Liberty Two Degrees recently announced that their entire property retail portfolio has received Green Star ratings, with the well-known Sandton City precinct receiving a 6-Star rating. This achievement is the result of having put in many hard yards to fulfil bold sustainability commitments.
“Our sustainability journey has been nothing short of amazing,” says Liberty Two Degrees (L2D) asset management executive Brian Unsted. “Our efforts to reduce energy and water consumption started a number of years back. As far back as 2012 we were investigating solar opportunities, and from 2015 onwards we began to develop a more co-ordinated and centralised approach. Sustainability practices make sense from so many perspectives, from the broader reason of doing the right thing for the environment, to the fact that it is good business practice to de-risk reliance on one source of energy or water supply. Most of the projects make financial sense, and as sustainability has become more mainstream, it has been particularly rewarding to see the delight of our shoppers and tenants as they embrace the positive changes with us.”
Jutta Berns-Mumbi, the project’s Green Star accredited professional of Ecocentric, says that what stood out for her was the fact that all efforts to move towards Green Star certification were driven by a genuine desire to drive real change. “L2D, in no way, saw this as a box-ticking exercise; but rather, it was about going back to basics, conducting energy and water audits and assessing and exploring opportunities to improve. When Ecocentric came on board in early 2019, we started with carbon footprint reporting, which required us to gain deeper insights into energy consumption in the portfolio. The Existing Building Performance (EBP) tool required better, more detailed data, and so the tool drove the building management process – which is exactly how it should work.”
Berns-Mumbi says that the biggest factor determining the project’s success was the buy-in of all stakeholders – at the highest level and then filtering right through the organisation and across the portfolio. “The teams were unbelievable. They were enthusiastic about the Green Star ratings and wanted to be part of the process.” This enthusiasm has extended outwards, to tenants and shoppers alike, who are encouraged to join the ‘Be the Change’ movement, with extensive marketing campaigns around ‘GOOD Spaces’ – L2D’s coined phrase for its sustainability department’s building block.
Looking back over the processing of certifying their portfolio, Unsted reflects on how difficult it can be to get all staff and management aligned on the green journey – until the penny drops, and the individual becomes excited about the changes. It looks like L2D have well surpassed this stage and have no intention of standing still. “We have targeted net-zero waste for 2021, net-zero water for 2025 and net-zero carbon for 2030, and are making good in-roads towards these next goals.”
Here is a snapshot look at each of the properties in L2D’s portfolio, and how their Green Star rating shaped up:
Sandton City Precinct
As one of Africa’s leading retail destinations, Sandton City wins multiple ‘best shopping mall’ awards each year, but receiving its 6-Star Green Star EBP rating, (for both the mall and offices) was a huge achievement. Over the years, the mall has implemented numerous initiatives to lighten its environmental footprint, including the painstaking process of counting every single drop of water used, and targeting ways to reduce water consumption and minimise losses. Some of these initiatives included improving the treatment mechanisms of the centre’s cooling towers (bearing in mind it is one of the largest plants of its kind in South Africa), fine-tuning the domestic water tanks, and putting water meters on the thousands of metres of water pipes running through the building.
The same care went towards saving electricity. For example, tenants were included in a collaborative effort to reduce their consumption in line with targeted energy levels. In terms of waste reduction, an incredible 75% of operational waste and materials from Sandton City is diverted from landfill. They have also had success with composting initiatives, and have recently launched a bank of ‘reverse’ vending machines, which offer customers the option to ‘sell’ their recyclable waste, encouraging them to make recycling part of their daily routine.
Eastgate Complex is a retail and office development in Bedfordview, to the east of Johannesburg, and has around 329 tenants. It achieved a 5-Star Green Star EBP rating and features ‘standard’ sustainability features such as energy and water sub-metering, the use of green cleaning consumables, green lease criteria on all new leases and renewals, and HVAC equipment consisting of zero ODP (ozone depletion potential) refrigerant. Eastgate’s waste-to-landfill diversion has been significantly improved by its composting facilities. Linus Naik of Don’t Waste Group has offered numerous solutions across the whole of L2D’s portfolio. “We are ‘treatment agnostic’, and as a result we’re able to find appropriate and dynamic solutions for our clients. Eastgate utilises the on-site treatment option via In-Vessel Composters (IVCs),” says Naik. Unsted adds that while there is certainly no such thing as a silver bullet in achieving such ambitious targets, as an individual component, the composters have been extremely successful additions on L2D’s net-zero waste journey.
Eastgate’s ongoing sustainability awareness programmes directed at shoppers and tenants have drawn them in through fun elements such as an aquaponics farm, signage on the piazza made from recycled plastic, and solar trees which harness clean, pure energy from the sun to use as a renewable power source for the mall.
Nelson Mandela Square
Adjoining Sandton City shopping centre, Nelson Mandela Square is an open-air square anchored by a six-metre-tall public statue of Nelson Mandela. Along with some of the most highly regarded restaurants in the country, the square also offers a retail sector, with more than 60 high-end stores, as well as premium-grade office space.
“Given the mixed-use nature of the development, we realised that we needed a new approach to gain accurate data for reporting,” says Berns-Mumbi. “It was a case of really drilling down at a granular level; and there was no industry precedent for this kind of method.” She explains that being able to ascertain that the mall’s restaurants are 57% more water efficient than industry average, while the restaurants are 65% , and the office towers 24% – for instance – is no simple exercise and really symbolised breaking through to a new green frontier.
Liberty Promenade Shopping Centre
Situated in the heart of Mitchell’s Plain, Liberty Promenade is very much a community-based mall, and self-professed ‘tale of optimism and hard work’ amidst an economically tough environment. It offers over one-million monthly shoppers access to a choice of 170 stores, including many popular eateries. Getting the mall to the point where it could attain a 5-Star Green Star EBP rating entailed a gradual process of implementing sustainability features, from green cleaning policies and procurement, through to stormwater runoff reduction, and advanced monitoring and metering. In December 2019, the mall’s internal lighting was upgraded, and 6 499 older-generation lights were replaced with LED fittings. The second phase saw an upgrade to all external parking lights. As with every initiative, shoppers were educated on the environmental benefits of this change, to share knowledge and increase commitment to going green.
Liberty Midlands Mall
Midlands Mall is the largest shopping centre in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands area, with 193 tenants. The installation of a substantial solar PV system at the mall signalled the start of L2D’s solar power journey, which Unsted describes as very rewarding and a major win for the portfolio. Midlands Mall lives out its 5-Star status on a daily basis, with its recycling village being just one example of how citizen action is encouraged. As with the other shopping centres across the portfolio, all single-use plastic shopping bags were replaced with sustainable alternatives by January 2020, and the use of plastic straws and non-biodegradable balloons was discontinued.
Botshabelo Mall is located on the N8 in Botshabelo, Bloemfontein, and acts as a regional centre to the entire area. It houses a mere 70 tenants and may only have a 4-Star Green Star Rating, but Berns-Mumbi says that this project is perhaps the one which excites her the most. “The centre is always busy, and this is where I see the opportunity for retail to lead the charge towards greener communities. It is the nexus of where community happens, with doctors’ rooms and social services being housed in addition to retail offerings. Through sustainable practices and knowledge sharing, the centre can have a huge impact on the community’s approach to living out and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”