SA's greenest buildings

2014-06-08 15:00

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In an era of environmental crisis, sustainable architecture is taking root in SA. Percy Mabandu looks at the Built Category finalists in the third biennial AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture. It ­recognises buildings that use an ­integrated approach to architecture, natural systems and technology SA’s greenest buildings.

The Seed Library, Alexandra, by Architects of Justice.

1. This is a brightly coloured library space for children at Alexandra ­township’s MC Weiler Primary School. The architects skilfully used two rectangular steel shipping containers and transformed an ­incomplete structure into a Legolike, child-friendly learning ­environment.

44 on Grand Central, Midrand, by TC Design Architects.

2. ­Conceived with a whole-systems approach, the project’s elements are all integrated and connected?–?energy, buildings, transport, ­ecosystems, people, water and waste. They even used recyclable steel and a fly ash concrete mix in construction. The building uses sunlight harvesting and deploys energy-efficient motors, pumps and fans. Its temperature is regulated with external shading, roof insulation and air-conditioning zoning.

Alexander Forbes offices, Sandton, by Paragon Architects.

3. Built to accommodate daily traffic of 2?400 employees, the offices consist of eight large floor plates, a central core and two enclosed atriums connected by link bridges spanning the entrance. Skylights draw natural light into the offices. It boasts lush xeriscaped ­landscaping with indigenous low-water-consumption plants. The project makes use of rain- and grey-water recycling, along with a passive heating and cooling through its facade design.

Helenvale Multipurpose Community Centre, Port Elizabeth, by The Matrix Urban Designers and Architects

4. A community plaza that complements a proposed adjacent urban park. The public is ferried into an enclosed community street that houses offices, a multi-use sports hall and a subdivisible community hall. Sustainability elements include automatic electric light management, heat pumps, rainwater harvesting. Roof and wall ­superinsulation added to the sustainability of this project.

House Jones, a residential property in Hurlingham, Joburg, by ERA Architects.

5. An old house has been transformed into an “autonomous” home that’s completely self-sufficient and has a symbiotic relationship with its environment. The structure creates a thermal envelope with insulated walls and floor. Solar thermal systems generate hot water for domestic use and are a source for underfloor heating during winter. The paving, run-off and ­subsoil drainage is collected directly in a storage dam and is then used for irrigation.

The Lakeside 3, Centurion, by Ama Architects.

6. Directly ­opposite the Centurion Gautrain station, this refurbished building reused original structures and transformed them into an innovative office space guided by environmental preservation. It incorporates numerous sustainable features such as energy-efficient air­conditioning, heat pumps and lighting, water-saving fixtures, a waste recycling facility, low VOC paints and adhesives, recycled and locally sourced building materials, and cyclist facilities.

Monaghan Farm, a residential property in Lanseria, by Claude Bailey Architecture & Design.

7. Although it’s an up-market development, the property is a working farm with a strong ­emphasis on organic agriculture and partial self-sustainability. ­Instead of a mansion dominating the landscape, the home merges with the environment. It used alternative low-carbon building techniques like light steel-frame construction and bricks made on site. Green energy technologies used included solar and PV panels, ­geothermal and heat pumps.

The New Architecture Wing, Tshwane University of ­Technology, by Crafford & Crafford.

8. Its wings run in thin, multilevelled halls from east to west to allow for maximum exposure to the sun. The walls along the northern side are made of windows that reflect light into the building without using power. The south and west sides are fitted with a mist system to cool the air, creating a microclimate. The sprayers are fuelled by rainwater collected in reservoirs from the roof of the building and pumped by a motor that runs off the solar panels.

SAPS 10111 Radio Control Centre, Korsten, Port Elizabeth, by The Matrix?–?Urban Designers and Architects.

9. It’s made to house 187 people at full capacity. It has a central system that controls and monitors electricity and water consumption. The west side features a double-glazed facade fitted with low-emissivity glass to reduce solar heat gain and glare. It’s engineered to be self-sustaining and functional even during municipal power or water outages. Its roof has a syphonic rainwater collection system for irrigation ­purposes.

Unisa Phase 2, Parow, by Michele Sandilands Architects.

10. Its design incorporates natural resources, material selection, natural lighting and ventilation. It features expansive double-glazing with classrooms that maximise natural daylight and reduce energy consumption. The toilets use harvested rainwater. Landscaped rainwater retention ponds slowly filter water down into the aquifer, minimising wastage. The building has significantly improved the appearance and social spaces on the campus.

.?The awards will be announced in October

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