Rammed earth walls, tyres, recycled building rubble and eco-bricks might not sound like the makings of a masterpiece at first glance, but a few months, tireless hours of construction work and a dream of a place where everyone can marvel at Cape nature’s finest made these materials integral ingredients to the making of the Helderberg Nature Reserve’s new stunning Environment Learning Centre – the eco-emerald of the hills.
Residing on the slopes of the Helderberg in Somerset, overlooking False Bay, the setting had ideal written all over it when ideas for an environmental centre in the Cape were being spitballed. Helderberg Nature Reserve, which also featured on the Cape Town Green Coastal Map, was already well worth a drive out of the City, but the new Environment Centre will be the cherry on top of the cake for reasons to visit the region.
Given the green light in June 2020, the final touches of the Helderberg Environment centre are happening as we speak, and are set to see completion at the end of December.
The wonder and power of green construction
What would a centre dedicated to environmental knowledge about the natural world’s wonders be if it wasn’t constructed with the environment in mind?
With the thought of construction’s usual terrible impact on the environment at the forefront, the City of Cape Town navigated a green construction plan – something which could be the green print for future municipal facilities, as Alderman Eddie Andrews the City’s Deputy Mayor and Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment suggests.
As Mayco Member Marian Nieuwoudt expressed last year, the design is carbon-neutral and informed by resource efficiency and the sustainable use of water and energy. These are all important factors in building a resilient Cape Town that can withstand the impact of climate change as Nieuwoudt further commented.
‘The new Helderberg Environmental Centre is a magnificent building that I have personally been eager to see as I knew the project would provide a practical example of what a green City facility can look like,” Andrews said of his visit to the centre.
“The centre is a successful case study of green construction methods that could benefit other new municipal facilities in the future,” he further gushed.
The design of this holistic sustainable facility considered a number of components such as:
- Thermal impact
- Ground, waste and storm water impact
- Light pollution
- Reducing carbon emissions
It’s set to be a learning centre where communities, tourists and schools can flourish in learning about the environment, and more importantly, how to protect it.
The construction of the centre also paid tribute to the Helderberg community as the material selection and construction techniques of this project increased the semi-skilled job opportunities for residents in the Helderberg area over the past 18 months, which resulted in 32 additional EPWP workers employed on site.
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Picture: Responsible Tourism Cape Town