The concept of eco-friendly/sustainable development is not a new trend. It is not a revolutionary breakthrough. The idea has roots in our oldest societies. From Aristotle to Immanuel Kant, our greatest thinkers has always made it clear in their writings that our role in nature is that of a spectator. In other words, that the Earth and our systems of life, are the true wonder of this spec in our solar system. We are secondary wonders in this world.
More and more, science proves that we are heading toward impending doom. But we don't have to take on a defeatist attitude. Our whole philosophy stems from the fact that we can actually do something to make things better. But in order for that to happen, our biggest companies and developers must take up the responsibility of developing the technology to remedy climate change.
The Background of the Vital Villages Housing
We have been through a time of economic depression and a property recession. Only a couple of years ago it was a feeding frenzy, with all and sundry buying property. Together with the financial institutions’ lack of vision, it gave rise to the “subprime” phenomenon which kicked-in the Global Financial Crises (see Wikipedia: “Subprime Mortgage Crises”)
There has been recovery to an extent, but all indications are that we are not going to experience the boom years we had in 2006-2007 anytime soon and that there could even be setbacks again. In the USA house prises in some states has escalated again and some Americans could very well be making the same mistakes again.
Houses should not be a commodity that the individual owner speculates with. Housing (shelter and safety) is one of the fundamental needs of mankind (see Wikipedia: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs) and it is in your home that you experience many of the other universal needs of mankind: safety, security, belonging, love, self-actualization, food, warmth, etc. To speculate with such things are not natural and if done, should be managed responsibly.
But why do people in countries like south Africa speculate with house ownership?
They are looking to maximise return on investment.
In many instances the surest way to get a high return on your investment in a house, is to buy - move in – improve – sell - buy elsewhere – improve – sell, etc. House ownership should be more stable and the growth in its value be less of a “feast or famine” phenomenon. It should be a commodity of steady growth.
Commercial business on the other hand, is where steady growth is imperative. There are certainly fluctuations too, but no business owner would start a business, just to sell again in short while, vacate the premises and start the same thing again elsewhere, just to sell again, vacate and start up again. To establish a business takes time and to especially establish a brand and build it out, takes a lot of effort. And a well established brand is incredibly valuable. Coca Cola’s brand is today worth more than all the buildings at its major plant in Atlanta. Successful businesses are being built up from scratch to big brand by means of steady growth. The brand is the business. (See Wikipedia: Brand)
It is a fact that house prices are affected mainly by supply and demand.
In slack economic times in a housing development project you can concentrate mainly on supply by cutting costs to the bone and fight the opposition for a bigger slice of the limited demand. This is in fact how most businesses operate.
On the other hand you could, while exercising strict control over costs on the supply side, create a new demand by innovation, renewal, thinking out of the box and by looking further than the limited market you find yourself in.
Circe du Solleil is a circus group that was formed in a time when circuses were having a hard time. The advent of TV, video games, Play Station and animal rights campaigns caused people, especially in Europe, to not patronize circuses anymore.
Circe du Solleil, however, combined the circus experience with the creativity of theatre and crossed the conventional boundary between circus and theatre. Today they are extremely successful.
They were in a market where they were supposed to fight the Boswell-Wilkie type circus for a slice of that limited market, but instead they created a kind if circus-theatre. The result was that those who still attended circuses, naturally supported them, while theatre goers who would shun circuses, now also became their patrons. They became a business model for the world to follow and today they are an internationally renowned brand.
What they executed is a business strategy applied by many highly successful businesses. It is in fact purported to be the only sensible business model and the way of the future.
It is called the Blue Ocean Strategy.
It entails keeping costs in check on the supply side, but crossing conventional boundaries in order to broaden demand. (See Wikipedia: Blue Ocean Strategy).
The opposite of that is Red Ocean Strategy, applied by most businesses, where the sharks fight one another for a piece of the prey.
With Blue Ocean Strategy you sail to the blue waters where the opposition is not. They will follow you eventually, and the blue ocean may turn red too, but by then you are ready to move on.
Our Vital Villages Concept is also a Blue Ocean Strategy.
We cross the boundary between Private Housing Development and Commercial Business. We know that on the supply side, the products must be affordable and be value for money. In property nobody buys only because of low price, otherwise Kyalitsha would be crowded with white folks. It is value for money investors look at. That is where our Green Building Construction comes in as well as our Green Group Strategy. With us, the buyer/occupant knows which companies supplied and/or installed the material and components making up his house. When he takes occupation, he gets an Owner’s Manual and Handbook just like buying a new luxury car. He also knows that the house has been designed on Green principles and will be tested to be so by process of applying for a GreenstarSA rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa. He gets the luxury of being unaffected by South Africa Escom’s notorious “load shedding” and the almost traditional summer water restrictions. His house is passively warm in winter and cool in summer.
At the same time, he is a member of what is to be a series of similar (if not identical) villages, each with a unique character, but all consisting of the same suppliers, installers, basic material and components. On the Interactive Portal of our Web Based Business he will have a dedicated page through which he can get in touch with all the other villages in the series as well as with individual residents and utilise facilities that will be increasingly offred. He belongs to a “club” which will give him access to the developer and especially to the suppliers of the material and components of his house. The extent to which he makes use of these facilities is entirely voluntary. The non-Green non-participating resident will not be shoved aside, but he will be missing out on an ever growing shared experience with ever evolving advantages.
He will also know that the Interactive Portal is a self-funded autonomous business hard at work promoting and publishing his housing modality by means of modern day tools, systems and strategies, resulting in faster than normal increase in property value for his investment and naturally a higher ROI.
The Vital Villages Concept, consisting of the Housing Development as well as the Web Based Business, is a Brand that would, just like Virgin Active, Discovery, Woolworths, etc be built out to become a household name.
A South African example of Branding and Blue Ocean Strategy is PSG’s Curro Schools. In a way they crossed the boundary between School and Commerce and today they have a series of branded schools, highly successful because of the promise that this good brand holds for parents and children. They recently listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
With us the owner/occupier/tenant will enjoy all the advantages of a well run brand, while the core will remain his own house. Our housing concept gives him a better and more rewarding opportunity to experience many of his other needs as a human being, even beyond shelter, safety and security. He can create a modern day lifestyle by which he can only benefit.
What we apply here, is therefore not the brain child of one person or an interest group, but a tried and proven international business strategy. What makes us unique is applying it to industries in a way no-one has ever thought off.
Circe du Solleil claims to have re-created the circus experience. We are going to re-create the Family Housing experience.
On the Housing side of our concept is Green Building and the Green Group, ensuring higher building standards and by repetition, bringing building costs down.
On the Commercial side of our concept is the self-funded Web Based Business with its Interactive Portal and the creation and building out of a potentially Big Brand.
A strong team with a strong strategy cannot but succeed.