Is going green good for business?

Woolworths Palmyra Junction is one of its premier green stores which brings together the retailer's plans to save energy, conserve water and manage waste better

Woolworths Palmyra Junction is one of its premier green stores which brings together the retailer's plans to save energy, conserve water and manage waste better

The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA)’s Green Star SA rating tools have certainly changed the whole green building landscape, providing a framework for architects and developers to better understand the benefits of green building. This in turn has raised awareness among end users and tenants of the benefits of ‘better’, ‘greener’ buildings and driven demand for this type of product in the real estate marketplace.

This is according to David Talbot, associate director at architectural firm dhk.

“As architects we’ve always had an awareness of issues of sustainability and designing and implementing ‘greener’, more efficient and more environmentally responsive buildings is at the core of what we do,” says Talbot. “With Green Star SA, we’re seeing more opportunities to interrogate these design issues in much more detail.

“On the energy side, with rising energy costs and unreliable supply, it’s becoming more and more important to design a building envelope that is energy efficient, as this affects the internal environment and running costs,” he says. “By having a high performing envelope, you can really improve the internal space by minimising solar gain, maximising daylight penetration, counteracting glare, minimising reliance on air conditioning and providing additional fresh air.”

However much architects are committed to designing with green principles in mind, the buck — and the shade of green — stops with the client. Redefine Properties, for example, has taken the decision to apply green building principles across its portfolio, with any new developments designed to meet a minimum of four star GBCSA design. The company is in the process of re-engineering its existing buildings to meet green building standards too.

Mike Ruttell, properties executive director: development at Redefine, highlights the recently-built 90 Grayston development in Sandton as an example of this policy come to life, with the project achieving a four star rating from the GBCSA.

“The Towers refit on the Cape Town Foreshore is part of the Green Star SA Existing Building Performance pilot programme, which will include a new flushed glazing system on its existing facades that will reduce cooling demands by 30%,” he says.

Redefine has also recently become involved with GBCSA in developing a green building rating tool for Industrial Buildings via a customised project-specific process being conducted on one of its projects at Golf Air Park in Cape Town.

From a tenant or resident’s point of view, do the interventions put money back on the bottom line?

Talbot notes that dhk is seeing more of a demand from tenants and end users for GBCSA rated buildings. “Where there is a strong demand from client-side, that really reduces risk from the developer’s side. That’s very important when it comes to return on investment: having the confidence that they will be able to secure a tenant with a quality product that is in demand.”

Chevron South Africa, known as Caltex, recently invested R200-million into its new head office called Chevron Century Boulevard. The new headquarters, situated in the Century City development in Cape Town, has 9 000 square metres of office space, and achieved a five star rating from the GBCSA.

Some of the interventions incorporated at Chevron Century Boulevard by Louis Karol Architects include waste reduction strategies such as a recycling store room; car-pooling employees are given preference for parking bays; great facilities for cyclists, with secured bicycle parking and shower facilities; rainwater and air-conditioning condensate are harvested and stored in an Olympic pool-size tank; and a mechanical ventilation system designed to offer 10 litres of fresh air per person per second — 100% more than regulatory requirements.

“Since moving to Chevron Century Boulevard, Chevron South Africa has reduced its electricity consumption at head office by close to 50%, and it has reduced its water consumption at its head office by approximately 90%,” says Shashi Rabbipal, executive chairman, Chevron South Africa.

Woolworths, which has nailed its colours to the sustainability mast for many years, has its own green building model that it applies when developing new stores and renovating old ones.

The retailer maintains that its store at Palmyra Junction in Cape Town is currently its most successful example of saving energy, conserving water and managing waste. Interventions include automatic doors to control temperature more efficiently, energy-efficient LED lighting that adjusts automatically to natural light, and natural gas refrigeration.

Behind the scenes, the store has vents that allow natural light, under-floor heating that uses heat recycled from the refrigeration facilities, rainwater harvesting, re-usable delivery containers, and an experimental truck refrigeration system that uses liquid nitrogen.

Further afield in its network of stores, Woolworths has installed water pulse meters at 360 shops for real time monitoring of water consumption, while solar photovoltaic panels at its head office provided more than 254 000kWh of electricity this year.

When it comes to adding up the savings, the company has reduced its water consumption (and costs) by 41%, 93% of its waste from head office and distribution centres is recycled, and it has reduced its energy usage by 40%.

According to Justin Smith, Woolworths head of sustainability, the company is trialling two new environment-friendly refrigeration alternatives. “We use carbon dioxide instead of synthetic gases, because it has virtually no impact on the earth’s protective ozone layer, and a much smaller effect on global warming. It also uses less energy,” he says.

“Our eco-fridge trial involves using liquid nitrogen in our refrigerated trucks to maintain our cold chain during transport, saving about 3 000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. It’s not only more environmentally friendly, it’s quieter too — which is a good thing when we’re making deliveries before dawn,” Smith adds.