A classroom refurbishment project in Durban had a tight budget and sustainability ambitions – could it meet both? After fixing up the classrooms, phase 2 was all about the toilets, writes Bioregional South Africa's Sarah Alsen
“Is One Planet Living something you can achieve on a budget?” is a question we are often asked. And yes, we believe you can.
As the African proverb goes, ‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’ In Durban, Bioregional South Africa has just managed the first phase of a classroom refurbishment project at a primary school in Inanda, a township north of the city.
Entrepreneur Zethu Langa runs a local crèche called Bhekameva, which looks after 40 children. Until recently, Bhekameva was operating out of a rundown hall with broken doors and windows and no washing facilities. The hall was also used by lots of other people outside of crèche hours.
All this changed when Langalibalele Primary offered Zethu two unused classrooms to move into. However, the classrooms had been empty for years and were in dire need of repair. Bioregional South Africa thought it could do something good – and in line with One Planet Living – despite the small budget.
Green building in South Africa, without incorporating lifestyle changes that One Planet Living promotes, currently costs on average only 5% more than conventional building. And One Planet Living can go small, as the 5×4 project in Melbourne, Australia proved. So, we knew our refurbishment project could be done – we just had to work out how.
In May 2017, Build It, a full service builder’s merchant in South Africa, offered Bioregional South Africa R50,000 (about £3,000) of ‘in-kind support’ for the refurbishment project. We also got advice from architectural technologist Craig Hols, who agreed that we could meet our aims – provided we were a little bit creative with our limited resources. But isn’t that what One Planet Living is all about?
We agreed with Build It that we would use half the prescribed budget as ‘in-kind’ building materials – paint, plaster, ceiling materials, roof repair items and the like. With a little persuasion, head office of Build It agreed that we could use the other half of the contribution, in cash, to pay local contractors to do the actual refurbishment work and for some supply items that its store did not stock.
One Planet Living was achieved on a budget, with the following innovations:
So where next? Phase two of the project is about to begin, as we have a second tranche of funding for waterless toilets and fencing to make a bespoke pre-primary entrance. We’ll update you on progress, and hopefully soon, the children can move in so the principle of health and happiness can be added to the list too.