The 29-year-old Millennia Park office building, in Stellenbosch, has achieved a five-Star Green Star South Africa (SA) Office v1 ‘Design’ certification from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).
Millennia Park is the first refurbished building in South Africa to receive this accolade.
As the building, which was previously occupied by Gilbey Distillers and Vintners, the Peace Parks Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa, was considered an architectural timepiece in the town, a decision was made to refurbish the building, rather than demolish it. More than 96% of the original structure was retained.
Millennia Park is the new head office for investment giant Remgro, which sought a new location for its increased staff complement following a merger with Venfin, in 2009. The building now houses about 120 staff members, who moved in early in May, after the refurbishment was completed in April.
Achieving a Green Star SA rating on a refurbished building, poses an entirely different set of challenges when compared with the construction of a new building, which can be designed ‘green’ from the start.
“With a refurbishment project, you have to take what you have got and work with it, you can’t change the orientation of the building, for example. This forces you to be more creative, and overcome inherent challenges,” said Bornman & Associates director Chris Bornman.
“Without Green Star SA, one would consider demolishing the existing building, digging a basement for parking, and maximising the bulk and coverage to ensure maximum use of the site to ensure an acceptable yield for the developer. Dealing with all the important Green Star SA initiatives, one’s perception towards a refurbishment is very different to what would normally be planned, and this perception will likely be changed forever,” said TV3 Architects director Edwin Swanepoel.
Compared with the original building, the refurbished building would consume about 30% less electricity, owing to a number of interventions, including efficient lighting, solar water heating, and most importantly, the use of a chilled beam air conditioning system.
The use of the chilled beam air-conditioning system in the refurbished building was one of the first commercial applications of this technology in South Africa. The system takes up less space, has lower operating costs, is quieter, and significantly more energy efficient for heating and cooling than conventional air-conditioning.
The refurbished building was also expected to realise water savings of about 79% when compared with the original building. This was owing to the introduction of greywater harvesting, rainwater harvesting and the use of waterless urinals. The new landscaping at the office park also reduced the water consumption attributable to irrigation by about 50%.
As the building held architectural significance, the Planning Advice Committee of the Stellenbosch municipality did not allow a significant increase in the height of the building, which resulted in a mezzanine floor being introduced inside the existing roof space, allowing for storage space and possible future growth.
This also allowed the project team to include a central atrium as well as three side atriums, which allowed more natural light into the darker core of the building.
The old steel roof structure was reused in the manufacturing of the new undercover parking structures. About 70% of all steel on site came from the original building.
Over 80% of waste generated during the project was diverted from landfill and much of it was reused in the refurbishment process. Crushed stone and concrete from the demolished components of the existing building were reused to raise the level of the parking area above the 50-year flood line.
In some cases, materials were donated to community clubs and churches. The removed Kikuyu grass, for example, was donated to the local municipality for sports fields.
While many materials associated with the project were reused or recycled, certain new products were sourced and finding suitable, verified green products was cited as a challenge for the project team. However, this was expected to change over time as the South African market matures and green building becomes more commonplace in the industry.
The parking area also made use of permeable paving, which allowed rainwater to directly permeate into the ground through the gaps between pavers and also filtered the water by means of a stone and geofilm layer under the paving.
The ecological diversity of the site was also improved by 420%, largely owing to the rehabilitation of the existing manmade wetland, which had fallen into disrepair, as well as the introduction of more indigenous and water-wise plants in the landscaping.
An innovation point under the Green Star SA rating system was also awarded to the project for Remgro’s ongoing participation in cleaning up rivers in the surrounding area.
Bornman & Associates green building consultant Richard Duckitt noted that Millennia Park is registered for a Green Star SA Office ‘As-Built’ rating from the GBCSA. “The building must work as close to the design as possible. An As-Built rating will be pursued, to prove that it can be done.”
Green building required very different practices on site, and this project went a long way to educate new teams of contractors, subcontractors, and even materials suppliers on greener practices, which could be carried forward onto other projects.
“Achieving a rating from the GBCSA, which is an internationally recognized institution, is a true reflection of the extent to which a client and its team went to create an environmentally responsible product,” noted Swanepoel, adding that the verification and certification process distinguishes this building from others that may simply make unsubstantiated green claims.
“The GBCSA is proud to award a Green Star SA rating to a refurbished office building for the first time, and pleased to see that companies are giving new life to existing buildings in South Africa. We are encouraged by the results of this project in improving the environment and combating urban sprawl, as well as the insight gained by the professionals involved,” said GBCSA CEO Brian Wilkinson.
The project team for Millennia Park included Bornman & Associates; TV3 Architects and Town Planners; CP de Leeuw Stellenbosch; Clinkscales Maughan–Brown; Spar Q Consulting; Murray & Roberts Construction Western Cape; Shared Energy Management; BKS; OvP Associates; Freshwater Consulting; Amathemba Environmental Management Consulting; Holland & Associates Environmental Consultants; Mackenzie Hoy and Associates; Solid State; and Geoss.