Fujifilm South Africa unveiled its new head office in Sandton, celebrating two milestones – a decade operating in the country, and a Net-Zero Carbon Level 1 Modelled rating from the GBCSA.

Words Katherine Graham IMAGES Nathalie Boucry

Picture Perfect

18 Holt Street, Sandton, Johannesburg
Green Star Rating:
Net-Zero Carbon Level 1 Modelled Base Building Emissions certification
Type of Building:
Commercial office
Project Dates:
Certified March 2023
Project Size:
999m² total gross floor area

When Fujifilm SA moved its offices from Woodmead to Sandton, its commitment to climate action was already top of mind. Five years ago, Fujifilm – Japanese photographic company turned global high-tech corporation – announced its Sustainable Value Plan 2030, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The company’s environmental goals under this plan included focusing on climate change, promoting the recycling of resources and addressing energy issues towards creating a decarbonised society. Part of Fujifilm’s commitment was to tackle climate change by using renewable energy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by March 2041.

Fujifilm’s new SA head office boasts a number of sustainability features, including solar panels and rainwater harvesting.

These ambitious aims have been concretised by the building of its new 999m2, five-storey headquarters in the heart of Sandton. “The choice of constructing the building in Sandton as our regional head office for sub-Saharan Africa was because South Africa still offers the most advanced infrastructure on the sub-continent and is ideally located to support our customers in the surrounding countries,” explains Wessel Visser, corporate group director at Fujifilm South Africa. The building boasts an array of impressive green features, such as solar roof panels with an annual production of 112 000kWh; motion sensors and day/night lighting; energy-efficient and water-conservative plumbing; and rainwater harvest tanks.

The Fujifilm Technology Centre Africa is the only one of its kind on the continent.

A unique tech centre

In addition to being an office space, the building incorporates a Fujifilm repair centre and a technology centre. The Fujifilm Technology Centre Africa is the only one of its kind on the continent, providing a demo and training hub for the company’s different departments. Here, customers can receive hands-on, up-to-date training on a range of innovative products. These include graphic communication (wide-format printing, packaging, commercial digital and commercial offset), medical systems (radiography, mammography, pathology and X-ray diagnostics), and imaging solutions (Instax instant cameras and printers, Fujifilm X-series and GFX mirrorless cameras).

Visser says the feedback about the new head office has been overwhelmingly positive. “Our clients like the modern look and feel of the building, plus its central location,” he says. “Many are not aware of the scope of Fujifilm’s operations, such as our healthcare solutions, so they learn a lot from seeing all the products on display.”

Employees are happy too: “While it’s exciting to work in a new space, there is also the opportunity for them to invite clients to view the different showrooms,” explains Visser. Importantly, Fujifilm can now hold events here – a 30-seater auditorium offers customer product training and photography workshops. “We recently hosted our regional medical distributors here for a two-day event,” he adds. “Our floor space can now accommodate photographic exhibitions – we have one planned for later this year, which will showcase the work of Fujifilm ambassadors.”

The double-volume space takes advantage of passive lighting to fulfil more than half of its lighting needs. The rest is provided by solar energy.

Harnessing the sun’s energy

Part of the building’s appeal is its reliance on passive lighting. “Optimising the passive design of the building to run off the sun’s energy reduces the amount of power needed for lighting and comfort, which constitutes up to 40 to 60% of a building’s energy use,” asserts Thato Molapo, modelling and simulation consultant at Solid Green Consulting.

Part of the building’s appeal is its reliance on passive lighting.

Collaborating closely with Empowered Spaces Architects and project architect Gabriella Coter, Molapo initiated an integrated design process. “We began by setting targets to reduce the building’s carbon emissions in line with the client’s requirements,” he says. “In order to meet these targets, we investigated climate opportunities and challenges, and then considered passive and active design interventions.”
The building’s zero-carbon rating was enhanced with the help of Daisy Energy, the company responsible for the solar panel installation. “By leveraging our expertise and incorporating innovative technology, we were able to assist Fujifilm in designing a building that aligns with their sustainability goals,” says Keegan Sternslow, managing director of Daisy Energy. “This demonstrates the effectiveness of our collaborative approach in creating environmentally conscious and economically viable solutions for our clients.”

