V&A adds to green bouquet

Green Council of South Africa CEO Dorah Modise hands the plaque to V&A Waterfront CEO David Green.

The V&A Waterfront can add its newest plaque to its green project wall of fame, as they have once again received a six-star rating for the No 5 Silo building.

This is the second building to receive a six-star design rating from the Green Council of South Africa following the No 1 Silo building, which received its “design” rating and “as built” rating – the first building in the country to receive six-star gradings in both categories.

No 5 Silo is one of the buildings near completion in the new Silo Precinct of the V&A Waterfront, which will soon see the redevelopment of the historical Grain Silo.

Waterfront CEO David Green, said they were surprised to have received a six-star grading.

“There are many that get (a six-star rating) as ‘design’, but not many get as built. We are quite pleased. Our philosophy is not to chase the stars, but to implement pragmatic, practical solutions and for ideas to be sustainable.”

He attributes the grading to the district’s sea water cooling system. Rather than having cooling systems in all the buildings, he said, “we use the Atlantic sea to cool the building and the district”.

The senior development manager at the Waterfront, Mark Noble, said any building in the Waterfront needs to achieve a minimum of four stars from the grading council.

“With this commercial office building, we realised very quickly it’s relatively straightforward to get even five stars with very basic moves we are making across the precinct, such as having the MyCiTi bus stop right outside, having the seawater cooling down in the basement which provides chilled water for the entire precinct.

“We have the centralised air handling units. There are four air handling units over each of the five floors. For example, in summer the sea is 12 degrees, maximum 15 degrees. We take that water and transfer it straight into the pre-cooling circuit, chuck that straight into the air handling unit and use, essentially, free cooling to cool the building, so there are massive electrical savings and massive water savings.”

He said other aspects that contribute to the sustainability is the glaze on the southern elevation. “It’s fully glazed. There is no direct sunlight so it doesn’t have a heat gain issue. It brings in loads of natural light, lots of views across the harbour and architecturally it gives the building a nice glassy look.

“This has allowed us to reduce the amount of solar heat gain in the building dramatically while still capturing great views.”

He said with the air tightness test, which is compulsory, the contractors ensure that every gap in the building is sealed. “Any energy that you put in the building, be it heat or cool, is retained in the space because of the high insulation and zero leakage.”

He added that they want a live metering system to track energy and water usage, particularly important during the current drought conditions.

“We want to tweak and adjust the habits of the people in the building.”

“When we approach a design, we approach it simply, but look at every decision that needs to be made, and analyse every single element and look at ways to extract maximum value out of it, and that value is sustainable value, financial value and design value and how the end user is going to enjoy that building.”

Dorah Modise, the CEO of the South African National Green Council, said the criteria for giving a rating is complicated.

“It’s a very scientific process, but the basic principle is living in harmony with the environment and utilising as much of the natural systems as possible without forcing any damage.”

She said some of the things that the South African Green Council consider are performance of water systems, efficiency savings, renewable resources and cooling systems.

“For example, here they are using sea water for cooling,” she pointed out.

Among the other things which were considered, she said, were the integration of natural vegetation and natural light and the use of non-motorised transport. “Downstairs are cycling facilities and shower facilities, so you can cycle into the office and take a shower and go into your workspace and work.”

She said the building’s design met all the criteria.

“The grading that we are giving now is on design. The building is almost complete, but they are already in the process of applying the design to the building. When we come back to check if all the features on the design has been implemented, then we give the ‘as built’ rating.

“In some instances, the ‘as built’ rating is not the same. Sometimes we have to downgrade.”