Green Leadership


The Western Cape’s oldest residential development company, 100-year-old Garden Cities, has taken a lead in the application of South Africa’s most up-to-the-minute construction code.

Five years ago, the company’s board had already adopted the new SANS 10400-XA regulations related to green building, and has drafted guidelines for interpretation of the code as well as its practical application. Produced by the South African Bureau of Standards, the rules set the standard for environmental sustainability and energy usage in buildings, and now form part of the National Building Regulations.

‘We embraced many of the principles of the code well in advance of the publishing of the regulations and have now produced guideline documents at all levels in order to comply fully with the code,’ said CEO of Garden Cities, John Matthews. The documents include an executive summary, the company’s environmental policy and a green building framework, all to serve as its reference for all involved in current and future development.

The company has also produced written guidelines for use by buyers and occupants to help them live and benefit from the green principles and options that are fast taking over the commercial and residential property environment in South Africa. Innovations such as giving residents their own earthworm farms and recycling bins are under consideration.

The working documents and guidelines are all in line with the principle of  ‘R to the power of three’ – Recycle, Reduce and Re-use, says Matthews. The Garden Cities Board believes that with the scale of the company’s operation it is in a position to have a significant impact on changing the mindset of the wider community to adopt green solutions.

‘Being nearly 100 years old, Garden Cities is of course, through its history of construction, conversant and compliant with many of the principles enshrined in the new code, including concerns with insulation and fenestration,’ said Matthews. ‘Many of the new principles have been part of our construction philosophy since the very beginning,’ he said.

The company also took steps, in advance of the publishing of the code, to introduce conservation measures such as heat pumps or solar panels for domestic hot water in their new residential construction.

Among the measures being taken in Garden Cities homes are under-roof-tile reflective insulation and ceiling boards coated with a layer of insulation.  Hot water storage cylinders are insulated and served by heat pumps, which use 70% less electricity than conventional geysers, or, in some instances, solar panels are installed. Timing switches to disconnect pumps at low-use times are also provided.

Window sizes are determined by their position on the different elevations of the house so that heat loss and gain can be controlled.  Windows, in addition to being size-appropriate, will also be subject to further modification to prevent heat transmission.

‘The code provides the way forward for South African construction. It will in the long term make an enormous difference to the conservation of energy and enhance the sustainability of our resources,’ says Matthews.


Green Leadership


The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) has awarded a 4-star Green Star Sustainable Precinct certification – the first in Africa – to a project that will be built by historic Cape Town development company, Garden Cities NPC (RF), as a further phase of its flagship Cape West Coast suburb, Sunningdale.

John Matthews, Group CEO of the company, which celebrates its Centenary this year, has welcomed the award as a fitting acknowledgement of Garden Cities’ leading role in the green building movement. Commenting on the 46.3 out of a targeted 48.3-point score achieved for the project, he said it reflected the company’s efforts to meet the highest possible levels of sustainability, standards and quality of life for residents of its suburbs.

The award was made to the planned Northridge Coastal Village (Sunningdale Phase 13A) after assessment of the project by the GBCSA, applying key criteria contained in the council’s Sustainable Precincts tool that evaluates large scale development projects at a precincts or neighbourhoods level. Unlike the other Green Star tools, the emphasis is on the site-wide, rather than building-specific issues. The tool rates the planning, design and construction of a precinct only and it does not rate specific buildings or assess its operation.

Manfred Braune, Green Building Council South Africa’s Chief Technical Officer said it was the GBCSA’s objective to inspire growth and innovation in the property sector through initiatives that demonstrate South Africa’s ability to effectively place environmental issues at the heart of design, building and operation to achieve better, greener buildings, and now precincts.

Founder of Terramanzi Group, Fabio Venturi and teammate Claire Holton, the sustainable design consultants tasked with this ground-breaking certification, said they felt a massive sense of relief and achievement following a rigorous certification process in which their work was vetted by both the Green Building Council of South Africa and the Green Building Council of Australia.   Venturi attributes  the remarkable achievement to dedicated teamwork and collaboration. He said the process had been driven by a talented professional team partnered by a passionate client, whose commitment to sustainability helped the design reach its full potential in line with global sustainable design benchmarks.

During its 100-year history, Garden Cities has prioritised sensitive development and environmental awareness and sustainability in the 16 suburbs and developments it has created.

In 2012 the company produced its initial Green Policy, Green Framework, and a supporting Home Owners’ Guide - a living document which is consistently updated.  Subsequently the company has produced Supplier, Consultant and Contractor Greening Guides as part of greening the value chain. With an over-arching vision document, the guides cover a spectrum of green concerns – water, energy and materials.

‘The next logical progression for Garden Cities is to achieve our objective of ‘zero waste to landfill’ in all our projects,’ said Renier Smith, Group Manager, Engineering and Planning.

