On 8 June 2019, the BDI family gathered at our workshop at Gunner’s Park, Epping 1, Cape Town, to have a look at the project which has been unfolding in recent months. The first BDI PanGoPod is nearly complete! It is an eco-friendly, off-grid tiny home that runs off of solar panels, rainwater collection, and a composting loo.
The full story of “why” we built it will come later. In short, our passions are biodiversity conservation and citizen science, but we believe that conservation and community engagement can only happen alongside sustainable development. The PanGoPod is an attempt to prototype alternative housing that meets people’s basic needs, is healthy to live in, and has a relatively low impact on the environment. We also think that the PanGoPod will help us get researchers into remote locations where biodiversity research is needed.
The details of “how to order” one will come later, too! But for now, the first destination of PanGoPod “Alpha” is Fynbos Estate, and it will soon be occupied by two French students who will be working with us for six weeks on ecological research projects. They will be field-testing PanGoPod Alpha and providing feedback. We will sell PanGoPods to the public, keep some Pods for getting BDI researchers into the field, and we hope to ultimately partner with local governments to provide PanGoPods as alternative housing for families in need.
The PanGoPod is well-appointed, and has a ground-floor footprint of approximately 17 square metres. It can be towed by a large vehicle (e.g. 4×4) rated to tow 3.5 tonnes. At each end of the PanGoPod is a mezzanine loft, which is large enough for a queen-sized bed. The two lofts take the total area to 25 square metres. The couch folds down into an additional occasional bed, resting on a large storage unit. There is a bathroom with a shower, composting loo, hand basin, wardrobe, and a twin-tub washing machine. The kitchen has a double-basin sink, a gas oven/stove, and a fridge. The mezzanine lofts, ample storage, and design touches like a fold-down table, make the PanGoPod deceptively spacious for its small footprint. We will be developing a handful of PanGoPod layouts and designs with a choice of finishes, but we will also be able to work with clients on bespoke creations. Our PanGoPods will come fully-loaded with rainwater collection tanks, composting loos, solar kits, appliances, and furniture, thus providing a “plug-and-play” solution once a Pod is delivered to site. You can follow our future builds and progress on Instagram.
We had many partners in this venture. We would like to thank our handful of private investors who have taken a chance on us as we try to blaze a tiny home trail in South Africa. Without these investors, none of this would be possible. Elbie Pretorius from Alexander Forbes has been instrumental in this part of the process.
We recently employed Hendrik Louwrens, who has turned his hand from building ocean-going yachts to our “land yachts”. Hendrik has worked tirelessly to help get us over the line.
Mitchell Walker from Futurecon construction has been incredibly supportive throughout this process, from supplying our light steel frame to helping with some of the structural design elements. Mitchell has also gone out of his way to provide advice on almost every aspect of the build.
Robert Burger and Dennis Leeds from InTempo Trailers have gone above and beyond in manufacturing a beast of a trailer, as well as with additional associated engineering projects.
Keith Watkins from Brights Hardware Store has been a massive help in sourcing materials and tools for the build – with Keith even delivering items personally when we needed a rush order.
The team from Inov8 have been great neighbours at Gunner’s Park, dropping in to check on our progress and provide advice on a regular basis. They also created some BDI and PanGoPod insignia for us.
Caroline Wright of Caroline Wright Interiors gave us crucial advice on the interior design of the space. She also made up stunning cushions for us (Romo and Hertex fabrics) which tie the space together.
Diana and Johan from Fynbos Estate have been so good to us over the last year – they have provided a wonderful base for our bird ringing expeditions, and now they are providing an exquisite site for PanGoPod Alpha field testing. It is so refreshing to meet people like them who are invested in conserving their environment and promoting biodiversity research.
Finally, we would like to thank our friends and family, some of whom were at the mini launch on Saturday, for their patience and support. Kate Wright has made an immense contribution over the last 6 months, and this PanGoPod is as much her creation as it is ours. Dieter Oschadleus helped at several moments, giving his time, energy, and skill in the workshop. Lesego Gaotshetse helped paint and spruce up the pod in the crucial lead up to the mini launch. Many people gave invaluable advice along the way, including Seppie Geldenhuys, Andrew and Tania Hood from Crafteeze, Dominic van Schouwen, Peter Rose, Eugene Moll, and Leal Wright. It is the collective effort of all the folks mentioned (and the many who have gone un-mentioned) that makes such a venture both possible and worthwhile. From Les, Jorn, Pete, and the rest of the BDI team, THANK YOU!
Tread lightly that others may follow.