A ‘first’ for green building industry

Waterfront tenant liaison Franette Ventura, development director Mark Noble, engineer Tessa Brunette and founder of Eco-brick Exchange, Ian Dommisse on the ecobrick filler at the construction site at The Ridge.

The V&A Waterfront has started laying eco-bricks in its newest green building, The Ridge, making it the first commercial building in the country to use eco-brick technology.

The building, in the Portwood District, will be constructed from natural materials, and will include lots of greenery, natural ventilation and support for non-motorised transport.

The Ridge will also feature a number of “firsts” for the green building and sustainability industry. These include energy-efficient and passive climate control measures, the use of renewables, sustainable water handling and usage, the lowering of the carbon footprint of the building and a focus on the use of natural lighting.

The eco bricks are two-litre cool drink bottles filled with waste, which includes chip packets, sweet wrappings, shopping bags and waste generated on site.

The eco-bricks will be used as void formers in the concrete slabs in the central toilet areas on each floor of The Ridge.

“Often, builders incorporate void-forming materials into concrete slabs. These are of a much lower weight than concrete. They are sometimes made of expanded polystyrene (EPS). Under normal loads, these voids do not undermine the structural strength of the slab. But they offer many other benefits, which is why we use them,” said development director at the Waterfront, Mark Noble.

“The recycled PET bottles are called eco bricks. To the best of our knowledge, the Ridge is the first large commercial building in the world to do this,” said Mr Noble.

“Together with our various other established recycling programmes, which include a substantial quantity of the building waste from the Silo project being re-used, these techniques make a vital contribution to the circular economy. The is what we term ‘Our Normal’€™, a bold step into participating in this new economy and the environmental challenges we face.”

The eco-bricks were collected from communities, with the bulk being given by Long Beach Mall in Fish Hoek, and Eros School in Athlone. The Waterfront had agreed to pay the organisations R5 a brick, which were then transported to the site. Quality control was undertaken on site by the main contractor.

The Waterfront handed over a cheque of R40 000 to the education NGO Bhongolethu Foundation, nominated by Long Beach Mall, for the eco bricks donated, and a R10 000 to Eros School for its contribution.

This week, the final beneficiary, which is yet to be confirmed, will receive the last cheque.

Tenant liaison at the Waterfront, Franette Ventura, said during quality control, some of the bottles were not filled to capacity, and bricks which were filled using milk bottles were thrown out.

She said this week, they will work on collecting the last eco-bricks to make up the 12 000 which will be used in the building.

Lillian Daniels, a teacher at Eros, said they were approached by the school by Ian Dommisse, the founder of the Eco-Brick Exchange in Newlands, who came to demonstrate to the children how to make eco-bricks.

“The children then made the eco-bricks, but they had no clue where it would be used.”

She said community volunteer Rosemary Hope, read about the eco-bricks in the school’s newsletter, and decided to help the school.

Ms Hope said she had always been passionate about recycling, and she grabbed the opportunity to assist.

She goes to the school everyday to top up the eco-bricks that the children are not strong enough to fill to capacity. Ms Hope, dubbed the Eco-brick champion by the Waterfront, was the only person who did not have a problematic eco-brick during quality control.

Mr Dommisse, who facilitated the collection and handover of the eco-bricks, said he had been trying for six years to get contractors of large developments to use eco-bricks.

Last year, he said he ran an eco-brick project with the Waterfront staff, and the development team was asked to incorporate eco-bricks in new structures.

“The Waterfront is now getting a high green-star rating, and we are anticipating that others will use the concept too.”

He said this week, they would still collect a further 4 000 eco-bricks to use at the Ridge. Once complete, the development, built to accommodate the Cape Town offices of international professional services firm, Deloitte, will have four floors of office space, and three floors of basement parking. Construction is expected to be complete by October.