PanGoPod: tiny home … mini launch. Eco-friendly, off-grid, mobile housing.

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.

PanGoPods are clad in a top-quality painted corrugated iron product to keep the house dry. Walls, floor, and ceiling are all insulated to meet or exceed the required building standards in South Africa.
PanGoPods are clad in a top-quality painted corrugated iron product to keep the house dry. Walls, floor, and ceiling are all insulated to meet or exceed the required building standards in South Africa.

 

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.

Close on 40 people gathered for breakfast at our mini launch. Here, BDI director, Pete Laver, welcomes everyone, and tells a little bit about the house.
Close on 40 people gathered for breakfast at our mini launch. Here, BDI director, Pete Laver, welcomes everyone, and tells a little bit about the house.

 

Cozy mezzanine loft areas can take queen-size mattresses. Seen here is a single mattress for a researcher who is doing some field testing of the Pod.
Cozy mezzanine loft areas can take queen-size mattresses. Seen here is a single mattress for a researcher who is doing some field testing of the Pod.

 

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.

A functional fold-down table that doubles as a display space can be used as a laptop work station, dinner table for two, or just a great spot to rest glasses and a bottle of vino.
A functional fold-down table that doubles as a display space can be used as a laptop work station, dinner table for two, or just a great spot to rest glasses and a bottle of vino.

 

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.

We want to thank Mano Caldis from CIA Property Specialists, who persuaded the owners of Gunner’s Park that it was a good idea to rent this space to us – a brand-new non-profit company.

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.

Hand-crafted cushions by Caroline Wright Interiors, using Romo and Hertex fabrics.
Hand-crafted cushions by Caroline Wright Interiors, using Romo and Hertex fabrics.

 

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.

Our field testing site at the stunning Fynbos Estate near Malmesbury overlooks the Paardeberg and vineyards.
Our field testing site at the stunning Fynbos Estate near Malmesbury overlooks the Paardeberg and vineyards.

 

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!

PanGoPod insignia, kindly created by Inov8.
PanGoPod insignia, kindly created by Inov8.

 

Tread lightly that others may follow.

13 Comments

  1. Think you have thought of everything Pete, we look forward to seeing the Pango pod in situe. Congratulations on this wonderful “Green” creation.

  2. Well done all!! Gives me some hope in the future of SA again!! May this little home go from strength to strength!

    1. Hi Loraine. Thank you! We hope that this initiative will fill a need in South Africa.

  3. So thrilled to read about your fantastic creation! PLEASE save my email address. I have a Private Nature Reserve in the heart of The Crags (Plettenberg Bay) Research students and birders/ hikers/ holiday makers would be entranced by your PanGoPod! So I would really want to know more and see what might be do-able here in the forest. My website: http://www.brackenburn.co.za . All the very best to you!

    1. Hi Brenda. Thank you – we are glad you like the concept. We will be adding information about PanGoPods to thebdi.org soon. Looks like you have a little slice of heaven in The Crags!

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for this wonderful news regarding the release of the Pangopod’s Alpha version. Sincere congratulations to everyone involved. No doubt you’ll be developing new versions at a hectic pace shortly. It looks like a sure winner for field research accommodation.

    A couple of questions:
    – Do you think you may have Pangopods for sale before the end of 2019?
    – Do you have some approximate price in mind, based on your production costs?

    I would love to be able to buy a Pangopod at the end of the year, if at all possible.

    Thanks & regards,
    Felicity

    1. Hi Felicity. Thank you for your interest and comments. We are now opening up for orders, so yes, we will have PanGoPods for sale by the end of the year. Our prices will vary according to what options you choose, and we will have to create an estimate for you based on your needs. As a ballpark figure, we will be selling a 7.2m x 2.5m PanGoPod complete with the solar system, all appliances, fittings, furnishings, and the trailer, for approximately R 565 000 (ex factory, i.e. excluding delivery).

  5. Congratulations! It’s heartwarming to see that existing technologies are applied for different applications.
    I wondered (and I suppose it could be turned into suggestions) about a couple of items: 1. composting loo: how is the content disposed of? https://humanurehandbook.com/instructions.html 2. How is water reticulated (i.e. gray water) Recycled? 3. How are the batteries and solar panels attached/secured (anti-theft).

    1. Hi Talana. Thank you! Your suggestions and queries are great. Indeed, we agree with the humanure handbook principles. We follow a similar process. The dry contents of the loo are emptied on a regular basis into a compost tumbler (along with kitchen scraps). The tumbler is black and sits in the sun. It needs to heat up to a temperature of 70 degrees C on a regular basis or be at temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees C for longer periods to kill pathogens (please see guidelines from the World Health Organisation for more details). After several months the compost tumbler contents form great compost. Our system diverts urine from the loo into the gray water system, where it gets diluted by waste water from the basins and shower. This gray water is stored in a collapsible tank below the house, fitted with a hose pipe. A small cordless-drill-powered pump can be used to pump the gray water via the hose pipe to water lawns or gardens. Diluted urine forms a great fertiliser, and if you use natural soaps in the kitchen and bathroom, the rest of the gray water is also suitable for gardens. Please note that these methods may or may not be compatible with your local by laws – so please investigate that for your particular location. Our batteries are stored inside the Pod, in a cabinet that is vented to the outside. Thus, the batteries are secure. Theft of solar panels is always a concern, and there are few good options for ensuring their security. Security screws can be used to attach the panels to the roof or mounting brackets. One hopes that such a measure is a good deterrent but for the determined thief, any security measure will likely only serve to slow them down.

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