Prepared by: Charlene Dennis, Biznews Connect
What was your brief to the architects?
Essentially we wanted to develop an environmentally-friendly office building which would be built on spec. The building had to be flexible and future-proof in its design, with green aspects incorporated in the types of fittings, design elements and fixtures used. We wanted Atholl Towers to combine modernity and efficiency with eye-catching design. Its prominent position on Katherine Street, the gateway to Sandton, coupled with the bold, modern glass façade means that Atholl Towers stands out as an iconic development.
What were you hoping to achieve?
Whilst our foremost goal was good returns for our investors; developing a leading green space was definitely an aspiration. We felt that by constructing a green building it would attract like-minded, environmentally-conscious tenants with similar values to us (ours).
Atholl Towers is a beautiful building to look at, but the use of glass throughout is more than simply an aesthetic feature, it also contributes to the energy efficiency of the building. It is not necessary to use much electricity for air-conditioning, which results in lower electricity bills for tenants. Another favourite feature is the 360 degree views of Sandton and the surrounding buildings. From a practical perspective, the building enjoys a prime location with ease of access on and off the highway and is in close proximity to public transport (the Gautrain station is a mere kilometre away).
How did the environment influence your design?
We had an awareness of, and accountability to, the environment when we designed Atholl Towers. If we think about the climate as a part of our environment, the amount of sun that we see in Johannesburg influenced the use of glass as a major part of the building’s design.
Charlene: The question is tad ambiguous as the environment could be defined as the political environment prevalent in South Africa; hence spanning to the issues with electricity and water.
What challenges were encountered during the project?
There were objections to the rezoning application for the development from residential neighbours, but these neighbours have subsequently sold their properties and apartments are now being developed on this land. The exchange rate was also a challenge as materials such as the glass were imported from overseas. An ongoing challenge on site is putting together the right combination of professionals and suppliers to gain maximum performance and ensuring high levels of quality control given the new techniques and product being used. For many of the professionals working on the development, this was their first experience working on a green building of this type and so it was a learning curve which entailed a huge amount of paperwork and bureaucratic obstacles to be overcome.
What landscaping was done?
We used a type of landscaping practice called Xeriescaping which utilises endemic indigenous plants. These plants occur naturally in this area and do not require a lot of water. The goal is to remove the irrigation system once the plants have become established. It’s an Australian concept, allowing landscaping to be designed around the natural environment.
Why was achieving a green rating so important?
Everything that we do affects the environment. From a global perspective, around 40% of the carbon footprint is caused by the built environment, the largest contributor to that being electricity consumption. The manufacture of steel during construction, for example, is a large contributor to this carbon footprint. An area of pride for us is that, of the thousands of tons of steel reinforcing Atholl Towers, 92% of it is recycled. In 10 years’ time, when South African’s start worrying about the environment, Atholl Towers will still be compliant, it will still be environmentally-friendly and it will be considered high-tech.
Another advantage of a green-rated building is the resulting savings to the total cost of occupancy. When renting a building in South Africa, there is a total cost of occupancy which includes everything from the rent, rates and taxes, building insurance and the operational costs of running the building. In the case of Atholl Towers, the landlord has invested money in keeping the operating costs as low as possible. This means that while the rental fees may be higher, the tenant will save more in the long run than if they were in a conventional building, paying two to three times more for electricity than they would pay at Atholl Towers. We are looking at a 9% increase in electricity in South Africa this year and a 15% increase next year, meaning that any savings in electricity costs would be a boon to tenants.
How was a 5-star rating achieved?
Atholl Towers has been awarded a 5 Star Green Star SA – Office Design v1 rating. To achieve this rating, a large number of energy and environment-saving measures were implemented, such as a healthy environment for staff which includes elements such as optimal thermal comfort, a high turnover of fresh air and the use of low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and adhesives in the construction and fit out of the building.
The building scored exceptionally well in the Energies category as a result of the full double-glazing, top and bottom insulation, energy efficient lighting and air-conditioning system. Even the lifts are energy efficient, as the kinetic energy used when the lifts brake is stored and gets re-used in the building’s energy grid, reducing the energy load being drawn from the grid.
