Six-star rating for Waterfront’s newest green building

The project team working on The Ridge, with representatives of the Green Building Council of South Africa.

The Ridge, the Waterfront’s newest and first green development in the Portswood District, has received a 6 Green Star Office Design rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

The Waterfront’s newest green building, The Ridge

The building, which is set to be complete in the next few months, is being constructed with eco-bricks and natural materials, and will include lots of greenery, natural ventilation and support for non-motorised transport.

According to the certification, The Ridge exceeded the base entry scorecard level of 75 for a 6 star office design rating, by receiving a total 80 design points.

Of significance were the nine innovation points given by assessors on the scorecard against a maximum of 10. These are awarded over and above any credit obtained in other categories and are special points awarded at the discretion of the GBCSA.

The innovation category encourages efforts which demonstrate that sustainable development principles have been incorporated to the wider process of design, construction and performance of buildings, as well as any positive environmental influence brought to bear on the wider geographic area in which the project is located.

One example of innovation is a cross-laminated timber façade, which plays a role in the indoor comfort and natural ventilation – functionally and in the choice of a natural material – which grabbed the attention of the green building assessors.

Further innovation points were given to passive design criteria.

The way the building breathes – its indoor climate control – is based on mixed mode ventilation, using mainly fresh air and open windows. Heating and cooling is based on further innovative criteria.

These include a large atrium beginning at ground level, which allows for upward air circulation out through special windows in the roof lights; a thermally activated building system which uses water pipes embedded into concrete soffits (above where people work) to create large thermal “sinks” that regulate temperatures inside the office spaces; and underfloor displacement ventilation, which allows the circulation of temperature-regulated air into the offices when the building is forced to use air conditioning.

Innovation credit also came from the use of plastic waste as eco-bricks inside non-load bearing concrete floor slabs, to displace the use of concrete or polystyrene “void formers“. This appears to have been a first for a South African commercial building and achieves various sustainability goals.

According to Vusi Nondo, the executive head of development at the Waterfront, there is also much more to The Ridge than some environmental firsts.

“The V&A Waterfront’s ethical development approach defines our master planning which focuses on sustainability and care for the people who will use the building. This approach is ‘Our Normal’, a vision to set the tone for sustainable green building, guiding our planning and development strategies.

“This building creates an unparalleled internal environment with the highest level of natural light and fresh air, a virtual oasis in the city. Occupants and visitors can enjoy inspiring views, inner green spaces which include a groundbreaking ‘central street’ concept naturally ventilated with fresh air, breakaway zones, and an all-round environment conducive to productivity.

“The Ridge is the very opposite of conventional city buildings which are dominated by concrete and glass. Its pioneering timber façade and mixed mode natural ventilation mechanical systems are firsts for South Africa.”

Lisa Reynolds, CEO at the GBCSA, commended the Waterfront on another iconic 6-star Green Star certified building within the Waterfront precinct. “The Ridge represents the Waterfront’s commitments to world class sustainability leadership as well as showcasing local built environment professional talent capable of delivering innovative sustainable design.

“Green buildings like The Ridge help to inspire a built environment in which both people and planet thrive.”

Georgina Smit, head of technical at the GBCSA, said a 6 star Green Star Design rating at the project design stage represents an intent to achieve a sustainability performance level that equates to world leadership, exceeding South African excellence (5 star) and industry best practice (4 star).

“Six-star ratings are unusual in SA and is not an easy achievement for a design rating. Only nine other offices have achieved this accolade to date, either through our Design or As Built rating, or both, since 2010. It involves a committed client, a dedicated professional team and an integrated design approach by all.”

Mark Noble, development director at the Waterfront, said: “We believe that this is one of the most unique green buildings in Africa, if not the world.

“This has been a fascinating journey for us, supported by Deloitte, who subscribe to sustainable and green building, and actively promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“In a highly challenging year for the whole property industry with the pandemic, our getting this accolade required dedication and great skills from an outstanding professional team in reaching the practical completion stage in the face of lockdowns and extreme human safety restrictions.“

The accolade follows the green rating for the The Radisson Red Hotel last year, which became the first new hotel in South Africa to receive a five-star rating from the GBCSA.