‘The GBCSA’s Green Star Sustainable Precinct Tool aligns perfectly with our vision to ensure environmentally sustainable developments with minimal impact.

‘We have come to the realisation that the only way to attain radical goals that were once thought to be the unachievable, is to formalise and implement them with focus and drive,’ said Smith.

Venturi applauds what he describes as a visionary and committed approach by Garden Cities.  ‘With pressing global climate change and resource challenges there has never been a more appropriate time for bold leadership in the property sector to create a meaningful and measured difference on this planet for now  and for generations to come.

Apart from its impact on sustainability, said Manfred Braune, there was a compelling business case for green building. ‘Studies continue to show dramatic increases in quality of life for occupants of sustainably built homes, offices and schools. One of the key factors in this improvement is better quality of indoor air and light which is beginning to influence decisions made by tenants and potential buyers.

‘The demand for green buildings is growing rapidly, as property developers and property owners become more aware of their environmental footprint and the cost benefits of building green, and tenants favour energy efficient and more productive spaces.

‘Building green is no longer a lofty ideal. We can now see the tangible benefits that are tied to sustainability in the African context and the fact that within three years the South African industry anticipates that there will be a much higher level of green building activity is encouraging.’


Green Leadership


Greenville Garden City residents restore Mosselbank corridor 

A successful community initiative aimed at rehabilitating and maintaining the social, ecological and amenity value of the Mosselbank River corridor in Greenville Garden City, Fisantekraal is well established  and operating from its headquarters in the development.

The Mosselbank River Conservation Team (MRCT)  has built and resourced a community-based project crewed by local volunteers, to ensure the river is restored to its natural state and becomes a thriving environment with a range of benefits for the local Greenville community.

Garden Cities, developers of the 767ha new town, Greenville, have sponsored a container which serves as an office and storage space for the team. Fitted out, it has created a base for the team, focusing members’ sense of responsibility and accountability.

The container is emblazoned with images and information about the collaborative and all its events, with the object of attracting more volunteers to the programme, and to educate the wider Fisantekraal community.

Many beneficial and positive gains have been achieved since the launch in 2017, but most importantly, MRCT members have continued to put in hours of dedicated work on the Mosselbank River and community.

The MRCT is a group comprised of volunteers based in Greenville Garden City that together tackle some of Fisantekraal’s environmental issues, but more specifically, issues related to the Mosselbank River.

The core team includes Elizabeth Maans (Chair), Christene Gelant (Vice-chair), Thembakazi Ngcobo (Secretary), Gert Kraai (Store Manager) and John Claasen (Security and maintenance officer). Additional members include Esmeralda Julies (Stand-in Secretary), Lulama Dyobhani (Treasurer), Caroldene Prins (Stand-in Treasurer), Magdalena De Bruyn, Isak Jonkers and Marius Jansen.

The team was initially identified and established by Elizabeth Maans who was one of the very first residents of Greenville, where she has become an influential community leader. From the time she first occupied her new home, she decided to start cleaning the roads and river as a community service.

At the outset, when the new homes began to be occupied, Garden Cities, which is committed to helping create harmonious and environmentally responsible communities in its suburbs, invited the participation of residents who had a passion for the environment.

Ms Maans tackled the recruitment with enthusiasm, and, says Garden Cities’ Group CEO John Matthews, the team is growing in strength under her the strong leadership.

The duties of the team include monitoring and reporting of pollution; river quality; reporting fires; undertaking litter runs; weeding; clearing of alien vegetaton and educating local residents about the importance of a healthy river.

Currently, the team conducts litter runs every second week and community clean-up days once a month. The Mosselbank River rehabilitation is now in its maintenance period and the MRCT, together with local community members, has been employed to assist with the maintenance.

The team is promoting environmental education within the community by linking up with other NGOs and social development programmes in the community. Members promote awareness of illegal dumping issues, stray cattle (and the impact on the river), the purpose of the river rehabilitation, and the danger of fires. Events hosted by MRCT include World Wetlands Day, World Water day, World Rivers Day, and Mandela Day.

They are developing their skills through First Aid training, snake handing and administrative tasks, while also learning from other river maintenance teams, such as the Friends of Liesbeek (FOL).

The establishment of this group was facilitated through a small grant from the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET) that provided equipment, personal protective clothing and training.


Green Leadership

Educating our Home Owners

For Garden Cities it is not enough for us to just design and build green houses. We make a point of raising awareness in our communities around environmental issues and how to practically respond to them. Lately we have focused on water-wise gardening, offering our new homeowners a range of landscaping options that help save water. 

Our full homeowner Greening Guide is available to all residents of Garden Cities. This easy-to-read illustrated booklet highlights the importance and benefits of going green and provides practical tips on how to lighten our daily footprint. It contains details of the green building design features we've included all our new Garden Cities houses, things such as: eco-insulation, window glazing, heat pumps with timers, water-efficient taps and showerheads, and kitchen units that are especially designed with a two-bin recycling system. 



