Site visit report: EcoHouse Brazil
Please note this site report is NOT to be construed as investment advice, it is based on the observations of individuals who visited the site.
On the 20th April, two directors from Emerald Knight Head Office and the Sales Manager from our London Office were invited to visit the developments, staff and ultimately the President of EcoHouse, Anthony Armstrong-Emery.
Darrell Dennhardt, James Howard and Jason Star were met at the airport by Xavier Wiggins, marketing Director from EcoHouse. Together the four of us began our journey out to Brazil, to witness for ourselves just what the Bosque project and its predecessors (Arco Iris and Casa Nova) were all about.
Upon arrival at Brazil’s Natal airport, I don’t believe any of us were expecting what we found…
On Sunday 21st April we awoke to find a most amazing view from our hotel balconies, separated from the beach by just a rather crude road, with just the odd “fizz” of a passing motorbike and amid young men shouting instructions during a beach football match, there was a real chance to listen to the Atlantic crashing against the Natal shoreline.
The four of us met in the hotel to be given the day’s itinerary. Anthony had arranged a driver to collect us from the hotel and we were to be his guests at a football match. Not just any football match, but the last home game of the season. In fact Alecrim is owned by Anthony, and we were to be his guests in the Director’s box.
Anthony is a “larger than life” character, he lives in Natal, has a Brazilian wife, a young son and an older daughter Gabriella. We had a fantastic afternoon with Anthony, forging a fabulous relationship over man’s greatest passion, football. The team went on to register a 3-1 win in a tough game with an impressive performance.
After many photographs and media attention, we left the ground and were taken to one of Anthony’s favourite restaurants, literally feet away from the Atlantic. Over dinner, we really managed to gain a great insight into Anthony. I think one of the main feelings that I came away with was one of responsibility.
EcoHouse, as we witnessed with our own eyes, is a big organisation. Anthony talked openly with us about the process behind the building and development. You get a real sense of excitement from talking with Anthony, the Minha Casa, Minha Vida programme really is making a difference to people living in and around Natal. For anyone who hasn’t been to Natal, the city is much bigger than I had imagined, with a population over 1.2 million. Many of these inhabitants are looking towards the programme for relocation to affordable housing.
On Monday we were taken to the Natal HQ of EcoHouse, here we met with Anthony again, along with other key personnel. We were taken out to visit several of the developments, both those under construction and a third (Arco Iris) which is now complete, with investors having realised their returns and the first families preparing to move in. I was really surprised by the unit finish, given that the properties are built as affordable housing. I was pleased to see all the units had a private garden front and rear, finished in grass. In addition, despite temperatures often reaching 40 degrees, the houses were much cooler than I’d expected.
The project which is inevitably of most interest to us is Bosque. Situated about 20 minutes by car from the centre of the city, it boasts a layout including over 2,000 individual housing units. It will be almost a self-contained village, with plans for education centres, a police station, recreational/communal areas, a medical facility and general store. Having been under construction for only 4 weeks, we were amazed how much progress has already been made. The first phase consists of 224 units.
We witnessed in the region of 100 construction workers on site, all busy carrying out their duties. There was machinery now on site which allows EcoHouse to make their own bricks, thus reducing transport and timeframe implications to further reduce the bottom line. It is anticipated that these units are due to be completed on schedule.
We were made aware that over 1,200 units have already been sold to the end user, again reaffirming the demand that exists in the region for premium low cost housing. Incidentally, just prior to leaving, we were informed that starting at the end of April all construction workers will be offered free reading and writing lessons after work each day to educate them with the full support of the local municipal education authority.
There were some very impressive facts gathered from our visit. For example some 72% of all building permits granted in the region are granted to EcoHouse. There was an email that we were shown, demonstrating the building of a new international airport being built in Natal, will be the largest air facility in Latin America and the 8th largest in the world. The airport will receive its first inbound traffic on the 1st April 2014. Again, this can only bring further interest to the region.
Certainly, we were offered the chance to physically see, walk around and touch all the developments. I was wonderfully enthused by all that I saw, the conversations that I had with all the staff we met (and could overcome a language barrier with) were excellent.
We left Brazil, having experienced a wonderful few days, really understanding a project that we’ve had the pleasure being able to offer our clients over the last few months. I am confident that we’ll be enjoying working with EcoHouse for some time to come.