Bay eco-development makes waves abroad

2015-05-13 06:00
Rhino Group’s off-grid, Eskom-free showcase at Crossways Farm Village.
               PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Rhino Group’s off-grid, Eskom-free showcase at Crossways Farm Village. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

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A LANDMARK eco-development on the outskirts of Nelson Mandela Bay pioneered by Dr Chris Mulder, as well as its self-sustaining and Eskom-free showcase home House Rhino, has drawn interest and praise from academics at a leading university in the US.

Mulder, returned this past weekend from a trip to his alma mater, Texas Aandamp;M University – one of the largest universities in the US – after being invited to give a guest lecture to students and academics titled “De-urbanisation: creating sustainable rural new towns”.

Mulder, who is the credited with transforming Knysna’s Thesen Island from an industrial wasteland into an eco- friendly tourism destination and Blue Flag marina, is also behind the Bay’s Crossways Farm Village development near Van Stadens, a pioneering project involving building “rural new towns” which are partially or totally self-sustaining and energy independent.

During his lecture last week, Mulder highlighted House Rhino – the off-grid showcase development at Crossways which has been built by Bay-based water, food and energy solutions company Rhino Group.

“House Rhino was a hit,” said Mulder, adding there was immense interest in the self-sustaining nature of the house.

“It was the fact that it was off the grid and on Crossways, where we have large off-grid houses mixed in with medium sized and smaller homes, all interwoven together in a safe and walkable community environment,” Mulder said.

House Rhino, Rhino Group’s showcase of off-grid solutions, generates its own energy from solar panels; creates gas for cooking from a biodigester processing waste from the house; and harvests rainwater which is then heated by means of a water heat-pump powered by the solar energy.

“House Rhino continues to attract significant local and international attention,” said Rhino Group managing director Brian van Niekerk. “We have even housed German post-graduate students who were doing research on its self-sustainability, after their alma mater failed to find anything comparable in Europe for them to study.”

Mulder said his concept of creating “rural new towns” centred on food security, rural development, poverty alleviation and job creation.

“Rural development is a national priority and although de-urbanisation flies in the face of global trends, it is essential in South Africa,” Mulder said.

Speaking of Crossways at the university, Mulder said: “I gave an overview of what Crossways is, how it works and we will be feeding back – and already are – into the community of Thornhill by creating jobs, upskilling the community, and providing contracts .

“I also explained that we, as developers, provide all the infrastructure and thus self-manage the provision of services like sewer, water, electricity, refuse removal, and fibre-optic access for each home.”

Mulder has been named Texas Aandamp;M’s Most Outstanding International Alumnus twice – in 2002 and 2011 – for his community-minded eco-sensitive projects

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