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Green Home Makeover


A case study of encouragement for those contemplating a green renovation.

As the trend for green homes gathers momentum in South Africa and as green materials and technologies become more available and affordable, one man has decided to take a ‘green journey’ approach to a home renovation in Lakeside, Cape Town. This is the story of how Lloyd Macfarlane has attempted to lower the footprint and increase the performance of his family’s home.

Lloyd, not unfamiliar with green building practices – having worked in the broader sector of sustainability for almost ten years – decided to put his knowledge (and his patience) to the test by embarking on a self-build green renovation of a (circa) 1960’s house that was in real need of some work but which is perfectly positioned for views of the Lakeside mountain range.

After the home was purchased, the family moved in for a few months before the renovation began in order to be able to design through a living experience. This was to be a self-managed project, so no building contractors were required. They did, however, plumb for an architect and Alan Meinjies, from AMA Architects in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town, proved to be just the man for the job. Alan’s brief was to increase the number and size of the rooms, apply shading and other passive designs, maximise views and create new living areas and spaces – no mean feat!

Many brilliant designs and cups of organic coffee resulted in completed drawings which were subsequently approved by the local municipality. The house would have enough nooks and crannies and wonderfully spacious rooms to keep everyone in the large family happy. A shaded deck was to run alongside the north facing façade of the home, keeping the rooms cool in the hot summer months, while still allowing the sinking sun of a winter afternoon to filter through. The deck provided some additional living spaces outside the already enlarged bedrooms. A large covered veranda was also added to the north side of the home. The paving from around the pool area was used to construct the foundations of the veranda and building rubble from the site was used as landfill. The outside areas of the home now boast new outdoor living spaces that weren’t there before.

Nature has a wonderful way of being absolutely prepared to protect our planet. So tapping into these natural products has far more benefits than mere aesthetics. For example, bamboo, which has been used in construction by the Chinese for centuries, is durable, strong and requires no finishing or varnishing. Bamboo also grows easily and quickly and is thus an extremely sustainable material.

The team at Bamboo Warehouse were chosen to provide the bamboo flooring for the living areas and counter tops for the kitchen and bathrooms. At certain points in the renovation specialist advice and service would be required and the team at Bamboo Warehouse ensured that some of the most visible green components of the home were perfectly selected and installed.

As part of the strategy to reduce water consumption on the property, low flow aerated taps and shower heads were installed in the bathrooms (supplied by Still Bathrooms in Cape Town) ensuring the conservative use of water without taking anything away from the shower experience. Dual flush toilets have also been installed and a rain water tank will be added in time for autumn.

Deciding on the lighting requirements for the home meant more than just the selection of form and function. Different light was needed in different areas of the house: warm in the living room and bright in the kitchen. But other factors such as shelf life, power requirements and energy efficiency were important for sustainability. The solution came from specialists who not only provided the products but also the knowledge behind the scenes. L.E.D. Lighting were able to advise on current control, heat dissipation, installation, mechanical fittings, environment and power supply, in order to maximise the product and minimise its effect on the environment. The result is visibly amazing and yet a fraction of the energy previously required to light the house is now consumed by the 3-Watt LED down-lighters. One of the most exciting stories behind this renovation lies hidden in the walls of the home. In the year that the renovation began, the Athlone Power Station – the last coal-fired power station in Cape Town – was finally demolished, providing a local brick manufacturer with an abundance of recyclable aggregate material. Cape Brick is a company whose business is based on manufacturing products out of recycled construction and demolition materials, and the idea of using bricks made from the Athlone Cooling Towers for this green renovation was too good to pass up on for Lloyd and for the team at Cape Brick. It’s quite surreal to think that, while in the living area of the home, you are surrounded by what was once a landmark on the Cape Town skyline.

Other recycled content materials used in the home so far have been wood composite decking planks from Envirodeck, recycled content outdoor tiles for the pool and veranda areas from Cemstone and recycled content carpeting for the bedrooms from Peter Bates Flooring. Wood composite materials offer the impression and feel of natural wood but require very little maintenance, if any – perfect for a north facing outdoor living space in the Western Cape region.