Green Leadership

Homes with lighter footprints

Garden Cities is breaking new ground in the establishment and refinement of green building design principles as the standard for all current and future development. We aim to promote urban households and whole communities who live daily with a lighter ecological footprint. In the design of our homes, we are striving to help residents save energy, reduce their carbon emissions, minimise waste-to-landfill, conserve precious fresh water resources, and protect biodiversity. 

Garden Cities aims to promote urban households and whole communities who live daily with a lighter ecological footprint. In the design of our homes, we are striving to help our residents save energy, reduce their carbon emissions, minimise waste sent to landfill, conserve precious fresh water resources, and protect the local biodiversity. 

While Garden Cities has always embraced and often exceeded the highest codes and standards in its building practice, the company has drafted its own specific Green Building Development Guidelines based on the latest international and local sustainability frameworks, regulations and standards. This is to make sure we remain a leader in the field. For example over 200 Garden Cities houses have already been built according to the new SANS 10400-XA Energy Efficiency regulations, which set the standard for environmental sustainability and energy usage in buildings, and form part of the National Building Regulations. In the critical area of water resource management, we are preparing to roll out grey-water recycling systems and already offer a range of water-wise garden landscaping options for new home owners. 

Garden Cities uses tried and tested building systems and components that are approved by recognized authorities with justifiable costs and acceptable performance. We always comply with prescribed building regulations, and make sure we advise our buyers on the use and maintenance of their homes. 



Green Leadership

Working with our Suppliers

Garden Cities understands that a sustainable built environment is a complex and never-ending challenge. As such, our approach is to work openly and honestly with our business partners to find the best possible solutions for all stakeholders. 

Garden Cities has embarked on a collaborative green building programme with its suppliers, contractors and consultants. The aim is to find shared motivation for why a sustainable built environment is important, what goals we want to achieve, and how we should go about it. The initiative was set in motion with the development of a series of educational booklets for our staff and business partners that introduce the main themes of environmental sustainability: Water, Energy and Materials. Titled Greening our Supply Chain, the series is designed to stimulate thinking and innovation, and also provide an outline of Garden Cities’ draft green building vision and objectives for collective scrutiny. The programme includes a variety of shared learning initiatives. 

Click on each of the covers below to read the Greening our Supply Chain series. 



Green Leadership

Building thriving communities

Founded in 1919 with a vision to uplift communities through the building of quality affordable homes in harmony with nature, Garden Cities is both the Western Cape’s oldest residential property developer and a pioneer of sustainable development in South Africa. For almost 100 years Garden Cities has been building groundbreaking homes for all people in safe healthy environments that strive to protect nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. 

Garden Cities has always taken the lead in developing communities in the broadest sense, providing the infrastructure that its thousands of residents need for their daily lives. Its high quality houses and apartments are set in finely planned townscapes with open green spaces and recreational areas. There are sports fields and clubs, crèches, schools, commercial centres, healthcare facilities, community initiative, and even dog parks. The suburbs it develops are in prime areas in the Cape Peninsula and to the north with residential and commercial layouts and road systems designed primarily with safety and convenience in mind. From gated communities to single residential homes and even retirement villages, Garden Cities houses and apartments are in high demand for rental or ownership. 

The founding project Garden Cities undertook in 1920 was to develop Cape Town’s first outlying residential suburb, Pinelands, to combat overcrowding in the city centre. Pinelands was also the first garden city to be established in South Africa and one of the first worldwide outside of England. Thereafter in the 1950s Garden Cities helped reintegrate society after World War II by opening its second garden city, Meadowridge in the South Peninsula, to accommodate returning service men and women and their families. Around this time Garden Cities also developed the nearby community estates of Elfindale and Square Hill. Then, as the metropolitan area of Cape Town began to expand in the 1970s and 1980s, Garden Cities established further leafy suburbs at Edgemead and Northpine to meet growing accommodation needs in the northern areas. 

More recent developments include the modern housing estate of Pinehurst near Durbanville and the major suburb of Sunningdale along the fast-growing west coast corridor. Running in parallel to these developments is Garden Cities’ very latest project, the whole new town of Greenville at Fisantekraal. Ratified by the City of Cape Town in 2014 after 8 years of planning, Greenville Garden City is a model public-private sector partnership that is setting the standard in South Africa for integrated sustainable human settlements. The development is aligned with the South African government’s Comprehensive Housing Plan and the Western Cape Provincial Government’s Green Economy initiatives, and includes Breaking New Ground (BNG) housing that aims to eradicate informal settlements in the shortest possible time. 

Garden Cities has also become widely acclaimed for its social investment programme, the Archway Foundation, funding and building school halls and providing other assistance to children in underprivileged communities.