When Balwin Properties decided to build a new residential estate in Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town, it was always the plan to have a lifestyle centre as its hub. The Greenbay Barn is an impressive structure, characterised by two massive barn doors. These doors open to reveal a tree in the middle, serving as a living centrepiece.
The idea behind the Greenbay Barn was to have a communal area where residents could eat, exercise, work, socialise and play. The amenities on offer include a fitness centre, yoga studio, café, multipurpose sports field, office space, swimming pool, amphitheatre, dog park and laundromat. “The Greenbay Barn plays a pivotal role in fostering a sense of community and providing convenience and recreation for residents,” comments Steve Brookes, CEO of Balwin Properties.
“Sustainable development is a key differentiator for us,” he says. “We regard science-based targets as a business imperative that drives innovation in new technologies and operational practices. This ultimately saves money and increases competitiveness. Our mission is to continue to improve the growth of the low-carbon economy, differentiating Balwin as a responsible brand that cares about its homeowners, the environment and the planet.”
Sustainable by design
As with most of Balwin Properties’ projects, sustainability was never an afterthought, but an integral part of the early design process. Lloyd Tinney, Balwin Energy’s green Accredited Professional for New Buildings and Major Refurbishments, explains how they sat down with Solid Green Consulting to see which environmental considerations they could incorporate into the building’s design.
“Initially, we met with Solid Green to discuss our goals of achieving a 6-Star Green Star rating,” says Tinney. A few design aspects were changed (with minimal cost implications) as they didn’t fit in with the overall green strategy. “These decisions will pay off in the long run as the building will perform more efficiently and be less reliant on water and electricity,” he maintains.
Partnering with Solid Green was a no-brainer, says Tinney. “The value of having them as the sustainability consultant on the project was critical to ensure our goals were met,” he asserts. “Knowledge and experience learnt from previous projects have played a massive role in knowing what strategy will work best and allowing us to achieve our goals,” he says.
Jennifer Dean and Kamohelo Selepe of Solid Green Consulting say the 6-Star certification was a first for both of them, making them proud of their contribution. “From the start, we made sure the sustainability goals were clear and applied them during the project’s various phases,” Dean states. “Particular attention was paid to energy efficiency and renewable energy, water efficiency, waste management, user comfort and connectivity.”
One of the first things Solid Green did in the design phase was come up with an energy model of the proposed barn. From a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, the building design showed a 100% improvement over a SANS 10400 notional building.
The principal means of greening the project in terms of energy was the installation of a photovoltaic system. In this way, the building’s peak electrical demand is actively reduced. “Electricity efficiency is mainly achieved through the large solar array, which offsets energy consumption,” says Tinney.
In addition, provision was made to ensure all individual and enclosed spaces are individually lit, offering flexibility for light switching. “This makes it easy to light only occupied areas and contributes to energy savings,” says Dean. LED light fittings and occupancy sensors also minimise the time that lights are left on unnecessarily.
An innovative feature of the Greenbay Barn is the sub-metering of both the energy and water systems. “Sub-meters help you gain an understanding of water and energy consumption, and allow for better management of these resources, as well as the ability to assess further savings,” explains Dean.
The building achieves significant water savings through low-flow fittings, dual-flush toilets, rainwater harvesting and a water treatment system. Black water provides water for flushing and irrigation purposes. In terms of landscaping, drought-resistant plants were chosen, which eliminate the need for irrigation. “It was important for us to support local biodiversity through our xeriscaping,” says Kamohelo Selepe of Solid Green.
As well as incorporating sub-metering, Balwin took the decision to place signboards throughout Greenbay that display the estate’s energy and water usage, as well as information on recycling and the location of amenities. Tinney views these as learning resources that raise awareness among residents about sustainable living.
Additional green features include having an excellent visual connection to the external environment. “A direct connection is provided for in 80% of the building’s occupied area,” states Dean. To bridge the divide between the natural and built environment, a biophilic framework was developed. This framework integrates elements of nature into the design, such as natural materials, plants and natural lighting. “It was important that we used locally sourced materials in addition to products with a high percentage of recycled content,” she says.
Maintaining a high level of thermal comfort was also a key consideration. “We achieved this by addressing the internal operative temperatures through modelling and ensuring they are within the ASHRAE [The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers] Standard 55-2004 acceptability limits for at least 98% of occupied hours,” says Dean.
Reducing waste was another objective. “An environmental management plan was developed and implemented throughout the building phase to establish guidelines to minimise the environmental impact associated with construction,” explains Dean. Moreover, a waste management plan was put in place to minimise the amount of waste going to landfill during construction. Solid Green also helped devise a waste and recycling management plan for the operational phase of the building.
Setting the bar high
Dean is most proud of the fact that the project achieved the 6-Star Green Star design rating, which sets the bar quite high for future projects: “It is encouraging to see the positive impact that a certified Green-Star building can have on the environment, building users and the surrounding community.”
Selepe agrees, saying the certification is a huge accomplishment. “What really stands out for me is how united the project team was throughout the entire process,” she shares. “It was clear that we all had the same goal and were committed to making this initiative a success.”
Dean hopes that other projects will emulate some of the building’s underlying principles. “These include energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction and recycling, minimising the use of raw materials, providing a comfortable, healthy indoor environment, encouraging pedestrianisation and sustainable transportation, and incorporating landscaping that supports local biodiversity,” she says.
From a user perspective, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, says Brookes. “It’s been a rewarding experience to see the impact our efforts have had on the community and it has been great to set the standard for the area.”