs to specially manufactured because of the amount of water used everyday.  Also, we have to find a green way to sterlise the bottles when guests return them.
The grey water system is going to be piece by piece: first port of call is the koi pond back wash water, which is actually nutrient rich anyway.  More coming.

Phase 4

Completion September 2015
All hot water either solar or heat pump heated
At least 60 % of all rain water collected or reused and used in laundry, washing, irrigation, etc.
80 -100 % of solid waste, organic and inorganic, recycled
80 – 100 % of all electricity solar generated
House air heated and cooled by heat exchangers.

3 Carstens Street, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, South Africa

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