How do we innovate? These five projects made the jump from 4-Star to 5-Star due to their innovative features.


Breaking the
Green Ceiling

“I would say it is innovation that pushes us to the next level, it’s the drive to keep pushing and think out of the box,” says Bob van Bebber, director at Boogertman + Partners. “Innovation can lead to market transformation, address aspects not currently within GBCSA’s Green Star manual and demonstrate leadership within the industry,” adds Annelidé Sherratt, senior sustainable building consultant at Solid Green Consulting. GBCSA’s innovation points have been designed with these goals in mind; with the vision to keep every member of a project team sitting around the table looking for boundaries to break, so that ongoing innovation creates a virtuous cycle where previous innovation becomes standard practice.

Georgina Smit, GBCSA’s Head of Technical, says that the innovation category is about rewarding innovative and creative project approaches to incorporating sustainability within buildings. It is included within the Green Star tools as a way of encouraging, recognising and rewarding the spread of innovative practices, technologies, designs and processes for building applications that impact upon environmental performance. “The category also encourages the efforts which demonstrate that sustainable development principles have been incorporated into the wider process of design, construction and performance of buildings but that are currently not captured in the standard rating tool frameworks. Its about driving market transformation,” she says. “Typically, any single initiative will only be awarded to 10 projects under the same rating tool before no longer being considered ‘innovative’ for our market and rewarded within this category. Additionally, the GBCSA has set some ‘innovation challenges’ to the market, such as the Financial Transparency Innovation Challenge, to encourage targeted green building initiatives that respond to more recent market trends in the sustainability world.” The GBCSA has also released a Covid-19 Innovation Challenge that rewards sustainable building initiatives, processes or strategies that are currently outside of the scope of the Green Star rating tools, but which have had a substantial or significant environmental benefit during the Covid-19 pandemic to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases.

Here are four examples of projects that have been able to take the jump from four to five stars as a result of targeting innovation…

A new green gem for Menlyn

GEMS building, Menlyn Maine

Menlyn Maine combines office, residential, retail and entertainment in what aims to be one of the first ‘green living precincts’ in South Africa. As with its other buildings, the new GEMS (Government Employees Medical Scheme) building encourages sustainability initiatives that exceed what has now become ‘green standard’ in the built environment sector. The building achieved a 5-Star As-Built Office v1.1 rating with 60 points at the end of January 2021.

The new GEMS (Government Employees Medical Scheme) building fits seamlessly into the Menlyn Maine precinct; offering premium grade offices and convenient access to public transport and local amenities.

Zendré Compion, sustainability consultant at Solid Green, says that the building reached its five-star status through targeting various innovation points. One point was awarded for making use of a fire suppression gas with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of zero – an innovation that is contributing to broader market transformation in the sustainable development arena in South Africa, due to there not being a local regulation or standard for phasing out gasses with high GWP in the fire suppression industry. Other points were awarded for being located within walking distance of more than eight amenities, sharing information on the cost of green building items, having ten individuals on the project team who have completed the accredited professional course, registering for more than one certification (Design and As-Built), and for incorporating materials that have a high recycled content. In this case, such measures include aluminium window frames, reduced cement content in the concrete, and a high percentage of recycled steel used in reinforcing the building.

Project location:
Menlyn Maine, Pretoria
Project type:
Project completion date:
September 2018
Project size:
4 550m²
Green Star rating:
5-Star As-Built Office v1.1

Growing spaces

Pareto Head Office

Property investment group, Pareto Limited, is no stranger to innovation, and regularly raises the bar when it comes to its world-class shopping centres. It is highly committed to sustainability too and so it is little surprise that the interior fitout of its Sandton-based head office, located in the Atrium on 5th building, achieved its 5-Star Green Star Interior v1 certification recently using innovation to break through the 4-Star barrier and ‘go for green’ all the way. Designed to reflect Pareto’s ethos and to promote user health and wellness, its spaces are designed for restoration and relief from mental fatigue and stress – there is a meditation room, a ‘sleep pod’ where employees can take power naps during the day, on-site childcare facilities to reduce stress relating to juggling work and family, and a soothing environment created by lush provision of greenery and links to the natural world.

The project targeted an innovation point for including biophilia within the design, which encourages and recognises the inclusion of initiatives to bridge the divide between the natural and built environments.

