DUE to massive interest in a unique green building project just outside Nelson Mandela Bay, a mobile app has been created for those fascinated by the construction of one of South Africa's most eco-friendly homes.
House Rhino, under construction at the Crossways Farm Village development at Van Staden's Bridge, will be totally self-sufficient upon completion later this year.
According to Rhino Group managing director Brian van Niekerk, the app will allow people to track the progress of the project and was created after the company found there was huge interest from architectural circles, especially at universities in the country.
The house will be fully off the grid in terms of energy, water and effluent, through latest technology including LED lighting, natural light harvesting, insulation, underfloor heating and cooling, double-glazed windows, solar photovoltaics, rainwater harvesting, and grey- and black-water treatment.
App developer Heather McEwan, now a director of Rhino Lighting, said downloading the app allowed architects, engineers and students to know the project's progress.
"There had been brochures available but they were difficult to understand and quite technical, and of course by using the app you save on printing brochures, and this helps the environment. It also saves on distribution costs and allows instant access to the progress," McEwan said.
The app also includes basic information around the build, such as the building methods, technologies and products being used, and has a YouTube link where videos and pictures of the construction are uploaded and can be viewed.
"The app is available on the Google Play store, meaning people with an HTC or Samsung device can download it. It is also available on the Apple iTunes store where people with iPhones, iPads, iPods or Macs can download it. It will be available in the BlackBerry World app store for all BlackBerry phones by the end of the month."
McEwan said this was a unique concept as no other apps tracked the progress of a building project in such a manner.
"It is not only of interest to those in the industry but also the man in the street who is interested in being more environmentally friendly and looking to change their home in order to save money."
Van Niekerk said people interested in the project could also view the progress by taking a virtual tour via the company website. He said construction, which started at the end of November, was expected to be completed around April.
The house would be a showhouse for the first two years and serve as a means to train and educate those in the building industry, like engineers and architects, about the latest technologies.
"They will come down and actually be trained inside the home while seeing how it works. While they are here they will also have the opportunity to stay at the home," Van Niekerk said.
He said House Rhino, designed by CMAI Architects together with the Rhino Group, was designed to demonstrate and prove the efficiency and effectiveness of the various integrated energy systems.
"These systems will be on offer to the residents who build their homes at the development but it is not compulsory for them to have them all."
The 450m² four-bedroom, three- bathroom house would boast a swimming pool, double garage and aqua garden on the 1200m² property which has majestic views of the Lady Slipper mountain.
It would include solar photovoltaic panels used together with MPPT regulators, inverters and battery banks that would enable the house to be fully off the grid.
The hot water would be heated by solar heating systems backed up by heat pumps for low-radiation days, and all water would be stored in fully insulated solar geysers. Rainwater would be harvested and stored in tanks with a more than 30000l capacity.
The water would be treated making use of ozone treatment before being used for drinking and bathing. All black or sewerage water would be treated in a bio-digester, together with all organic kitchen waste as well as grass cuttings, which would create all cooking gas for the home.
Van Niekerk said the excess water from the digester would be treated on site in a black-water treatment plant and would be used for flush water in the home as well as irrigation for the garden.
The construction would incorporate low-thermal-emission double glazing on all openings as well as high-performance Enviro-Tuff insulation in the roof space to optimise energy efficiency and meet new building regulations.
"The Rhino Group is excited to be involved [in this project] as we believe it will serve to create a more economically viable, environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way of building, with long- term benefits for a healthier, more conscious lifestyle of the future."