MultiChoice’s new headquarters in Randburg is turning heads and showing how corporations can create greener, healthier spaces for their employees.

MultiChoice City breathes. It is a living building,” says Lourenco Rodrigues, general manager at NMSCom Properties, the facilities management arm of JSE-listed media company Naspers, which manages the corporation’s new MultiChoice building.

The R750 million, four-storey, 34 500m2 building in Randburg is the company’s first to be Green Star-rated, and was designed to be one of South Africa’s premier energy-efficient buildings.

Annelidé Sherratt, sustainable building consultant from Solid Green, says the 5-Star Green Star SA Design rating was achieved in January 2014 while the submission of the 5-Star Green Star SA As Built rating documentation was expected in September.

Green inside and out

GLH architects were briefed to design a modern, contemporary landmark with a green footprint, and aimed to design a living building with an elegant and timeless look.

An artificial lawn, with seating, and 15 real trees fill the atrium. Landscape architect Ferdie Häefele of Insite Landscape architects says seven exotic Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) and eight Trichilia emetic (Natal mahogany) were planted.

The open spaces in the building are vast. But MultiChoice communication manager Caroline

Pritchard says the vastness brings people together. People are encouraged to step away from their desks, to make their way to the canteen, and to stretch out on the lawn.

Striking facade

It is the curvilinear facade, however, that is the central feature of the building. Nicknamed ‘the bean’, i t is easily distinguishable, with a glazed brise soleil for sun control. The edge of the ‘bean’ morphs into the urban edge of the building, drawing in pedestrians from the street, GLH’s Wishbone Sanyika explains.

Using aeronautical design

A novel feature of the building is the sophisticated three-layer sunscreen Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene (ETFE) roof, which covers the atrium.

Originally invented by DuPont as an insulation material for the aeronautics industry in the early 1980’s, ETFE’s modified copolymer material is ideal for allowing the highest possible amount of natural light into a building. Because it was developed for the space industry, the material does not degrade under ultraviolet light or atmospheric pollution.

MultiChoice’s roof spans 23m across the multistory atrium and is 100m long. It currently holds the record for the largest ETFE roof installed in Africa, and was designed and installed by Novum Structures.

Pure Consulting was responsible for the steelworks, which were integrated into the building. Reworked steel was used in the bulk of steel for the building, facade and transparent roof.

Transparent architecture

Rodrigues says the building was specifically designed to reflect MultiChoice’s commitment to transparency. In addition to the atrium roof, transparency is also underlined by the architecture as the building works to bring people together naturally, using multiple service cores and ease of movement across two bridges on each floor.

More than 60% of the office area has a direct visual connection to the external environment.

There are three different types of blinds in the building: manual blinds, automatic blinds that track the sun’s movements, and large glass vertical blinds on the outside of the bean-shaped structure that have graded pixilation. The large glass blinds are also automated in order to track the sun’s movements from a lower angle.

Grey water

The grey water system draws wastewater from the gym showers while a rainwater filter harvests water to flush the toilets, and irrigates the gardens and trees. MultiChoice calculates that 10% of the building population use the gym showers, generating 12 445 litres of grey water per day.

A sectional steel grey water tank, with a capacity of 42 000 litres, is located in Basement 4 and collects all the grey water from the gym and showers. The grey water is then pumped through the filtration plant to a reclaimed water storage tank.

Air-conditioning

All air-conditioning units deliver large amounts of fresh air to ensure a healthy work environment. The fresh air supply in the building is over 30% higher than the minimum required for green buildings in South Africa, Sherratt says.

The air-conditioning system makes use of chillers that can heat and cool simultaneously, eliminating the need for inefficient resistive heating.

There is also an ice storage system, where ice storage tanks in the basement are ‘charged’ by freezing the chillers during the night when electricity is cheaper and the country’s energy demand is low, says Rodrigues. During the day, instead of running the air-conditioners at full load, 50% of the required cooling is run from the ice storage.

A green team

Thompson says as is conventional with any effort to create a sustainable building, all the disciplines had to work closely together to achieve success.

The architects, including the landscape architects, all the engineers involved in the project, quantity surveyors, the contractor Group Five, as well as MultiChoice itself underwent training and all passed the Green Star SA Accredited Professional training.

Pritchard says the increased circulation of fresh air, reduced heat loads, numerous pause and other plant-filled break-out areas, combined with state-of-the-art workstations and the latest information and building technology, all contribute to happier and healthier employees.

By: Yolandi Groenewald.

The full feature can be found in earthworks magazine issue 28, October-November 2015.