The calm, soothing space aims to promote restoration and encourage relief from mental fatigue and stress. It includes a meditation room for employees to take a step back from the office environment and recharge.

The project targeted an innovation point for including biophilia within the design, which encourages and recognises the inclusion of initiatives to bridge the divide between the natural and built environments. Biophilia supports the idea that humans have an affinity towards the natural world, with growing evidence on the emotional and psychological benefits of nature. Meeting criteria calls for indoor design elements which reflect the natural world, as well as making use of indoor landscaping. The Pareto identity is built around ‘growing spaces’, so those arriving at the office are met with a green wall, along with a central baobab tree which abstractly forms around the office’s core and creates a canopy that extends throughout the office ceiling. The head office offers a wide variety of plant types and also makes use of natural daylight in conjunction with low-energy light bulbs and control systems. This is in addition to a wide variety of sustainability features which Makhosazana Mthethwa, sustainable building consultant at Solid Green, says have been put together in a comprehensive Occupant Users’ Guide, which informs occupants and users about the green initiatives that ensure an environmentally responsive and resource efficient interior fitout.

Project location:
Atrium on 5th, Sandton, Gauteng
Project type:
Office interior fitout
Project completion date:
December 2020
Project size:
1 081m²
Green Star rating:
5-Star Green Star Interior v1

It’s what’s inside that counts

Nedbank Lakeview Phase II

Nedbank Lakeview Phase II Office Park in Roodepoort, Gauteng, was developed by Abland for Nedbank, and in August 2020 received its 5-Star Green Star Office v1.1 As-Built rating. The building consists of three basement levels and four office levels, and was designed by MWLF Architects. With office workers spending most of their day inside achieving an excellent indoor air quality was a key priority, and the HVAC system supplies a good proportion of clean outside air to the building. The building benefits from 45% energy savings, compared to an average office building. Energy and water systems are submetered, with efficient fittings in place as well as a design that reduces the consumption of potable water for the building’s fire protection and essential storage systems.

Drawing inspiration from the tranquil views over Constantia Kloof dam, the Lakeview project used water innovations (rainwater harvesting, ice storage) to jump from four to five green star.

The building benefits from 45% energy savings, compared to an average office building.

“The project originally targeted a 4-Star rating as a baseline,” explains Sherratt, with Solid Green having been the sustainability partners on the project. “Nedbank wanted to see if they could investigate taking it up to five stars, and so we worked with the team to suggest additional innovation points to make this possible.” Sherratt says that Nedbank wanted to implement ice storage and rainwater harvesting as additional operational benefits, hoping that this would take the project to a 5-Star rating. “As innovation points are not guaranteed to be awarded, we had to draw on our previous project experience and recommended additional points to take the project up to where it needed to be.” The innovation points targeted included some of the following:

  • One point for having more than one certification (Lakeview Phase II already has a 4-Star Green Star Office V1.1 Design), which demonstrates the project’s commitment to a sustainability journey, not just one rating. Buildings then have to demonstrate a continued commitment and implementation of their green building objectives.
  • Points for financial transparency. This involves completing the financial transparency criteria to assist the GBCSA with market research and to help create a broader public awareness around the actual cost of green buildings. It recognises that ‘transparency is the new green’ and rewards projects who are prepared to share data that can be used to generate broader market insights.
  • Points for commitment to a educating a large part of the design and construction team on Green Star, by completing the online AP course, which facilitates increased team and industry sector development of green issues.
  • One point for providing attractive and visually prominent stairs, which building tenants would want to use instead of a lift, thereby contributing to staff health and wellbeing.
  • “Collaborating with a client and professional team who share a common vision has allowed each professional to push for sustainable solutions within their area of expertise, resulting in what has been recognised as ‘excellence’ through this commendable 5-Star achievement,” Sherratt concludes.
Project location:
Roodepoort, Gauteng
Project type:
Project completion date:
December 2018
Project size:
13 244m²
Green Star rating:
5-Star Green Star Office v1.1 As-Built, 4-Star Green Star Office v1.1 Design

The new green standard

203 Oxford, 6 and 8 Parks Boulevard, Oxford Parks

The visual impact of 6 Parks Boulevard lies in the architectural façade where a special pattern – a forest-like graphic, reinforcing the urban green theme of Oxford Parks – was printed on the glass panels. This paint technique yields thermal and anti-glare properties.

