Renowned foreign developer, Douglas Lund, has brought his expertise to South Africa where he’s involved in a number of developments in the Free State capital, Bloemfontein.
British-born Lund has been involved in developmental projects across Afghanistan, the United States, Iran and Europe, including the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic. He was also involved in the redevelopment of Russia’s famous GUM shopping centre in the legendary Red Square.
In an interview, Lund said technology currently in use in South Africa reminded him of construction “in the 1940s and 1950s in the United Kingdom”, saying the housing sector was still stuck in the dark ages.
He was also surprised by the continual use of solid bricks and single pane windows given the sometimes harsh winters in parts of the country.
In recent months Lund partnered with Indian businessman and diamond cutter, Sunil Gandhi, who formed Benchmark, a company aiming to drive business interests in South Africa. They plan on introducing newer technologies into South Africa with a view to taking it elsewhere in the continent.
Gandhi has been quoted as saying: “We are very excited about this project. We have seen that there is a need for affordable but high quality new homes and as a result we are bringing in new building technology that will not only make the building of homes less expensive, but will be introducing new technology that has not been used in South Africa.”
Together they have launched the second of two developments in Bloemfontein’s affordable black and middle income markets. One of them is Khomo’s View in the Vista Park suburb in the south of the city, near the Ehrlich Park.
Benchmark bought the property and the partially constructed development after a local businessman and politician went under.
Lund told Moneyweb after conducting a feasibility study of the unfinished development it was decided to demolish all existing structures due to the low standards of construction.
“After much deliberation and investigation into the ability to upgrade and complete these original ten units, it was decided that it would only be possible to create something unique and up to high standards by totally demolishing the original building and starting again,” a statement said.
Lund has also been visiting the remote Northern Cape mining regions of Katu and Kuruman where he says there is enormous scope for development given the number of workers being deployed there to service the mines.
The idea, he says, is to develop projects that are sustainable while simultaneously leaving behind a legacy to be proud of. He lamented the actions of some big corporates exploiting valuable resources without giving anything back.
The landscape in South Africa has changed on many levels including soaring energy prices: “It’s time to rethink how everything is done. The goal is to get involved in bringing in technologies that have become the norm in places like Europe,” Lund said.
The new materials to be introduced in the Bloemfontein developments will cut energy consumption by half while utilising solar heating and double glazed uPVC windows and doors.
This technology will be rolled out to other projects.
In addition to the Bloem ventures, Benchmark is aiming to produce aerated bricks for construction that are set to be produced in South Africa in partnership with local business. Several sites across the country have been identified as possible locations for the building of factories to produce the bricks. These include Thaba ‘Nchu in the Free State and Kuruman and Upington in the Northern Cape, said the developers’ local partner Mike Spencer of Platinum Global headquartered in Bloemfontein.