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Electricity Services head office: eco-friendly building design

 400 solar panels have been installed to help reduce the energy consumption of the building. On average, these panels generate approximately 156 800 kWh per year. 400 solar panels have been installed to help reduce the energy consumption of the building. On average, these panels generate approximately 156 800 kWh per year.

The City’s new Electricity Services head office in Bellville has been recognised by the Green Building Council of South Africa as the first municipal building to adhere to design, construction and management best practice in terms of resource efficiency. As such, it has been awarded a four-star green energy rating.

Gone are the days when municipal buildings were seen as the dreary, fluorescently lit centres of painstaking bureaucracy. With its eco-friendly and innovative design, the City of Cape Town’s Bellville Electricity Services Depot breaks the mould not only aesthetically, but also in terms of the impact it has on the environment. This design has been recognised by the Green Building Council of South Africa, who awarded it a four-star rating. 

Notable features of the building include an air conditioning system that achieves a 150% improvement on the requirements set out in the South African national standards for energy efficiency, without compromising the comfort levels of staff. In fact, the fresh air system supplies the building with 12,5 litres of air per second, per person. This means increased oxygen levels and fewer contaminants. Additionally, the building has been designed to promote the use of natural light, and maximise views to the outside with curved facades. Sun louvres protect the curtain wall glazing from heat gain, and blinds have been installed throughout the facility so that comfortable lighting levels can be maintained.

In addition, smart lighting controls, motion sensors and timers linked to the building management system have been installed. This system is calibrated to automatically turn lights off when need be or when no motion is detected, while also adjusting the level of lighting according to the amount of daylight coming into the building. Artificial lighting is almost superfluous as the building is configured around a central glazed atrium that introduces natural light to the offices.
 

A graph taken from an office, shows the effect of the lights that dim as natural light enters the office. At 06:30, the light switched on as the person entered the office at 100% energy. The amount of energy used went down to 5% at 12:00. Between 14:15 and 15:00, the light switched off when the person stepped out of the office.

Moreover, 400 solar panels have been installed to help reduce the energy consumption of the building. On average, these panels generate approximately 156 800 kWh per year. Further reducing the building’s carbon footprint is the rooftop garden, as well as outdoor seating and recreational areas – a stark contrast to the hard-surfaced parking areas, residential buildings and tennis courts that occupied the space previously. Importantly, it was landscaped using indigenous, water-wise plants that grow naturally in the area.

The plumbing system has been split into black and grey water discharges to enable the waste streams to be split for different treatment processes. A grey water recycling system has also been incorporated into the building design to reduce potable water use for flushing of toilets and urinals. The filtration process is fully automated and uses a chemical-free treatment method.

In terms of the materials used, the furniture, fittings, finishes and building fabric (paints, carpets, adhesives, composite wood products, sealants, etc.) were carefully selected to minimise emissions. In addition, all timber products used are sourced from reused and Forest Stewardship Council-certified timber.

“The Electricity Services Department’s pioneering attitude toward green building design is serving as an example for other departments and municipalities to follow. So far both the Human Settlements Directorate (with their Contact Office in Manenberg) and Transport for Cape Town (with the new Wallacedene Taxi Rank) have since been successful in meeting the standards set out by the Green Buildings Council of South Africa,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg.

“Further to this achievement, the Electricity Services Department intends to ensure that the new electricity depot, set to be located at Beaufort House in Bree Street, also achieves a four-star green energy rating. Interestingly, however, this will be the first new electricity depot in South Africa where energy efficiency requirements are blended in with historical and environmental requirements. The challenge of reconciling the design requirements of the Heritage Department with the conditions set out by the Green Buildings Council is surely going to be an interesting and exciting process. Watch this space for more innovation.”

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