Green building up-and-comers are quickly coming out of the woodwork.
Spurred on perhaps by the ethical issues associated with heavy carbon practices or more economical concerns now that most countries have put a price on carbon, countries from around the world are increasingly gaining green building momentum, regardless of the state of their current built environment and industry.
Industry up-and-comer South Africa has achieved a major feat after successfully delivering its first ever 5 Star Green Star SA Office v1 Design certified refurbished building. Certified by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), the building known as Millennia Park has undergone a complete retrofit, boosting energy efficiency even though 96 per cent of the original structure still stands.
The choice to retrofit rather than demolish was made for both environmental and sentimental reasons, with the office buildings standing as a small-scale icon in the area of Stellenbosch.
The completed project was undertaken by an extensive team that includes TV3 Architects, Bornman and Associates project management, Quantity Surveyor De Leeuw Stellenbosch and the additional works of landscape architects, ecologists, environmental consultations, geo-hydrological consultants and further skilled professionals.
However, even with such an extensive group of experts, Bornman and Associates director Chris Bornman explains that molding a green building inside a brown shell does come with challenges.
“With a refurbishment project, you have to take what you have got and work with it, you can’t change the orientation of the building for example,” says Bornman. “This forces you to be more creative, and overcome inherent challenges.”
One of these challenges included the low ceiling heights inside of the buildings. This left little room for natural ventilation or traditional air conditioning systems. However, the team saw this as an opportunity, implementing a space-efficient chilled beam system which is not only more practical than many other options, but also significantly more energy efficient. It also stands as the first such system to be used in a South African building.
In addition to this, efficient lighting and solar water heating have allowed the building to reduce its energy consumption by 30 per cent. Greywater harvesting has allowed for water savings of 79 per cent.
Recycling of original materials has played a notable role in the delivery of the building, with 70 per cent of the original steel reused throughout the redevelopment. Furthermore, 80 per cent of waste generated throughout the construction phase was diverted from landfill, oftentimes ending back in the built form, as with the crushed cement which was reused in the building’s car park.
Recycling of materials was further achieved through the donation of goods to community clubs and churches.
However, what the development team is most proud of is the overall ecological improvement to the site, with a 420 per cent improvement on the original grounds due to an encouragement of indigenous plants and ‘water-wise’ planting.
“The GBCSA is proud to award a Green Star SA rating to a refurbished office building for the first time, and pleased to see that companies are giving new life to existing buildings in South Africa,” says GBCSA CEO Brian Wilkinson. “We are encouraged by the results of this project in improving the environment and combating urban sprawl, as well as the insight gained by the professionals involved.”
With a spate of recent green building and industry-wide successes, South Africa is steadfastly heading toward developing a sustainable built environment and a sustainable urban lifestyle.