Green buildings are fast becoming a non-negotiable

The Department of Environmental Affairs' soon to be occupied green head office building in Pretoria. The Department of Environmental Affairs' soon to be occupied green head office building in Pretoria.

Another Hollywood inspired technology feature has become a day-to-day reality in today’s construction industry. Buildings controlled by sensors, managed at the touch of a button or even remotely, used to be regarded by movie audiences as amazing science fiction. Today’s offerings of power technologies, control systems and energy efficient applications are becoming a standard feature for new buildings as well as for buildings to be refurbished.

Investing in green buildings is no longer a luxury reserved for the select few. Most governments around the world have committed their countries to the stringent environmental requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. While these governments, including the government of South Africa, own that responsibility, the biggest contributors to climate change are by far the industries that are rapidly increasing carbon dioxide emissions. There is thus an expectation that business should step up to the challenge in a much more aggressive manner, demonstrating the inherent will to own and drive the agenda on climate change in the interest of sustainable business.

South Africa is still ranked among the world’s most energy intensive nations, but more importantly, the country is also recognised as one of the worst performing in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is no surprise, considering that we are talking about an economy where coal is accounting for approximately 75% of primary energy production. With the coal industry experiencing increased pressure worldwide, as it is recognised as one of the driving forces behind climate change and ecological destruction, the South African government is taking active steps towards improvements in the country’s energy efficiencies.

The Department of Environmental Affairs is leading the way towards a greener economy with its soon to be occupied green head office building in Pretoria. The completely green approach taken in the design and construction of the building, bears testimony to the Department’s commitment to a low-carbon and resource-efficient green economy.

“Our new head office complex is energy efficient, resource efficient and environmentally responsible – it incorporates design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of development on the environment and occupants, “said Edwin Maseda, Chief Director Facilities Management, Department of Environmental Affairs.

ABB Southern Africa is proud to have been part of this milestone project with is many environmentally friendly features, including high efficiency chillers, a tri-generation plant, a thermally shielded and automated façade as well as rainwater harvesting. In addition, the specialised roof structure design and highly glazed façade both help to provide high levels of daylight throughout the building.

One of the key sustainability features of the building is the ABB i-bus® KNX Intelligent Building Control system, which enables the integration of lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, window shading, security and comfort controls with energy measurement.

ABB i-bus KNX light sensors located throughout the building constantly monitor the ambient light levels and automatically adjust the artificial lighting to provide the required lux levels. Combining daylight harvesting with ABB i-bus KNX presence detection ensures that the optimum light level is delivered while reducing energy wastage. The KNX controlled installation will realise estimated energy savings of around 30 percent when compared to non-automated conventional control solutions.

“Imagine the possibilities for smart buildings and smart cities to synchronise the adjustment of air conditioning or heating by one to two degrees with the power grid. All of these minor adjustments over the city not only have an impact on the environment for the occupants of the building, but could also play a major role in averting the risk of a grid outage,” said Grant Seady, Business Development Engineer, Low Voltage Division.

South Africa’s greenhouse gas emission profile reveals that the bulk of our emissions are from the energy sector which contributes 79% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ new head office building, the picture looks significantly different, with 10% of its energy being generated by the mini solar plant on its roof. The plant comprises 1200 photo-voltaic solar panels which can generate some 425 kWp.

The technologies used in this building has earned it a 6 Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa.

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