In a city where many buildings are occupied by diplomatic missions and other international organisations, one would expect that developers and architects face complex challenges when asked to deliver new high-quality office accommodation for such tenants – especially when sustainability is also a major consideration. Ozmik House in Brooklyn is an example where these challenges were met with local creativity.

Architectural designer Inus Goussard of Arca Architects and Designers says the Norwegian and Swiss clients’ insistence on a sustainable building pushed the sustainable concept of the building further, and also brought on a marriage between South African and European design cultures.

Rashid Aboobaker, Director of Ozmik Property Investments, agrees: “It is the product of a successful collaboration between ourselves as developers, the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Arca Architects and GD Irons Construction, culminating into a landmark, environmentally friendly and inspirational workplace.”

Goussard explains that “City Council conditions of establishment stated that the architectural style of the building should reflect a Pretoria vernacular instead of copying foreign styles.” Thus a neutral design language with Pretoria reference was chosen for the building skin. The building shell and tenant fit outs were designed in conjunction with all parties involved to eliminate tenant refits on occupation.

Design for flexibility and future expansion resulted in a basement with sufficient size to accommodate a future additional storey, while the sheet metal roof can be raised to add a lightweight structure for extra office space. Enough parking is provided in the basement to accommodate future tenants.

Ozmik House boasts an impressive list of measures to make it sustainable, starting with passive design that contributes to optimised use of natural light. It has a narrow floor plate and habitable spaces are located on the outside parameter, resulting in continued, open views to the outside. Glazed partitions between façade-orientated spaces and internal circulation allow for light to penetrate all the way to the core of the building. Solar and noise reduction is factored into the glazing to aid daylight and noise control.

Only fluorescent and LED lighting is used and managed with motion and lux sensors as well as individual control options.

The energy-efficient, variable refrigerant volume air conditioning system has a low operating sound and allows for precise temperature control.

Water conservation measures include waterless urinals and sanitary ware with reduced water consumption. Pipes are insulated for energy efficiency, while geysers are installed close to hot water points. Indigenous plants are used to reduce irrigation, and rainwater is collected for landscaping irrigation.

The choice of materials made an important contribution and materials were sourced locally as far as possible. Since the building is constructed from brick and concrete, it has a high thermal mass to compensate for extreme temperature fluctuations. Forest Stewardship Council certified timber was used for exterior application, while bamboo – a renewable and sustainable material – was used for interior finishes, including for the striking main staircase and high-gloss panels screening the entrance to the public bathrooms. The use of PVC was reduced as far as possible.

Waste management, recycling and transport considerations also formed part of the overall green approach.

Other notable features include good connections to public transport and local retail facilities, while accessibility for persons with disabilities is incorporated into the entire concept of the building.

* Read the full feature in the April-May 2012 issue. Images: Elske Kritzinger (www.elskegallery.co.za)