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California Eco-Home Design Comes to South Africa

California Eco-Home Design Comes to South Africa

New Eco-Estate Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal Brings Bold, Enviro-Friendly Home Design to Sylvan Settings of Cherished Midlands Meander Near Michaelhouse

Architectural innovation leading up to South Africa’s 2010 hosting of the FIFA World Cup is not just limited to modern football stadiums, infrastructure projects and expansive hospitality centers.

An innovative, eco-estate development in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal is bringing bold, enviro-friendly home design to the charming and picturesque Midlands Meander near Michaelhouse, one of the country’s most prestigious private schools.

Occupying a very low profile and smaller carbon footprint, some exciting building innovations and aesthetics in the new Reeds at Balgowan eco-estate ( are likely to give urban refugees, foreign buyers, returning expatriates and affluent parents of local private boarding school students a good reason to invest in the sylvan settings around the towns of Balgowan and Nottingham Road.

Acclaimed international architect Stan Field of Palo Alto, a leader in green building design in California and other parts of the world, has teamed with two South Africans, Marita Nell of Elements Architecture in Stellenbosch and Torro Contracting of Hluhluwe, to architect a home that doesn’t stand out, but rather blends in to its natural surroundings.


“We are building Homes in Harmony with Nature,” said developer Donovan Neale-May, who noted how well the first residence combined panoramic views, abundant deck areas and elegant and distinctive architectural accents. “We have taken a completely non-traditional approach to creating simplicity, sustainability and clarity of form, function and user-friendliness in a bio-diverse and sensitive wildlife area.”

Neale-May, a South African based in Silicon Valley and working globally, heads the Global Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), among a number of other worldwide affinity networks. He has spearheaded a number of international programs to promote green technology and more responsible environmental management practices. The Reeds at Balgowan is his first residential development project.

Just a short drive from South Africa’s most prestigious private schools, the 44-hectare eco-estate is located close to the N3 motorway from Johannesburg to Durban, overlooking the valley around Nottingham Road with sweeping views to the Drakensberg Mountains. Homeowners can enjoy the serenity of trout-filled dams, abundant hiking and mountain biking trails, and the solitude of walks through adjoining indigenous and commercial forests.

The Reeds’ first custom, luxury home is ready for viewing with quality, enviro-friendly materials used throughout the interior and decking areas. Subdued earth-tone colors are combined with rich natural woods, contemporary concrete structures, high-beam ceilings, airy decks, contemporary fixtures and well-positioned lighting.

The home also features energy-efficient appliances, tasteful shutters for privacy, full-vista windows, floor heating, comfort zone fireplace, and a state-of-the-art home security and property surveillance system linked to a nearby armed-response unit based in Balgowan.

According to Marita Nell, The Reeds at Balgowan is a low-density development with the preservation of the natural landscape in all its facets as the guiding factor. The design methodology of the buildings demonstrates a holistic approach to the environment and the use of eco-sensitive construction techniques and materials, combined with energy efficiency and general conservation, push the boundaries to limit the impact of man-made structures on the landscape. “It is a true eco-estate without any artificial concepts imposed on the landscape such as a golf course, a vineyard, an equestrian centre, or agricultural activity,” Nell noted.

The Reeds at Balgowan exemplifies the spirit of “UbuntuLiving” with unique, enviro-sensitive homes built to stay in harmony with nature. Celebrating the bio-diversity of KwaZulu-Natal’s picturesque Midlands Meander, The Reeds is a verdant, forested nature reserve featuring internationally acclaimed architectural designs that blend into the landscape and maximize active living in a pristine outdoor setting.

Nine free-hold plots of 2,000 square meters are on the market priced from R1.5 million to R1.8 million. The first 380-square-meter model home—priced at R7.2 million, plus VAT—has been completed, along with a security gatehouse to provide controlled access to the properties. An estate architect, on-site project manager, and green building team are available to new owners seeking to develop plots within the eco-estate guidelines.