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BDI pod homes

Are pod homes the answer for developers willing to think out of the box?

By Tessa Buhrmann

, |

BDI pod homes

Are pod homes the answer for developers willing to think out of the box?

By Tessa Buhrmann

, |

3 min read
Featured image: Umnya Maikhaya -

As sustainability and the desire to live off grid have become mainstream, so too has the trend of tiny homes risen in popularity. We take a closer look at BDI’s PanGoPod home and explore how developers can utilise these methods by thinking out of the box.

Less is more

In this age of hectic schedules, heavy workloads and even heavier traffic, we all at some point wish we could just tap out. Live in the sticks with no traffic, no bond, no fat utility bill and no stress. A pipe dream, you say. Perhaps not, with the rise in popularity of tiny homes.


First there were container homes, niftily converted shipping containers like those from Umnyam Ikhaya and Innovative Modular Concepts. Then modular prefabricated homes hit the scene, like those from Idladla. And now there’s the PanGoPod created by the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI), a non-profit company focused on biodiversity conservation and social development.

The common denominator in all these tiny homes? The potential to ‘get away from it all’, to ‘live life your way’ … and to live off the grid.

The PanGoPod

Inspiration for the PanGoPod came from the ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), one of the world’s most critically endangered animals, and – incidentally – one that is suspected as a potential Coronavirus host. It’s the pangolin’s ability to roll up defensively and then get up and go just about anywhere that inspired the compact, mobile, go-anywhere PanGoPod.

This tiny home can be detached from its trailer and ‘planted’ on site and, when the need arises, be re-attached to its trailer and hitched to any large 4×4. The pod runs off solar power, uses water from its own rainwater harvesting tanks, and has a water-free composting loo. The 16 square metre open-plan ground floor incorporates a fully functional kitchen, dining nook and seating space as well as a separate bathroom area. The two mezzanine lofts add an additional eight square metres and are each large enough for two single mattresses or a king-size bed.

The luxury of small

There is much to be said about downsizing and reassessing your material needs. Imagine a life with only the essentials – a life of fewer financial commitments and more time and money to travel. The luxury of a life that invites living.

Umnya Maikhaya -

From a property developer’s point of view, this most certainly sounds counterintuitive – where bigger and pricier generally mean more profit. Perhaps in the conventional sense, but there’s a new type of property buyer around – one that considers sustainability and lifestyle in their purchasing decisions. From the millennial buyer to the retiree, many no longer fit into the conventional house-buyer box.

So, what’s a developer to do?

Think outside the box. With the growth in off-grid eco estates, the use of these tiny homes has become more feasible. While it’s not everybody’s ideal home, the BDI PanGoPod certainly has potential. From on-site staff housing or additional accommodation for visiting family and friends to a trendy Airbnb section tucked within the vineyards of a wine estate. Or perhaps an off-grid estate where all the homes are pod homes? Either as single units or a configuration of two or three with open living areas in between.

POD Idladla

What about a retirement estate where residents can ‘park’ their home for a period and, when they feel the need for a change, hitch it up and move elsewhere? From the beach to the mountains, from the winelands to the bush. Imagine a group of estates where the business model is based on this mobility? Where residents have the option of ‘booking time’ in various locations over say a five-year period before deciding where they ultimately want to settle.

Is the South African market ready for this?

Bricks and mortar (and steel and glass) will probably always be the preferred building materials for many existing home owners, who would never consider anything else, but – even for this picky market – these homes could have a great appeal in the right environment. More importantly, this could be a great option for first-time buyers – be they semi-nomadic millennials or not-very-affluent families struggling to find decent housing.

At the moment, a single PanGoPod retails for between R350,000 and R575,000, depending on finishes and optional extras. Of course, that is without land, but the economies of scale of building more of them and ‘parking’ them close to each other could make this a very attractive option for affordable housing. In fact, that was the main motivation behind the concept – it was planned as a step-up for people living in substandard housing, and a sideways move to sustainability for people in more established accommodation. A pleasing asymmetrical equity.

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Recent comments

1 Comment
  • Pheladi
    Posted at 17:01h, 10 May Reply

    I’m interested in building a container home

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