Some effort was put into the preservation of indigenous plants and trees in the garden, in particular Lloyd’s favourite tree, an African Fever Tree – which nearly didn’t make it through the renovation. Lloyd wanted to connect the living areas with the green spaces around the house and bring the outdoor garden and mountain views as far into the home as possible and to achieve this he chose to install large pane wooden windows and doors (from Swartland) that offer exceptional insulation from heat transfer. Each bedroom now has a large wooden glass-pane sliding door with rubber gaskets which will ensure that no heat is lost during the cold winter months. Olive green exterior wall paint (from Eco-paint Solutions) was used to accentuate the garden spaces around the home, also minimising the dominating effect of one rather high garden wall. Eco paint solutions advised the use of the non-toxic, water-based B-Earth paint range which is 100% VOC free, so no harmful odours and no storm water or ground water impact.

At the time of purchase the house was as hot as a sauna. Large, high north facing windows with no protection contributed to heat gain but so too did the absence of any effective roof insulation. After much deliberation Lloyd decided to maintain the existing roof truss structure but to remove (and donate) the existing tiles and replace them with brand new BlueScope Steel roof sheets which are coated with a high-tech finish that is designed for sustainability, and by choosing the “Cape White” colour, further added to the reflective potential of the roof. If that wasn’t enough, a layer of ‘Sisaltion’ was used just beneath the roof sheets – a silver, foil-like matting that further prevents heat loss and gain from the roof space. The effectiveness of this roof envelope protection now allowed for the installation of high ceilings which added additional volume to the rooms. The result is a spacious but amazingly cool feel, which is arguably the most noticeable and rewarding green ‘performance’ intervention in the home thus far. There is absolutely no need for air-conditioning and the house is beautifully cool, even on 38 degree summer days.

Meanwhile, electricians working inside the home declared the existing DB Board and certain circuits as dangerous, which provided the opportunity to incorporate new boards and switches (from Crabtree) which isolated certain circuits in anticipation of the installation of solar water and photovoltaic panels. Lloyd is investigating a solution that will see solar heated water being stored in the existing electric geyser cylinder and heated further in the pipeline, if necessary, with a small gas flame – technology from Japan. This will completely eliminate the need to use any electricity for heating water in the home. Speaking of gas, a combination gas-electric hob-oven system was chosen to further reduce electricity consumption. Current consumption is around R800 per month and Lloyd is determined to halve that by the end of the year. The Lakeside green renovation journey is not yet complete, and may not ever reach completion as new ideas and technologies continue to change the way that we construct and operate our homes. For now though, a family is enjoying the fruits of this renovation in good conscience and the home is now a story which is serving to promote green principles and to promote the suppliers to the home in the spirit of the green economy.

WORDS: Jane Hendry



Thanks to the generous intentions of one of our clients, Lynette Smith of Smith Contracting, we were able to be involved in this project, adding significantly to the security of the church, school and residents.



What better way to help those struggling through a bitterly cold and wet Cape winter than by providing blankets!

Cape Brick has provided 67 blankets to beneficiaries of the Goedgedacht Trust.



Although this is a relatively old report, it holds as much relevance today as it did when the study was undertaken.

Cape Brick came out tops in STRENGTH, EMBODIED ENERGY EFFICIENCY, and CO² emmission levels in a comparison between clay bricks, ordinary concrete bricks and neolite (ash) bricks. We are proud to be the leader in environmentally friendly bricks.

For a review of the Green Building (featured in this study) click here.



Earlier this year Balwin Properties entered the International Property Awards and are very proud to announce that they have won an award in the Residential Development Category for their development in Cape Town “De Velde” in South Africa !

 It is now official once again that Balwin Properties (Pty) Ltd is Internationally recognised as “The Best” !!



Cape Brick Managing Director, Anthony Gracie, is interviewed on SABC tv about our contribution to recycling and the impact it has on the environment.

To watch the interview   CLICK HERE

Using up to 70% recycled content in our products, allows Cape Brick to recycle 6000-8000 tons of demolition waste concrete every month.



As part of our ongoing quest for a reduced carbon footprint and to maintain our status as the leader of environmentally friendly bricks, Cape Brick, has now used an innovative insulation system to help in the curing process of our cement based products.

