Pick n Pay sustainability manager Andre Nel says its new store on William Nicol Road marks a turning point in sustainable architecture for South African retail outlets by combining a natural design, energy efficiency and responsible use of natural resources.
The design for the store, which opened in Hurlingham, Johannesburg, last year, is a departure from conventional inverted styles that isolate customers from the outdoors. “The architects sought to incorporate the natural landscape, including Jukskei River frontage and the adjacent Field and Study Centre, through large picture windows,” said Nel.
It was an expensive build — taking 13 months at a cost of R160-million — but it will be cheaper to run than other stores, with rain tanks, solar geysers and natural light, said Nel. “It gives us a ‘laboratory’ to test green innovations and underscores Pick n Pay’s commitment to sustainability and reducing not only its own environmental impact, but also that of its customers.”
An example is the installation of heat-dissipating glass in the windows, which are covered with timber louvres to allow for thermal control. This lets in natural light while cutting down on the need for instore air conditioning.
A 100kW solar-powered system supplements lighting, bakery equipment and staff facilities. A further 40% reduction on energy demand is achieved through an intelligent refrigeration system that creates ice at night and uses it during the day to cool the fridges.
Excess heat generated by the fridges is reclaimed to heat the water used across the entire complex in a 1 600-litre tank. Natural refrigerants and a relatively new ozone-friendly compound, R744, are used. Water harvesting from the more than 6 000 m2 of roofing is used to operate the evaporative cooling system of the fridges and to irrigate the gardens.
At least 190 indigenous trees were planted to provide shade for parking and offset CO2 emissions. Two holding dams built on the river help to collect storm-water run-off and remove pollution from the greater Braamfontein Spruit.
“Having laid the foundations for sustainable practices over the past five years, we are now focused on driving sustainability into our core activities,” said Nel. “Our emphasis now is on fresh thinking and innovation.”
Impetus for the shift came from tougher trading conditions and tighter margins driving efficiency in every context, as well as national and global shifts towards integrated accounting and reporting practices. The retailer’s targets include reducing electricity usage by 20% and carbon emissions by 15% by 2012, and sending zero waste to landfill by 2015, Nel said.
Noting that the entry was restricted to the environmental innovations at Pick n Pay on Nicol rather than the whole company, the Greening the Future judges praised it as a lead project setting a new benchmark for retail outlets.
“It is a good showcase of the company ethos and is evidence that the retailer is getting its house in order,” they said. “We would like to see Pick n Pay carry the lessons learnt on Nicol to its other stores.”