New lifestyle centre achieves excellence in green certifications

by Ofentse Sefolo
New lifestyle centre achieves excellence in green certifications

Green excellence is a reality at the new REID Lifestyle Centre, which forms part of an upmarket lifestyle estate situated close to the Marlboro Gautrain Station. Developed by Balwin Properties, the REID Lifestyle Centre recently achieved a six-star Green Star Public and Education Building (PEB) certification and is also targeting a net-zero Carbon Level 2 rating.

Developments striving to be eco-friendly

The Reid Lifestyle Centre includes business, leisure and sporting amenities such as boardroom facilities, a restaurant, cinema and games room, a children’s play area, as well as a gym, swimming pool and sports fields.

Steve Brookes, chief executive officer and founder of Balwin Properties, says his company is a proudly South African residential development company, which prides itself in developing affordable, eco-friendly apartments, striving to be national leaders in building green.

Sustainability partnerships key to green excellence

“Over the years we have introduced several innovations to make developments more energy efficient, helping customers manage the carbon footprint, while reducing the burden of the cost of energy. By working with other industry-leading sustainable companies such as Solid Green Consulting, we can deliver our green vision. Our customers reap the benefits, where now they can apply for an Absa Eco Home Loan, an added benefit of purchasing an EDGE-certified Balwin Properties home,” says Brookes.

Interior spaces are all aimed at creating a mood of rest and wellbeing by using colour, light and texture.

Degraded wetland challenge

Given the unconventional location of the project’s site – to the east of the N3 (Eastern Bypass), south of Marlboro Drive (M60) and north of London Road (M40) in the Linbro Park area – it falls outside the Central Business District. This, together with the fact that the development contains a wetland, certainly made for an interesting challenge for the professional team.

“The nature of the location encouraged the team to consider sustainability initiatives, which ensure that the development is contributing to its environment – including the development of a watercourse management plan, wetland rehabilitation and a focus on ensuring minimal light pollution from the lifestyle centre,” explains Nomamfengu Mbele, sustainable building consultant at Solid Green Consulting.

The challenging upgrade to the degraded wetland system, which is directly adjacent to the lifestyle centre, included smartly using the wetlands as an attenuation and water treatment system for storm water. The lifestyle centre opens towards the wetland area, and the landscape design integrates the swimming pool and restaurant with the wetland area.

Large overhangs and clerestory windows enable ample natural light without glare. Credit RDF Photo for Balwin Properties

Energy-efficient measures

Mbele explains that, as the lifestyle centre is targeting a net-zero carbon rating, its 15kWp photovoltaic solar system will be expected to meet 100% of the building’s energy needs – which is possible thanks to the array of energy-efficiency measures that have been implemented, including:

• All enclosed spaces are individually switched, making it easy to light only occupied areas.
• The HVAC units have motion sensors that switch off if spaces remain unoccupied.
• Information such as air quality and data on energy and water consumption is displayed publicly throughout the building.
• Circuit level monitoring has also been implemented, providing specific data from individual circuits to optimise operations and align with net-zero carbon reporting requirements.

Availing information to residents is an important tool to changing user behaviour, to increase the focus on reducing consumption throughout the centre.

Architectural influences

Verissimo Tavares, director at VTC Architecture, says the creation of a mood of rest and wellbeing, using colour, light and texture, was a key consideration for the developers and that from an architectural perspective, the focus was on passive design and responding to the development’s unique context. “Natural lighting and ventilation, together with insulation for optimal thermal control, have created a very pleasant interior environment.”

Gabriel Hugo of LYT Architecture says that focus was placed on creating ambient light without glare, which changes over the course of the day as the sun shifts. “This was done using large overhangs, south-facing clerestory windows and rotatable shading screens. The ample natural light, together with views over the adjacent wetland, provide a strong sense of seasonal and diurnal cycles.”

As a fundamental part of the offering to residents, the lifestyle centre’s focus was on passive design and responding to the development’s unique context.

Future sustainability

The lifestyle centre building is people-centred and fit for purpose, with a scale that is appropriate to its development. It works well for the residents and will serve its purpose for a long time to come.

The centre’s windows have openable sections and, in spaces where this was not possible, wall vents have been installed to allow fresh air to circulate. In the gym, wall fans have been installed in strategic positions to push the fresh air through the space.

Hugo says that, to enhance the connection to nature, several biophilic features were incorporated. These include the use of natural materials such as timber and stonework in the interiors, views over the wetland, and elements that evoke nature – such as the pool and its water fountain, which creates both visual and auditory interest.

The objective of this connection with natural systems is to heighten both awareness of nature and, hopefully, encourage environmental stewardship of the surrounding ecosystems.

Healthy materials were also specified where possible which, Hugo says, is becoming a norm in the industry. “Most construction industry suppliers are conscious of green design, so there is quite a wide variety of products available. This dynamic has changed a lot in the last ten years – sustainability has become a selling point for suppliers.”

The pool and its water fountain are biophilic elements that create both visual and auditory interest. Credit RDF Photo for Balwin Properties

Knowledge economy growth

Marloes Reinink, director at Solid Green, says that growing the knowledge economy is essential in these times of climate- and health-related stresses. “In order to respond responsibly to user needs, clients and professionals need access to relevant and high-quality data to inform their decision-making processes on new projects.

“We applaud two of Balwin’s initiatives, which allowed us to target Green Star Innovation points for this project – financial transparency and upskilling of the professional team.”

Balwin’s commitment to sharing the financial information related to the design, construction and operation of the Reid Lifestyle Centre with the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) contributed to the body of research regarding assumptions surrounding “additional costs” associated with sustainable developments.

The project also committed to providing the contracting and design team with greater knowledge and skills on the entire Green Star certification process through the GSSAAP Online Course, which will also benefit future Balwin projects.

Shining innovation

By boldly targeting two certifications – both the six-star Green Star PEB Design rating and the net-zero Carbon Level 2 (Operational Emissions) rating – additional Innovation points were gained. This encouraged the team to rethink their typical development processes to include sustainability initiatives from the outset of the development.

In addition, the residential density of the estate was increased to over 70du/ha, and motorised transport was discouraged by ensuring that living units are within walkable distance of the Lifestyle Centre with its many amenities; and by designating parking spaces near building entrances for occupants with zero to low carbon-emitting modes of transport.

Balwin’s ambitious targets for the Reid Lifestyle Centre have created a new standard for developments of this nature, by demonstrating that a more responsible way of developing and operating can become business as usual.

Professional team:

Owner: Bawling Properties
Main contractor: Balwin Properties
Project manager: Balwin Properties
Quantity surveyor: Balwin Properties
Architects: VTC Architecture
Electrical engineer: RWP Taemane
Electrical contractor: Romor Electrical Wholesalers
Mechanical engineer: Airtech Services
Traffic engineer: Kantey & Templer
Landscaping consultant: LEAP
Interior architect: LYT Architecture
Sustainable building consultant: Solid Green Consulting

Solid Green Consulting
Tel: 011 447 2797
Website: www.solidgreen.co.za

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