“Over the years, we have introduced several innovations to make our developments more energy efficient, helping our customers manage their carbon footprint while reducing the burden of the cost of energy,” says Steve Brookes, CEO and founder of Balwin Properties. As the largest sectional title developer in South Africa, Balwin Properties currently has a total of 47 529 apartments in South Africa, of which 20 269 are EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) certified.
Rooted in nature
The De Zicht Lifestyle Centre, a single-storey community centre project located in Cape Town’s suburb of Milnerton, features a traditional farmhouse design, echoing the simplicity of the natural surroundings, while incorporating world-leading sustainability initiatives that contribute significantly to the estate’s overall eco-status. The building, designed by multi-disciplinary design studio dhk Architects, has been made to feel welcoming and people centred. The layout is compact but makes the most of the space with the use of lively, interactive interior spaces. The focus is on passive design with a lot of natural lighting and ventilation, together with insulation for optimal thermal control.
Senior sustainability consultant Jesse Hamman of Solid Green, who worked on the project, says that a direct visual connection to the external environment has been provided for 80% of the occupied area, with glazed sliding doors and full-sized windows. “Clerestory windows further add to the natural lighting and connection with the building’s context, while glare is reduced with shading screens and large overhangs. Elements of biophilia have been introduced into the interiors with natural materials such as timber and stonework, and images from nature adding colour and texture,” she says.
Modelled to efficiency
To minimise greenhouse gas emissions and ensure a net-zero rating (indicating that the total amount of energy consumed by the lifestyle centre equals the amount of energy created by the building), an energy model of the building was generated during the design stages and compared to a national model, with the resulting design showing a 100% improvement over a SANS10400 building. Modelling was also used to address the building’s internal operative temperatures, with a high level of thermal comfort ensured that is within the ASHRAE Standard 55-2004 acceptability limits for at least 98% of occupied hours.
The building features a photovoltaic system installed on the roof that actively reduces the peak electrical demand and achieves a 5% improvement over the total load requirement. All separate or enclosed spaces are individually switched, which offers flexibility and makes it easy to light only occupied areas, saving on electrical consumption. Sub-metering of all major energy consuming systems is in place, as gathering information is key to managing the system to assess opportunities for energy savings.
Water consumption is monitored in the same way, with usage reductions achieved through the use of water efficient fittings, rainwater harvesting and a grey water system installed to reuse water used in the laundromat as irrigation. A learning resource displays energy and water usage, which sustainability experts have been proven to be a powerful tool in educating building users, increasing their awareness and knowledge of the environmental impact of their actions and over time changing behaviour.
To further reduce environmental impact, all gaseous and fire suppression systems and thermal insulants specified have an Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) of zero. By designating parking spaces near the building entrances for occupants with zero to low carbon emitting modes of transport, the lifestyle centre promotes the use of alternative fuel vehicles, motorbikes and bicycles. Close to the lifestyle centre, the De Zicht estate includes a well-designed children’s play area, swimming pool and five-a-side soccer field, all of which promote healthy outdoor living and a pedestrian lifestyle.
“The estate is perfectly located for modern family living; just twenty minutes from Cape Town’s city centre and close to all amenities. The apartments themselves are wonderfully designed and include free eco-friendly appliances, prepaid utility meters and solar supplementation; so, the well-resourced lifestyle centre perfectly complements the emphasis on sustainable living across every aspect of De Zicht,” says Brookes.
With construction activities carrying a notoriously heavy carbon footprint, due to the large amount of materials and energy used during the process, Hamman said that it was important for an Environmental Management Plan to be developed and implemented during the construction phase, which is specific to the project and ensured that the environmental impact associated with construction was minimised. “This went hand-in-hand with a Waste Management Plan, with activities directed in a way as to reduce the contribution of waste going to landfill during the building’s operational phase,” she adds.
Hamman says that Balwin’s commitment to sharing the financial information relating to the design, construction and operation of the De Zicht Lifestyle Centre with the GBCSA plays an important role in contributing to the body of research regarding assumptions surrounding “additional costs” associated with sustainable developments. According to the GBCSA, and research conducted with the Association of SA Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) and the University of Pretoria (UP), the average cost premium of building green, over-and-above the cost of traditional construction, is as low as 1.1%, up to a mere 5%, a figure which has decreased rapidly over the past decade. Of course, there are many other benefits involved in building green, with customers investing in an EDGE-certified Balwin Properties home being able to apply for an Absa Eco Home Loan, for example, being just one of them.
The project also committed to providing the contracting and design team with greater knowledge and skills on the entire Green Star certification process through the Green Star Accredited Professional online course, which also benefits projects. “Growing the knowledge economy is essential in these times of climate- and health-related stresses,” says Marloes Reinink, director at Solid Green. “In order to respond responsibly to user needs, clients and professionals need access to relevant and high-quality data to inform their decision-making processes on new projects.” Hamman says that these initiatives, which they applaud Balwin for, allowed Solid Green to target Green Star Innovation points for the project – financial transparency and professional upskilling.
There is no doubt that the team behind De Zicht Lifestyle Centre has exceeded all targets, by implementing several innovative measures which have allowed for a new standard for developments of this nature to be set. Not only does this allow residents of the estate to enjoy a world-leading building with all its benefits, but it demonstrates once again that a more responsible way of developing and operating can become business as usual.