Futureproof solutions ensure green living

21st July 2017 By: Robyn Wilkinson - Features Reporter

Demonstrating its capability for creative thinking, engineering and project management consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV South Africa has overcome bulk services shortages and ensured the preservation of the natural environment along KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast through the sustainable design of the Blythedale Coastal Estate.

Property developer eLan Property Group’s Blythedale Coastal Estate is a greenfield development, which is adjacent to Blythedale village and Prince’s Grant on the northern boundary, near Kwadukuza, that was initiated in 2005. Advancement of the project has been delayed, owing to land claim disputes, but with these having been resolved and the local community supporting the project as owners and shareholders, roll-out of the project is finally under way.

The Blythedale Coastal Estate is a 1 000 ha eco-estate that will, at completion, comprise 4 000 units, including a low-cost gap housing section, luxury residential section, lifestyle village and hotel resort complex. Plans for additional elements, such as a university, schools and recreational facilities – including a golf course and stables – are ongoing.

“There is no other development of this nature; a full 3 km of ocean frontage and 320 ha of indigenous forest, which will further be groomed to exceed 650 ha of forested area,” says eLan Property Group development and sales director Andrew Thompson.

Utility supplies in the area are, however, constrained and unable to meet the needs of such a large-scale, luxury development. To address this challenge – and, in keeping with the estate’s slogan, “Green living is in your nature” – Royal HaskoningDHV has developed a suite of creative solutions that will increase the estate’s self-sufficiency and sustainability when it comes to energy, water and sanitation.

Riding the Development Wave
Royal HaskoningDHV project director Dominic Collett notes that there has been accelerated capital expenditure in KwaZulu-Natal in recent years, with government identifying the Richards Bay–Durban–Pietermaritzburg corridor as a strategic area for infrastructure development investment. Given the economic growth in the region and the unspoiled natural environment of Blythedale, the area was identified by eLan Property Group as the ideal setting for an estate.

“An estate destination with direct beach access will be a big attraction for local and international tourists and investors, especially with its proximity to King Shaka International Airport. With the local community’s involvement, this new development will aid in job creation, while enhancing and growing the natural beauty of the area,” says Thompson.

He adds that, recently, there has been a significant movement of people into the coastal towns north of Durban, creating a demand for residential developments. “The thriving economies between King Shaka Airport, Durban Harbour and Richards Bay are making the area an attractive location for work and pleasure, and our Blythedale development is positioned well within this key zone.”

He also points out that there are plans to link the N2 directly into Maputo, in Mozambique, and that the Drakensberg, Midlands battlefields, Hluhluwe and Umfolozi game reserves, as well as the Isimangaliso Wetland Park and Phinda Game Reserve are all within easy driving distance of Blythedale.

“This estate will, thus, help to facilitate the movement of people in, out and through the province, encouraging charter flights and new dedicated flight routes to KwaZulu-Natal and effectively bringing Durban’s city centre closer to this north coast development node.”

Blythedale Smart Living
To futureproof the design of the estate, Collett stresses that Royal HaskoningDHV has approached the project from a smart perspective – balancing cost and environmental imperatives and incorporating new technologies into the design of the energy, water and sanitation systems on the estate.

The company has provided a ‘blueprint’ for the development that includes on-site wastewater treatment, desalination plant and gas-to-energy opportunities. In addition, Royal HaskoningDHV has identified a list of elements for homeowners to consider when they build their homes that includes compulsory and optional measures to reduce water and power use. “Seventeen different technologies have been identified in this regard and the hope is that homeowners will adopt all seventeen, where possible,” says Thompson.

The desalination plant will draw water from the ocean and ensure a water supply on the estate, even during drought conditions. Solar energy from photovoltaic panels installed on residents’ houses will be used to assist in powering the desalination plant, which will produce desalinated water during sunlight hours and store it in a water reservoir. This water will then be used by the homeowners and replenished during the day.

Instead of implementing grey water solutions, wastewater effluent will be treated and reintroduced into the irrigation system of the estate for the residential gardens and the golf course. Homeowners will also be required to use drip irrigation, and rainwater harvesting will be a standard feature of each home.

As the estate is a long-term project, with homes and hotels projected to be completed by 2033, Collett explains that the wastewater treatment facility and desalination plant have a modularised design. This will help to reduce the initial infrastructure expenditure and expedite the development of the estate, as water infrastructure will be built to meet the needs of the first phase of property construction and ramped up over time as the number of households on the estate increases.

Natural gas will supply a central unit in the estate, after which it will be piped to homes for stoves and heating, reducing the electrical requirement of each house by 30%.

In addition, Thompson highlights that the design approach incorporates smart technologies that will enable homeowners and resort users to use remote utility management, face recognition for access and billing, as well as frictionless access, with the possibility of a keyless and cashless society.

“We are preparing the development for fibre and smart technology to address the technical needs of new generations in the management of their day-to-day lives, combining this with a strong management approach to conservation and a balanced approach to the environment.”

Thompson adds that the design of the Blythedale Coastal Estate is a blueprint model that could easily be used in other provinces and countries for bulk green solutions.

“The solutions that have been recommended by Royal HaskoningDHV will undoubtedly become highly sought after wherever people are serious about making a difference to our environment and our communities,” he concludes.