The City of Cape Town’s new human settlements contact centre in Manenberg is the second municipal building in South Africa, and the first fully constructed building by the City  to have received a 4-Star Green Star SA Office Design Rating v1 certification from the Green Building Council of South Africa showing that government has a green intent.

Asked why the City pursued a 4-Star Green Star rating, Ashley Hemraj, senior architect: development services and the project architect for the centre, says: “We all know that the impact of climate change cannot be addressed in isolation and that it’s a global problem, requiring not only global solutions, but local solutions from private sector as well at local government level…Therefore, the City of Cape Town together with Human Settlements Department and the architectural unit, took the initiative with this building to promote sustainably principals and join other government departments leading by example.”

Hemraj adds that the design team wanted to implement as many green features as possible and the only limitation was funding.  The team started with big impact elements like water and energy, and moved down the list to materials and emissions control like controlling the type of refrigerant used within the air-conditioning system.

They wanted to run this building totally off the electrical grid and even feed back into the grid. But the renewable systems needed space and financial resources that made it not viable for this project.

Other areas that proved difficult was sourcing all the building materials within the 50-kilometre radius of the site and finding suitable re-used materials for the project.

Dave Edwards, civil engineer and principal agent of the iCE Group of consulting engineers to the City says sustainability features include sandbag walls, recycled aggregate, steel and road material. An intelligent power management system optimises power usage.

About 70% of the building’s energy usage will be harvested from the sun and the wind, while all rainwater will be captured in collection tanks and recycled. A black water (sewage) treatment system has been implemented to capture wastewater and recycle it back into the ablution facilities, with a portion redirected for landscape irrigation.

Materials used in construction were selected for their eco-friendly content and low-carbon footprint in manufacture and delivery. Forestry Stewardship Council certified timber was specified, and recycled plastic bottles were used as insulation material.

The building concept incorporated blank walls on which local artists could formulate a theme and create art works in an attempt to connect the local community with the building.

Hemraj says the building was designed on primary constraining elements, like attaining a sense of security and having a civic presence. It promotes a “whole-building” approach to sustainability by recognising performance in the seven key areas of human and environmental health, sustainable site development, water saving, energy efficiency, the use of non-toxic building material, healthier indoor environmental quality and social connectivity.

Another City building, the electricity services head office located in Bloemhof, also boasts a 4 Star Green Star SA rating since August 2012.

*The full story appears in the October-November 2012 issue. Images: Jason Buch(www.jasonbuchphotography.com)