Simultaneously complying with the many standards and benchmarks of two rating systems – one local and one from the United States (US) – and the seamless management of these processes, is no small feat, but it is something that the teams from Paragon Group and AECOM proudly achieved for the GE Africa Innovation Centre (GEAIC) in Melrose Estate, Johannesburg.
The GEAIC building was awarded both a Green Star Interior rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating from the US Green Building Council (USGBC). AECOM sustainability practice area leader, Candice Manning, points out that the USGBC accreditation is “a significant achievement, as there are only a handful of LEED-rated projects in South Africa”.
Both these ratings were essential for GE as a global company in confirming its sustainability credentials. The GEAIC, one of several innovation and technology centres for GE around the world, is dedicated to serve sub-Saharan Africa and is resourced to showcase the best of GE innovation, invention, practices and methodologies. The centre also offers a gross lettable area of 2 454m².
Accessibility and orientation
The building is conveniently located close to key commercial and shopping landmarks in Rosebank. It is a three-storey, mainly east-facing glazed structure that makes the most of the extensive sunlight. Access and parking are on the western side of the building, with the basement parking equipped with showers and bicycle racks for people travelling by bicycle, and green vehicle bays for those with fuel-efficient cars.
Fitting with the connected precinct idea of sustainable architecture, the ground floor is accessible to the public and features a health-focused work café and digital exhibition centre, collaboration zones and an outdoor collaboration area.
The first floor is reserved for tenants and incorporates agile workspaces as well as a fully equipped GE Africa Healthcare training centre, while the top floor features a learning and development centre, collaboration rooms and a multi-disciplinary laboratory.
A sustainable interior
For the interior, Paragon Group visualised a design that would localise the global company’s identity within the African context, creating a place where GE and Africa meet. Therefore, the overall interior design brings together various African artistic drivers with a high-performance workplace design.
“The vision was to provide accessibility to a healthy environment, and internalise this in the workplace, promoting an integrated and balanced health and wellness-driven work environment,” Paragon Group senior project architectural technologist, Anthony Karam, comments.
Efficient engineering services
One of the most stringent sustainability requirements for the dual rating was the energy-consumption criteria. Responsible for the full engineering services of the project, AECOM applied these criteria to the HVAC, the domestic hot-water system and even appliance selection. The entire building is also monitored through a network of submeters to assist facilities management in operating it efficiently.
Waste management was also crucial during construction, and an important requirement during operation. The project achieved a high level of diversion from landfill.
During construction, an on-site commissioning agent, reporting to both the Paragon Group and AECOM, administrated the commissioning process. This was to ensure that all building systems would operate post-completion as per the initial design requirements. Simultaneously, AECOM engineers guided the sub-contractors, making sure that all LEED processes were followed to completion.
An exemplary project
In addition to the sustainability accreditations, the GEAIC also won both the South African Property Owners’ Association (SAPOA) Award for Innovative Development 2017, as well as a BASA Strategic Project Award for localisation and industrial design.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Paragon Group and AECOM for the information and images provided.
Main image: The publicly accessible ground floor features a health-focused work café.