Innovative property development goes green

Private Property South Africa
Rawson Property Group

One of KwaZulu-Natal’s most innovative property investors and owners is going ahead with a multimillion-Rand 8 860 m2 industrial warehouse and office development in Durban’s upmarket River Horse Valley.

The development promises to set new standards, not only for KwaZulu-Natal but for the whole of South Africa, in complying with the most advanced green building principles in use anywhere in the world today.

The building, which is sited on 16 400 m2 of land, will, when it is complete in early 2014, have 7 095 m2 of warehousing, ablutions and change rooms on its ground floor and 1 765 m2 of office space including a staff lounge and recreational area in a highly sophisticated ‘AAA’ grade triple storey office complex. These offices will be fully automated with an ‘intelligent’ board room, built-in WiFi and fibre-optic cabling throughout.

A study quoted by the African Sustainable Energy Association shows that a twenty percent cut in energy costs can represent the same bottom-line benefit for a business as a five percent increase in sales. Thus, great emphasis has been placed on power saving and the reduction of power usage throughout the complex. The developers have recently met with solar heating experts to plan the installation of PV panels which will be placed on a north-facing sector of the roof and will supply a bank of batteries with enough power for the entire building. This, the developer claims, will make the factory almost completely independent of Eskom power.

Further power savings will also be achieved by the use of LOW-E double glazing with heat resistant argon gas between the glass panels, thereby reducing heat penetration by up to 100%.

Power consumption will also be reduced by not motorising the entrance gates, by not using electric battery forklifts and, most importantly, through the use of an automated switch-on, switch-off system which will be one of the most sophisticated in the country. This will be linked to sensors in every room and will control the lighting and the air-conditioning automatically in response to the weather conditions and to whether or not there is anybody in the room. It will, for example, immediately alter the air-conditioning supply if a window is opened. Further power savings will also be achieved by the use of LED lights throughout the building. In addition, heat pumps will be installed rather hot water geysers.

The agent handling the letting of this new building, Winston Sjouerman, head of Rawson Properties Commercial franchise in Durban, says that the list of green building features incorporated in the design of this building is the most comprehensive ever seen in a building of this type in South Africa.

“These savings will be of great importance in South Africa when Eskom’s tariffs rise by around 60% over the next three years alone,” says Sjouerman.

Yet another factor making the building self-sufficient is that it has its own borehole which can supply 1 500 litres of water per hour into two 5 000-litre tanks with enough water for the entire building, including the toilets and showers, the sewerage network, the attractively landscaped gardens and the back-up to the fire protection sprinkler system.

Then too, a roof garden on the office complex will give additional insulation to that section and will be irrigated by these two large holding tanks.

“These and many other measures,” says Sjouerman, “are likely to make this the first industrial building in South Africa to qualify for a five-star green building rating.”

The building will have biometric finger print recognition at all of the entrance turnstiles. If clients so wish, this can be linked into the tenants’ time keeping/payroll systems. Another surprising move is the provision of an electric bike to facilitate quick movement around the warehouse by the supervisory staff. On the four dock loading bays there will be an adjustable levering system to make it possible for trucks of any size to use these bays without difficulty.

The site, adds Sjouerman, is ideally positioned to give quick access to the N2 freeway, the N2/N3 interchange and Durban Harbour.

“The very high standard of this whole building,” he says, “will make it sought after. It is expected to appeal particularly to those organisations that are already environmentally aware and recognize their urgent responsibility to contribute to energy saving and the long-term sustainability of our environment. Fortunately there are many such responsible companies in South Africa today.”

Sjouerman says that the demand for this type of green building is definitely increasing in South Africa today, and he expects this building to set a trend which others will now be obliged to follow.

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