A quick trawl of global Internet websites reveals that homes and buildings of the future are set to incorporate a variety of 'green' or energy-saving features as a matter of course, while 'intelligent' homes are already very much in evidence, mainly in the top end of the market. So in this regard what is the prognosis for the South African residential property market? 
Dr Andrew Golding, CE of the Pam Golding Property group comments: "Rising electricity and water tariffs coupled with a growing awareness of the need for us all to reduce our carbon footprint, is seeing a greater emphasis on energy and water-saving devices particularly among new-builds and development homes. It's naturally far easier to install such features in a home to be constructed, although we are noticing from enquiries we receive that buyers of both new and second-hand homes are tending to be increasingly appreciative of features such as solar heating, water saving or recycling features, waterwise gardens with indigenous plants, time switches, sensory lights, insulation to conserve heat or for cooling purposes, and so on.  The fact is, however, unless the costs of these reduce or incentives are made available to consumers, it will remain somewhat costly for most existing home owners to consider installing in their homes. At present such features are simply a 'nice to have'. Having said that, there is no doubt that having such features in a home adds to its buyer-appeal and enhances its value, particularly over the longer term," he says.
When it comes to such features as well as 'intelligent' homes, the upmarket housing sector is already seeing houses with dedicated home theatres and sound throughout the house - and home automation that enables you to control the heat of your swimming pool or house, turn on your lights, draw the blinds or curtains, and via hi-tech security systems monitor all activity in and around your home while you are absent. For this sector of the market the emphasis seems to be mainly on convenience, security and lifestyle benefits, coupled with a growing desire to address environmental needs. Technological advances are bound to make such features increasingly accessible to consumers in the middle to upper sectors of the market.
The installation of solar panels for heating water is becoming increasingly popular with numerous companies advertising the installation of solar systems ie solar panels and tank. While costs vary for an SABS-approved system, to accommodate a family comprising, for example, two adults and two small children and utilising a 300 litre geyser, the cost ranges between approximately R28 000 and R36 000. It's estimated that one can save 35-50 percent on one's electricity bill through such a system so if the above family currently spends around R800-R1000 per month or more on electricity, they may be able to significantly reduce that cost. In effect the solar system will probably pay for itself in four to eight years, with the further advantage of ongoing reduced electricity costs. It's important that consumers who are interested in installing solar heating ensure the product is SABS-approved and suppliers are members of the Solar Water Heating Division of the Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa. For a list of suppliers and products registered to qualify for an Eskom rebate visit
Tara Whiting, sales agent in South Africa for the Pam Golding Signature Collection – a portfolio of unique, iconic properties – comments: "It is becoming increasingly important to buyers of luxury homes that the house is not only environmentally friendly but cost efficient. A solar powered geyser and pool heater is becoming more standard fare. Homeowners who go the extra mile and heat their entire home via solar or alternative power are less common, but a real marketing advantage in terms of the informed and more sophisticated buyer. I recently had an enquiry from a farmer asking whether wind turbines on his farm would detract from the resale value or enhance its value in the future," she says.
Concludes Dr Golding: "It seems while we in South Africa have a considerable way to go in terms of awareness and affordability regarding 'green' features for homes, there is a rising tide of interest in what we as individuals can do to help conserve our planet. I believe over the next decade – particularly with ever-rising costs of energy and water – we will see the demand for homes which incorporate such features increasing exponentially."
Issued by Gaye de Villiers
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