Finding a suitable design for the building was challenging, given that the architects had to work within the constraints set by Fujifilm SA, admits Coter. “One of the biggest challenges the project team faced was adapting the existing design for the building to Fujifilm’s bespoke requirements,” she says. “We overcame this by working closely together in order to incorporate Fujifilm’s requirements, while retaining the original intention for the design.”

The architects deliberately chose a design that minimises the glass along the western and northern facades to reduce heat gain inside the building.

Coter credits the efforts of Solid Green Consulting in achieving this rating. “They guided us with their energy studies and made recommendations, such as glazing specifications,” she says. The design the architects settled on was one that minimised the glass along the western and northern facades to reduce the heat gain inside the building. “We did our best to think cleverly about facade positions, shading devices and building orientation to allow for a thermally comfortable working space, while at the same time producing a beautiful building.”

Distinctive, modern design

The last of four to be constructed at the Holt Street precinct, the building presented a challenge to the contractor, Bantry Construction. “The fall of the site and the maximisation of the land also made the building construction difficult,” concedes Coter. The design team overcame this by engaging with the neighbouring tenants to redirect access to maximise the construction area.

Great care was taken to preserve the jacaranda tree in front of the Fujifilm SA building.

“We are proud of the distinctive, contemporary design and prime position on William Nicol Drive,” she says. “This building completes the mini-commercial precinct, responding to both the developers’ and tenants’ requirements and climatic conditions.”

The jacaranda tree forms an integral part of the front facade.

Another feature of which she’s particularly proud is green – literally. “We were happy we could keep the jacaranda tree along Holt Street,” says Coter. “From the onset of the design process, special care was taken to retain the tree and it forms an integral part of the front facade. This added complexity to the build and all the teams took extra care to protect it during construction. We feel it complements and finishes the building, which was always our intention.”

on renewable energy in Africa

Does the professional team believe their work will be emulated by others in the built environment? Definitely, says Molapo. “We are confident this building will motivate more stakeholders in the private sector to construct energy-efficient buildings and invest in renewable energy,” he says.

“Building a sustainable future for generations to come requires collaboration from individuals, communities, the private sector and the government to actively address the challenges of climate change, environmental degradation and resource depletion,” adds Molapo. “By achieving a Net-Zero Carbon Level 1 Modelled rating from GBCSA for this building, we feel that we are taking responsibility in actively contributing to advancing sustainability in the built environment.” Coter concurs: “We are very proud to add Fujifilm SA’s headquarters in the Holt Precinct to our list of green buildings. We feel this is the only way forward for all our buildings and look forward to implementing the lessons learnt at 18 Holt on our projects, going forward.”

The building boasts an array of impressive green features.

The client is pleased with the way the building has turned out. “The new office at 18 Holt Street provides Fujifilm South Africa with the ability to not only have a centralised workspace, but also to showcase the different innovative products from our divisions in the Fujifilm Technology Centre Africa,” says Visser.

He also believes the timing of the new headquarters is significant, given that Fujifilm celebrated their 10-year anniversary of their operations in the country last year. Many dignitaries attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in March, such as Japanese ambassador to South Africa, Shigeru Ushio. “We remain committed to South Africa and value our presence in the country,” says Visser. “We believe Fujifilm South Africa has a lot to contribute to the region.”

One of the firm’s key focus areas right now is to grow their medical diagnostic business on the continent. “We believe Fujifilm’s innovative technology in this area can address many of the challenges facing healthcare in Africa.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony in March was attended by Japanese dignitaries, including Japanese ambassador Shigeru Ushio (top left, second from right).