PanGoPod FAQs

What is a PanGoPod?

PanGo-what?!?!

PanGoPods are off-grid eco-friendly mobile homes. They are bigger than a caravan but smaller than a Park Home. This sort of housing is common in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, where they are called Tiny Homes.

We drew inspiration from the ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), an animal that can roll up into a defensive ball, protected by keratin scales. Beyond this remarkable defensive ploy, pangolins are also mobile and can go just about anywhere. Hence … the pangolin pod, the go-anywhere pod, the PanGoPod.

Our PanGoPods detach from their trailers: they can be kept on the trailer or ‘planted’ on site and removed again. A PanGoPod plus trailer weighs 3500 kg and can be towed by a large 4×4. PanGoPods run off of solar power, using water from rainwater harvesting tanks, and a water-free composting loo.

Pangopods have a ground floor of roughly 16 m2 and two mezzanine lofts, each of just over 4 m2, for a total area of nearly 25 m2. The lofts can each take two single mattresses or a king-size mattress. A separate bathroom provides privacy for a shower, a composting loo, a hand basin, a wardrobe, and a washing machine. The open-plan ground floor contains a fully-functional kitchen, a sleeper couch, and a dining nook.

We hope that after diving a bit deeper into the information here, you’ll be as excited as we are about this great new, proudly South African product.

How to get one?

How to get one?

All you need to do is contact us at director@thebdi.org. We’ll start the process of engaging with you about what you need and want from a PanGoPod.

We have a standard plug-and-play PanGoPod, which comes with all the bells and whistles in the box. Once you have it on site, it takes about a day to hook things up (solar panels, rainwater tanks, etc.) and then you’re off to the races.

Alternatively, we can customise your order to better suit your needs. Just drop us an email to start that process.

How much do they cost?

How much do they cost?

The quote we give you will depend on several factors, including which options, fittings, furniture, and electrical systems you desire. Please contact director@thebdi.org so that we can draw up a quote to suit your needs. As a rough guideline,our basic shell which is clad internally, externally, insulated, glazed, wired, and plumbed is:

  • R 340 000

If you place an order and pay your deposit before the end of October 2019, we are offering a discounted price of R 290 000. Our fully-loaded option that includes everything you would need for a starter home (even down to knives and forks) is:

  • R 565 000 (including the trailer)

If you place an order and pay your deposit before the end of October 2019, we are offering a discounted price of R 500 000.

Both prices are at our factory door, and delivery will be an additional cost, if requested.

How do we build them?

How do we build them?

PanGoPods consist primarily of a trailer and a steel framework. The trailers are made by a trailer manufacturer. The light steel framework is supplied by a steel framing contractor. We construct the pods from the trailer upwards in our workshop. We are a small team and we craft everything by hand – from the furniture to the copper tap fittings (should you select those options).

Why go tiny?

Why go tiny?

For some South Africans, going tiny might be a step down, but for millions of people in our country, a PanGoPod might be a step up. From whichever situation you are coming from, a PanGoPod can offer the following benefits:

  • Reduced environmental footprint
  • Freedom of movement
  • A safe, secure, and weatherproof shelter
  • A healthy, beautiful, and nurturing space

A PanGoPod is a great solution for folks looking for additional accommodation on their property, but who don’t want to go through the hassle of obtaining planning permission or the hassle of having a building crew on site.

If you are a business looking for a mobile site office, laboratory, or retail space, a PanGoPod can be designed to meet your needs.

Why are we building them?

Why are we building them?

We are a non-profit company designed to foster research and community action in biodiversity conservation and social development. We believe that to grow our nation in a sustainable way, while caring for our people and preserving our environment, we need to approach housing in new ways.

We need to integrate modern living into the surrounding environment in ways that are sensitive to human well-being, long-term sustainability, and ecological resilience. Part of this approach is to develop eco-friendly off-grid mobile homes.

We also have a mission to get people out into remote places so that they can conduct field research on biodiversity, ecology, sociology, and anthropology in under-served areas. We see this mission as a perfect opportunity for field-testing off-grid housing that can be rolled out with confidence to the general public.

Who is a PanGoPod suitable for?

Who is a PanGoPod suitable for?

Just about anybody! Within some basic parameters, we can design a PanGoPod to suit your needs.

That being said … tiny home living is not for everybody. You still need a place to park your home. Tiny home living doesn’t solve land ownership issues and is not necessarily a first rung on the property ladder. Tiny home living takes dedication and commitment – many people will have to scale down their possessions and keep them at a manageable level.

Who is building them?

Who is building them?

