Blue Rock Village: Africa's first green village
Lukas Reichmuth loves Swiss design. An ambitious businessman, Reichmuth was born in Switzerland, completed his master’s degree there, then stayed to work among its bold, historic buildings. While working, Reichmuth produced a brainchild – his Swiss-inspired architectural project management firm, Swisatec.
17 years on and Reichmuth’s passion for Swiss architecture has seeped to the other side of the world. Swisatec’s latest project, Blue Rock Village, will be built in South Africa. The development is set to become the first Green Village in Africa.
“I take pride in the Swiss heritage and you will see that in our design and style,” Reichmuth tells us. “My motto of design is environmentally friendly, green building and European style.”
The 14 billion rand Blue Rock Village will upgrade the well-known Blue Rock Resort, which rests on the Helderberg Mountain slopes and overlooks the crystal clear Lake Blue Rock. Without a doubt, the concept of the Village sounds wonderful. But why exactly does the African market need it?
“Not only for Africa, but in each and every part of the world we need to do as much as we can to preserve what we have for generations to come,” Reichmuth stresses.
Through his new project, Reichmuth aims to fulfil the universal demand for eco-friendly projects. The green village is just that – green. Lush African foliage surrounds Blue Rock’s accommodation.
Reichmuth adds: “The biggest difference is that we don’t only focus on trees and landscapes. We make a difference by coming up with innovative ways of building, positively impacting the environment, and increasing human well-being.”
Swissatec has primarily focused on the buildings, devising several ways to save energy. For instance, the Giovanni Luxury Terraced Apartment (Phase One of the village) will save up to 70 to 90 percent of energy through insulation and double glazing. LED lighting will save up to 50 to 80 percent of energy. Swisatec also plans to use solar power to produce 80 percent of Blue Rock Village’s electricity. Furthermore, the village will be a car-free zone.
Reichmuth also mentions that Blue Rock Village solves a shortcoming of modern life. “Most of our lives are spent travelling from home to work,” he explains. “This takes away time that could be used to better enjoy our lives with our loved ones. Now, imagine a village where you can live, work and play. That’s our ideology.”
Live: residents will stay in luxury apartments. The accommodation offers “high European quality and design”, “large, open terraces” and “spectacular views”.
Work: Blue Rock Village will hold a Hotel and Conferencing Centre, consisting of over 150 rooms, 30 condos, and a centre for over 500 executives. There will also be the Dollar House, “a professional office space for bankers, lawyers, consultants and financial advisors”. For those who want to gain new skills, there will be a hotel school, IT school, graphic designing and language centre.
Play: After work is over, residents can relax in the village’s recreational facilities. The Wellness Centre boasts sports facilities, beauty and therapeutic centres. Additionally, the village will have boutiques, restaurants and cocktail bars.
“The live, work, play concept speaks to the young, mature, retirees, and the movers and shakers of industries. I believe in the village lifestyle, which all can enjoy – from young to the elderly.” Reichmuth says.
More specifically, Blue Rock Villages’ target market is mid to high-earning individuals. Reichmuth plans to expand Swisatec’s market in the future.
“We plan to venture to other countries. I believe that our way of building will change the construction industry not only in South Africa, but in other parts of the world,” he commented.
Before Reichmuth achieves expansion, he hopes Blue Rock Village clinches the 6-star Green Star Communities Rating in South Africa.
The Green Star SA Communities Rating tool (originally from Australia) evaluates the sustainability attributes of the development project, on a precinct, neighbourhood, or community scale. The tool is one of its kind in South Africa and is being adapted to the local context. If Blue Rock Village bags the 6-star rating, Reichmuth and his team would be elated.
“Being awarded the first 6-star Green Star Communities Rating will place Blue Rock Village as world class development and the first village in Africa to achieve such a status. This will add value to potential buyers and investors as this makes Blue Rock Village a prime address in Cape Town,” he comments.
Reichmuth and the Swisatec team are working hard to secure this rating and open up Blue Rock Village to the public. They envision that phase one of Blue Rock Village, Giovanni Luxury Terraced Apartment, will begin this September. Residents are expected to move in by December 2017.
If the launch goes as planned, Reichmuth’s ambitions to blend Swiss design, African landscape and eco technology will be fulfilled. He stresses the latter in his final comment: “Africa is at a point now that it's moving towards sustainable building, and I hope this will not be a trend, but a new way of living”.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”