Systems for People’s Access to a Clean Environment. Applying biomimicry technology to purifying water, while improving human wellbeing and economic opportunity.


Water has been identified as one of the major risks facing the Western Cape and is also being prioritised in the Green Economy Strategic Framework. This innovative project was conceptualised in 2012 in conjunction with biomimicrySA and the 110% Green Project to address the issue of water pollution in the Western Cape.

Although water and sanitation, as well as bulk services are generally available in Langrug informal settlement, these services are limited and have led to the disposal of wastewater and solid waste throughout the settlement. This flows into storm water drains and ultimately into the Berg River. Biomimicry can be applied based on how nature cleans water and manages waste. To clean water, diverse organisms are able to absorb and use the different pollutants to grow. In nature, wastes are decomposed (broken down) and upcycled (made into products the increase in value) in closed cycles of nutrients, energy and materials.

This initiative developed from, and forms part of the Western Cape 110% Green Initiative. This initiative combines two priorities of the Western Cape Government – the Berg River and the Green Economy – to find an innovative solution to water pollution in the Berg River. It is particularly relevant to establishing innovative biomimicry interventions that when applied, successfully adopted and implemented to the Berg River area, could have a desirable impact on the province’s environmental and economic growth as well as improving health in all the people affected by the river.

The team includes biomimicrySA, Isidima Design & Development, Maluti GSM, WaterLove Projects, Greenhouse Systems Development, CORC, John Todd Ecological Design and the Freshwater Consulting Group.


The biomimicry methodology applied to the built environment aims at enabling infrastructure to become assets that are able to integrate and produce ecosystem services. In this way, they can contribute to the quality of life and human well being.

The water prototype looks to mimic nature by developing a living sewer, using the principle of treating water as it is transported to support the greening of Langrug (in planted swales and wetlands) with readily available nutrients and water.

The solid waste prototype mimics nature’s upcycling strategies, it involves creating a system capable of developing businesses focused on upcycling organic and technical waste into high value products through closed nutrient loops. Infrastructure is considered part of an urban upgrade in the prototype, by developing a neighbourhood waste collection point. The project will encourage entrepreneurs related to upcycling activities, as well as foster cooperative relationships by connecting informal enterprises to formal businesses and organisations in the greater Franschhoek area.



Prototypes are currently being installed. Construction began in January 2016. This phase includes monitoring and research by postgraduate students funded by the Department of Science & Technology and the Water Research Commission. The process is being documented with the aim of learning as much as possible. Lessons learned will determine the feasibility of implementing this within the whole community and possibly to other informal settlements.. 


Photos courtesy of Greenhouse Systems Development and Isidima Design and Development

Project Team:



Photos courtesy of Greenhouse Systems Development and Isidima Design and Development

Project Team:


News articles about the Genius of Space project:

  •  Daily Maverick – No Filter, Vol. 2: Solving problems from the bottom up
  • DW – Fighting water pollution with a ‘living gutter’
  • Re.Think – Biomimicry builds urban possibilities in South Africa