The Oxford Parks development situated along Oxford Road in Rosebank, Gauteng, will on completion house five buildings on an integrated basement structure. These Phase II buildings comprise 203 Oxford – Life Healthcare’s new head office; 8 Parks Boulevard – a multi-tenanted building housing Metier Private Equity and G&D Currency Technology; and 6 Parks Boulevard – an office block housing Arup, Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Publishing, among others. The buildings follow the same 5-Star strategy as the Phase I building, with minor variations based on the allocated parking and features that makes each building unique. “The client wanted a cost-effective 5-star strategy, and therefore looked at implementing several innovation points, as opposed to the costly commissioning credit targeted for Oxford Parks Phase I. This included exceeding the Green Star benchmarks of local connectivity, taking up the Financial Transparency Innovation Challenge, committing the team to educating themselves about Green Star, and implementing reused and recycled materials,” says Sherratt.

This side view of 8 Parks Boulevard shows how striking and different façades provide the buildings with both aesthetic interest and added energy benefits.

A waste management system was put in place to boost recycling from waste generated on site – this was just one of many criteria included in the project’s comprehensive environmental management plan. Other features which are now the ‘green standard’ include the installation of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in all the buildings, presenting energy saving, efficiency and sustainability features including air-cooled systems that eliminate water use. Different striking façades provide the respective buildings with both aesthetic interest and added energy benefits.

The innovation category is included within the Green Star tools as a way of encouraging, recognising and rewarding the spread of innovative practices, technologies, designs and processes for building applications that impact upon environmental performance.

As the gateway to the world-class Oxford Parks precinct, the new Life Healthcare building stands tall presenting exceptional views and visibility onto Oxford Road. It makes for a striking impression with its flushed glazing and bold yet sensitive design.

There is a good place to start, for those looking to break through to the next level of innovation: start small and work with what you’ve got, and gradually, using the same level of effort in terms of design thinking and solutions, you’ll reach what previously seemed unattainable.
Bob van Bebber
Project location:
Oxford Road, Dunkeld/Rosebank
Project type:
Project completion date:
January 2021 (203 Oxford), October 2021 (8 Parks Boulevard)
Project size:
10 555m2 (203 Oxford), 4 312m2 (8 Parks Boulevard), 3 424m² (6 Parks Boulevard), total parking area 15 320m2
Green Star rating:
5-Star Green Star Office v1.1 Design (all buildings) Green Star – Sustainable Precincts

Green, safe and walkable

Sandton Gate Phase I

Strategically located on William Nicol Drive, close to Sandton, Hyde Park, Rosebank and Bryanston, Sandton Gate has been ambitiously designed to be a mixed-use development that seamlessly integrates commercial, residential and retail space, with numerous amenities situated in a low-traffic, green and walkable precinct. The Sandton Gate Phase I project was used to set the benchmark for other planned office buildings in the development to follow, and was unique in that it targeted both a Sustainable Precincts rating for the overall precinct, and a Green Star Office rating for the first office building in the project. Solid Green worked with Abland, the developer, to raise the bar to five stars, resulting in the achievement of a 5-Star Green Star Office v1.1 Design certification which is recognised as ‘South African Excellence’. Nine innovation points were targeted. The project included several of the innovations cited in the Lakeview Phase II project, with some additional initiatives being:

  • Including a learning resource within an office context, by providing real-time monitoring that feeds energy and water consumption data to a screen in the buildings reception, so that building users can regularly monitor the building’s performance.

Sandton Gate is a mixed-use development in Rosebank, and one of the first certified Green Star sustainable precincts.

The water system achieves an approximate 30% saving through water efficient fittings and submetering.

The sustainable building features include a number of energy-saving initiatives, from the building’s design which aims to achieve an energy consumption of approximately 209.5kWh/m² per annum (this amounts to over a 60% improvement of energy use when compared to a SANS 10400 notional building), through to occupancy sensors, submetering and the prohibition of tobacco smoke. The environmental initiatives include all selected gaseous and fire suppression systems and thermal insulants having an Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) of zero, as well as project specific environmental management and waste management plans. The water system achieves an approximate 30% saving through water efficient fittings and submetering, and the building is designed to reduce the consumption of potable water for its fire protection and essential water storage systems.