We are the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI), a non-profit company focused on research related to biodiversity conservation and social development. Our PanGoPod team consists of Dr Pete Laver (BDI director, ecologist), Hendrik Louwrens (craftsman who has spent much of his career in the yacht-building trade), additional BDI staff, and a supporting cast of exceptional suppliers, collaborators, and professional sub-contractors (legal, insurance, electrical and gas).

Where can you get a PanGoPod?

Where can you get a PanGoPod?

You can either collect your Pod at our factory in Cape Town, or we can deliver one to you (billed separately). You’ll need a large 4×4 for towing – it must be rated to tow 3500 kg. The dimensions of the Pod on its trailer are road-legal and similar to that of truck carrying a shipping container.

Where can you put a Pod?

Where can you put a Pod?

Mobile structures generally don’t require planning permission, but you will have to contact your local council to register the Pod (e.g. as a caravan), to register the solar panels, and to provide a site plan indicating where the Pod will be situated on the property. Local by-laws may prohibit occupation of a ‘caravan’ on your property, so please check with your council. Other than that, you’ll need to be able to tow (or have us tow) your Pod to site – along reasonable roads (including farm roads) with clearances of 2.5 m (width) and 4.3 m (height).

Where can you see an example?

Where can you see an example?

We have a prototype PanGoPod situated on an exquisite wine farm and nature reserve near Malmesbury, in the Western Cape.

Where can you find us?

Where can you find us?

You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, via email, and at our workshop in Epping 1, Western Cape (Unit 4 Gunner’s Park, corner of Grenville Ave and Gunner’s Circle).

When can you get one?

When can you get one?

This depends on our waiting list. Currently, we can have a Pod ready about 4 months after your 50 % deposit is paid.

When did we start?

When did we start?

Our company has been around since 2015. We started our PanGoPod mission in 2018.

How does the composting loo work?

How does the composting loo work?

PanGoPods use a dry composting toilet, the Eco-throne. There is a funnel that diverts urine out to the grey water tank where it gets diluted and later drained out into the yard. Urine is sterile (except in the case of urinary tract infections) and in diluted form is an incredible fertiliser. Solids and paper go into the bucket in the loo. When you are finished you place some cover material over the top (something like sawdust). The bucket is vented to the outside. With the airvent and the cover material, the contents dry out and leave no odour. When the bucket needs emptying, it can be taken outside and emptied into the compost tumbler that we supply. This tumbler should be rotated every three days. In the sun, the tumbler heats up, killing any pathogens, and within a few months the contents have decomposed to form compost.

How much electrical power is there?

How much electrical power is there?

Our system is designed with two occupants in mind for a prolonged stay. On our system, you can charge laptops, phones, and other devices, run the pod’s LED lights and fans, and run the twin-tub washing machine a few times a week, in addition to other small appliances. We can upgrade the system as part of a special order

How much space is there in a Pod?

How much space is there in a Pod?

From the outside, PanGoPods look tiny, but they feel deceptively spacious when you step inside. The ground floor has a lot of headroom and several people can move around one another in this space. The lofts are cramped for headroom, and you have to move around on all fours. There is enough headroom to sit up in bed, but not much more. A great option is to extend your space with outdoor living on a wooden deck (not included).

Can you choose exterior & interior cladding?

Can you choose exterior & interior cladding?

As standard, we build PanGoPods with a premium corrugated iron cladding product. It comes from Australia and is coated to be rust resistant. This product comes in a range of colours which we can discuss with you. We can finish the interior in wallpaper – this will require a special order.

What about planning permission?

What about planning permission?

Every site will differ in this respect, but here are general guidelines. PanGoPods are mobile structures and in general, architectural plans and building approval are not required. However, most town councils still require that you seek permission, by registering the mobile structure with them. This may require a fee, and a drawing of where on the property the structure will be. This drawing may require an architect’s signature. There are also local bylaws to consider, such as whether a caravan can be occupied on a property (which is how some local administrators may view a PanGoPod).

What about insurance?

What about insurance?

We have found it relatively easy to obtain coverage for the PanGoPod. Your broker will be able to advise you best, but we have found that insuring the Pod under marine cargo insurance means that it can be insured as goods in transit and when it is on site.

How do you get into the lofts?

How do you get into the lofts?

We have custom-built ladders that we have tested up to 120 kg. If ladders are not your thing, we can redesign the Pod as a special order, but this usually requires reducing the lofts from two to only one to accommodate stairs.

Does the Pod get too hot or cold?

Does the Pod get too hot or cold?

PanGoPods are insulated to exceed the national building regulations. However, it does not come standard with heating or airconditioning. Indoor temperatures should be similar to traditional brick and mortar houses, and temperatures can be managed using outdoor shades (not included) to control solar gain (heating) through the windows in summer. A gas heater in winter can be a good option, but carbon monoxide build-up should be monitored.