The new Morukuru Beach Lodge is built with the same principles of sustainability, eco-design and environmental sensitivity as Morukuru Ocean House (Off the Grid). This new property opening in July has been created to accommodate smaller family groups and couples and has five luxury suites. (Welcome to our family Morukuru Beach Lodge blog). We find out from owners Ed and Anka Zeeman about their motivations for building this second property and their passion for going green!
When did you commission the new lodge …and how long did the project take to complete?
This new site was previously occupied by Koppie Alleen Cottage, which unfortunately burned down in 2011. By 2016, Ocean House was well established and we turned our attention to the plans for the new Beach Lodge. We started building in 2017 and now we are excited to say that we are about to open. It has been an exciting journey!
What were the most important considerations when conceptualising this project?
This site has the most magnificent views of the pristine, white sand dunes and is very close to the beach. These two factors influenced how we went about getting this project off the ground. We did look to Ocean House for inspiration but made the decision that the new bedrooms needed to be bigger and incorporate as much glass as possible to take advantage of the natural setting.
Ocean House and Beach Lodge are both situated in the De Hoop Nature Reserve – tell us about the strict building codes?
The building codes are very strict and quite rightly so. The concession boundaries around the building are quite narrow which was challenging and we had to replace any fynbos damaged during the building.
What are some of the challenges you faced – building in such a location – and how did you overcome those?
Undertaking a building project in a remote location is always complicated! In our case the nearest town is over an hour away by car which means contractors need to be very well organised regarding their materials and tools. Plus once on site, the builders had to sleep in tents, which is not really pleasant especially in winter. However having Morukuru Ocean House as a neighbour did make things a little easier.
How involved were you in the actual build and was this a exciting experience?
We chose to be 100% involved and attended site meetings each month.
“Sustainability” is one of the world’s most talked about but least understood words. How do you define “sustainability”?
We believe sustainability means firstly consideration for the natural surroundings, then using as much regional product in the creation and maintenance of the buildings and also creating employment opportunities for local residents. We chose to work with local construction companies and sourced stone from the Bredasdorp quarry and railway sleepers from Caledon.
List the basic principles of sustainability used in Beach Lodge?
We know that our livelihood is derived from our natural surroundings – so first up we are very conscious of the environment and how we impact upon that. We are a 100% off grid, which means we need to be extremely aware of our resources. This involves educating our staff and our guests, as we all need to be mindful of the earth’s limitations. Coming from Holland we have been exposed to plenty of information about power conservation and alternative sources of energy like solar and wind. South Africans are not very good at being thoughtful about simple energy conserving measures like switching off lights and preserving heating or cooling by using sufficient insulation or simply shutting doors and windows.
Broad sustainability incorporates elements of economic efficiency, environmental performance and social responsibility – how does Beach Lodge address these?
Due to the extreme location of Beach Lodge, “going local” is partly a necessity but we are committed to the concept of farm-to-table which means we purchase as much of our products like food and drink from nearby farmers. The Overberg is well known for the abundant fresh produce available and we are able to get the tastiest lamb and cheeses which we use in our menu planning. Plus at Ocean house we have created a herb garden to provide our kitchens with fresh herbs which are just delicious used in local cuisine. Our organic amenity range is bought from the South African company called Rain, which is based in nearby Swellendam and all our washing, and cleaning requirements are serviced by 100% biodegradable soaps. As a business we are concerned about single use plastic water bottles and are developing reusable Morukuru Family water bottles, which will cut down on this waste. Our garbage is sorted along recycling principles – into different material categories and collected in special containers.
How have you managed to harness renewable energy sources for daily use at the lodge?
As you know we are 100% off the grid. For electricity we rely on solar panels (with a backup generator for cloudy days), for hot water and underfloor heating and we use pellet burner boilers. Inside we have fireplaces for heating and we use local invasive trees called Rooikrans for our wood, our water is drawn from a natural borehole and our gas cooking comes from a Biorock system.
Energy consumption is a key consideration in green building – this extends beyond just the daily use of energy – to things like raw material production, construction, operation and maintenance of lodge. How have you been able to integrate these into Beach Lodge?
We have tried to be creative and thoughtful. We use electric vehicles to move staff between the staff village and the two guest lodges, as we know they are much more environmentally friendly then fuel driven cars.
“Green buildings are an investment in the future “. Do you agree with this statement .
Yes we do believe that investing in green and conscious building is the future and a must for all hospitality operators.
Did you choose to work with the same design team for Beach Lodge as you did for Ocean House?
Yes, we approached Nick Plewman to design Beach Lodge and Janine Butter (5 Minutes with Janine Butter)from Holland was the interior designer. We felt it made sense to use the same team as we were really happy with the end result at Ocean House and both Nick and Janine had the relevant knowledge and experience from that project.
Ocean House was built in 2014 have you seen improvements in green technology since that time?
Progress is always being made and we always look for the most advanced technologies . We are happy to say that the quality of solar panels, LED lights and green electric appliances continuously improves.
What architectural look did you want to create at Beach Lodge and how did you achieve this?
The concept, design and footprint of Beach Lodge is similar to Ocean House but the aim at Ocean house was to create a structure that disappears into the surroundings. So there we concentrated on the use of organic materials, sandstone and used fynbos on the roof. The
Koppie Alleen location is totally different and very prominent so we chose decided a more contemporary, angular design for Beach Lodge.
Beach Lodge uses recycled and natural materials – tell us about those?
The façade of Beach Lodge is made from concrete, stone cladding and recycled railway sleepers. These old railway sleepers are sourced from a variety of different types of trees so they are not uniform in colour. This really adds a special dimension to the new building.
How did your design team maximise the fantastic natural light found at the location?
Incorporating natural light was part of our brief to the design team and they have successfully harnessed the southern light by going full out with windows, which also give guests the best views of the dunes and ocean.
What is your favourite space at Beach Lodge and why?
We love the bar as it overlooks the dunes, the sea and the fynbos all of which are signature elements for Beach Lodge.
In your opinion do you think all buildings will be green in the future?
The human race has to embrace environmentally conscious building and living – as our planet’s resources are limited. It is basically a question of survival!