Linden Vleihuis

Linden Vleihuis

The Vleihuis Development in Linden raises the bar for architectural innovation in sustainability and biomimetic principals in a South African context, and has achieved certification for Zero Carbon, Net Zero Water and Net Positive Ecology (Pilot).

The Linden Vleihuis Development design brief stated that it should:

seek to lead in every way in the architectural innovation of sustainability and biomimetic principals. The application of these principals should be culturally relevant to the Linden area, the city of Johannesburg and the country of South Africa.

Due to the completely transformed nature of the area of Linden with exotic gardens the architects began with a historic study of the natural landscape of the area, once dominated by grassland, wetland and koppie. The intention was to bring back an indigenous landscape to the site, and a wetland was seen as the best ecologically for the scale of this development. An expedition trip was then taken to the Okavango Delta in Botswana to study a wetland in pristine condition.

Restoring the indigenous wetland ecology of the site became the starting point and restraining device for the architectural design to “reverse local extinction through sustainable architecture”. The new residential units would sit sensitively in the wetland landscape as a bird’s nest would. Using ideas of how birds use local materials, respond to climate, respond to predators and camouflage into their surroundings.

Wetlands provide evaporative cooling of around 2 degrees to surrounding air temperature. With this being the temperature change projected due to climate change this created landscape will provide resilience of the design for the future. The wetland itself is not just for aesthetic pleasure but stores and filters the drinking water for the residents, can provide aquaculture services and provides a wildlife sanctuary for indigenous wetland species, many of which are threatened.

The architecture sits raised above the wetland with its water flowing underneath each unit. Each of the 5 units has its own private view onto the wetland where bird, fish, reptile and mammal life will thrive. The spacial layout is north facing with open plan kitchen and lounge on the Ground Floor and four bedrooms on the First Floor. The roof is an open space that has been designed to be flexible to resident needs. Options include a children’s play area, roof farm or outdoor entertainment area.

The lightweight, low Portland cement concrete construction adds good thermal mass and showcases a fresh precedent for the “brick and mortar” domination of the South African construction industry. Having the walls clad with reeds, anchors the design into the African context, and allows the potential growth of this inexpensive building material to even happen onsite. Large double-glazed areas and skylights invite the outside in and encourages natural light to illuminate the internals natural textures.

In summary the architecture and landscape form a symbiotic relationship where one cannot thrive without the other. The residents of this development become stewards that understand that urban growth can help protect threatened biodiversity, with both sides flourishing.

Sustainable building features include:

The Multi-Unit Residential (MUR) development consist of 5 units.

The project has achieved net zero/ net positive ratings for 3 categories that include the following sustainable initiatives:

Carbon/Energy – Net Zero CARBON- Level 2

  • Efficient LED lights
  • Natural ventilation and double glazing
  • Energy Star Appliances and gas stove.
  • Solar hot water heating element with 2kw heating capacity.
  • Each unit is provided with a 3kW solar PV system, with 15kWh of storage.

 Water: Net Zero WATER – Level 2

  • Water efficient sanitary fittings,
  • Rainwater harvesting,
  • 400 KL created wetland as storage capacity for rainwater and water tanks
  • Filtration system to drinkable water quality.

Ecology: Net Positive ECOLOGY – Level 1

  • Reusing a brownfield site with existing municipal infrastructure,
  • New created wetland,
  • Endemic plant species
  • 47 % of the site has landscaped areas

Building Information:

Total rentable floor area: 270 m2
Total habitable floor area: 230.7 m2
Total number of Multi Units Residential units: 5 x Residential units of (270 m2 each)
Car parking area: 39.3 m2

Project team:

OWNER: Marc Sherratt Sustainability Architects
ARCHITECTS: Marc Sherratt Sustainability Architects
ECOLOGIST: Ecology International
WETLAND SPECIALIST: Emifula Riverine Consultants & Associates
WET SERVICES: Green Planet Engineering Services
QUANTITY SURVEYORS: Russell Irons & Associates
PROJECT MANAGER: Marc Sherratt Sustainability Architects

  • Linden, Johannesburg



  1. Chris Burchmore says:

    Well done. Interested in the smallest scale that can be achieved with this low im0act

  2. Georgia Chennells says:

    This sounds like a fantastic project. When is it expected to be built?

  3. J Cloete says:

    Cost per unit?
    Seems only affordable for people with money.
    What can / are you doing for the poorer areas where ecological challenges etc are greater.
    This not criticism but a serious question?

    The ecology issue has to be addressed on a larger cost effective scale.

    Very nice project this ?

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