This has the advantages of:

  1. More efficient utilisation of cement which results in a lower cement content
  2. Improved hydration during the curing process
  3. Increased overall compressive strengths on all products
  4. Faster curing times which improves early handling strengths and reduces breakages
  5. Improved product turnaround times
  6. Overall reduction in waste and rejects which further reduces cement use

The overall effect will be even better products and service levels for our clients and a reduced carbon footprint. 

New Retaining Wall Block launched



Cape Brick launches new VR18 retaining wall block

13 November 2015: Cape Brick has launched a new retaining wall block aimed at the builders merchants and DIY markets.

A special feature of the new VR18 retaining wall block is that it is reversible, with different finishes on either side. “This new product has been a few years in the planning. It was a difficult mould to make, which was produced by PMSA’s Cape Town office,” says Anthony Gracie, MD of Cape Brick.

Cape Brick has enjoyed a long association with PMSA, recently installing a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system at its Philippi facility to serve the mixing and block plants on an integrated platform.

The SCADA system displays visual, animated graphics of machine operation, machine parameter control and data capture. “It has proven to be a tool that we cannot run without, as its advanced and interactive efficiency increases daily manufacture by between 10% and 20%,” comments Cape Brick director Jacques Tresfon.

Innovation from PMSA

Another innovative PMSA concrete solution supplied recently to Cape Brick is the FL Ludwig wall scraper mounted probe. This tool ensures a highly-consistent water dosing in the mixture, which ultimately results in more predictable concrete.

Established in 1938, Cape Brick is the longest-established manufacturer of quality concrete masonry in operation in the Cape. “Our comprehensive product range includes standard masonry products such as all sizes of bricks and blocks, as well as retaining wall blocks and decking blocks,” Gracie explains. “In October 2009 we introduced our range of wet-cast paving products, featuring over 300 different modules in a wide variety of colours and textures.”

Cape Brick operates a brick-and-block facility at Philippi and Blackheath and a wet cast operation producing slabs and cobbles. PMSA equipment in operation at Philippi includes a VB4X block machine, a P1500 mixer and an insulated racking system, among others.

Recycled material

“We typically make up to 600 t of product a day in a double shift at Philippi, and 180 t to 200 t in a single shift a day at Blackheath,” Tresfon confirms. A unique feature of Cape Brick is its extensive use of recycled material in its production.

“We have an extensive crushing operation that prepares about 300 t to 400 t of aggregates a day in order to supply our facilities. While it is easy to use 10% to 20% recycled material, once you go beyond 30% to 40%, there is generally a big drop in quality. Therefore we have developed a lot of intellectual property in upping our recycled content to 70%,” Tresfon highlights.

PMSA has played an ongoing role in the company’s development, especially when it relocated its facility from Salt River to Philippi. “We basically rebuilt the plant. We retained the VB4X block machine and switched from a P1000 to a P1500 mixer. We fully automated the mixing and installed a new moisture control system, as well as rebuilding the entire racking system.”

Affordable housing

Cape Brick is now able to handle 4 200 pallets in the factory, as opposed to 3 000 previously, which continues to give it an edge in the highly competitive and quality-conscious Western Cape market. “We carry out a lot of affordable housing work, while also have the biggest reseller network in the region,” Gracie elaborates. “We cater from the home renovator up to big projects, as well as having a large walk-in, cash sale market.”

Tresfon says that the investment in the latest technology from PMSA has allowed Cape Brick to focus on its mandate of providing the best quality products. “Our strategy is that quality is non-negotiable, our customer service has to be the best, and our pricing has to be competitive.”

The use of recycled aggregates does mean more abrasion and friction on the equipment, but overall the production costs are lower. “In order to be able to incorporate recycled aggregates effectively, you need to have a major crushing network. That by itself is a major investment.

Moulds developed by PMSA

“Then the moulds used in the production process have to be good. I have spent a lot of time with the Cape Town branch of PMSA developing our moulds. We are now at the point where these moulds are giving us the lifespan, durability and efficiency that we require.

“Our relationship with PMSA has been fantastic. It always provides the necessary back-up and support, and is ready to provide a solution for any specific requirements. That has been of immense benefit to us, and a critical factor in our continued success,” Gracie concludes.

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