Please list your green initiatives
We have been conducting green improvements on various buildings in our portfolio, with the primary aim of reducing energy and water consumption. This includes replacing fittings in bathrooms with water-efficient fittings and installing energy efficient lighting. Two examples of properties where we are implementing these green measures are:
- One property in Houghton (1500m²) – by installing energy efficient lighting and replacing older air-conditioning units we have reduced the building’s electricity bill by approximately 30% monthly.
- One property in Parktown – 3400m² of green improvements have been made thus far with a further 1800 m² underway.
Have you incorporated any innovative products or technology?
Atholl Towers’ advanced green office innovations included:
A heat recovery VRV air-conditioning system was installed, which is extremely energy efficient and effective in keeping the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The waste heat from the air-conditioning system is used to heat 3,500 litres of hot water in a heat exchanger on the roof. Hot water in the building is then circulated using a small circulation pump so that hot water is instantly available in the bathrooms and kitchens and in the cyclists’ facilities.
We have targeted an electrical consumption cost of around R10 per square meter. First readings and invoices from Eskom and City Power have validated this. This kind of consumption immediately and over time will have a dramatic impact on Cost of Occupancy. Energy efficient lighting has been installed throughout the building in the form of T5 and LED lighting. The installation of motions sensors throughout the offices ensures that lights are not left to burn when no one is around.
Building Management System
A Building Management System (BMS) was installed to enable us to monitor the building and ensure that it is operating efficiently. We will have the ability to install a building-monitoring dashboard in the main reception areas and tenant reception areas to highlight the performance of the building and how it affects the environment, right down to the consumption of each of the tenants in the building. The BMS will alert ALW of any faults picked up in many of the building systems such as the lifts, air-conditioners, pumps and heat exchangers. Peak electricity demand management on the BMS will help minimise the electricity costs from Eskom, by ensuring that the total electrical consumption of the building does not reach a pre-set level. This is achieved by adjusting controllable elements such as the set point temperatures around the building on the air-conditioning system.
All of the external glass used at Atholl Towers is high performance, laminated and double-glazed which helps to keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter, minimising both
heating and cooling costs and saving energy all year round. We have installed over 55 electrical meters throughout the building which are all monitored by the BMS to assist in saving electricity.
Water monitoring is also essential, especially at a time where there are droughts in many parts of South Africa. There are water meters on all of the main supplies in the building which enables us to see how much water is being consumed by each of the tenants in the building in real time.
The lifts installed use the latest energy saving technology. The Otis REGEN™ DRIVE is an energy-efficient technology that can deliver savings of up to 75% compared to conventional elevator
Rain Water and Ground Water Harvesting
Atholl Towers boasts water storage tanks for harvested and collected water with a capacity of over 40,000 litres. This water is utilised in the urinals, toilets and building irrigation system. In the event of the council water supply going down for a number of days, the toilets and urinals will continue to flush. We have installed cyclists’ facilities including showers and toilets in the basement (these facilities will only be available to the staff of Atholl Towers).
Atholl Towers has a 500Kva generator which is designed to run all electrical services in the building except for air-conditioning (the windows can be opened if needed). This means that the building will not suffer during council supply outages and is effectively load shedding-proof.
Recycling Waste Material
The basement houses recycling and sorting facilities, allowing Property Managers and tenants to have a recycling plan, which may assist in the possible awarding of a Green Star “As Built” rating.
Emergency Water for Water Outages
There is 10,000 litres of potable water stored in roof tanks. In the event of the council cutting off water to the area, the taps and showers will be supplied by the potable water tank on the roof. In addition there is another 30,000 litre tank in the basement containing harvested water which can be used in the toilets and urinals or for the building irrigation in the event of water supplies being cut off, which could last for a number of days.
Anything you would like to add?
Atholl Towers is open for business and we have 7500m² of energy efficient space to let in a prime location.
We can keep our tenants operating indefinitely with the building’s water harvesting and generator capacity. Atholl Towers can operate off the grid for as long as necessary provided that there are no diesel shortages in the country.
As mentioned previously, the targeted electrical consumption at Atholl Towers is around R10 per square metre and the first readings and invoices from Eskom and City Power have validated this. For tenants looking for prime office space in Sandton with savings on the total cost of occupancy and a reduction of their carbon footprint, Atholl Towers really is a great bet.