Sustainability is a dynamic benchmark and a conglomerate of actions that limit our impact on the environment. Every approach has its merits – Agrivaal takes the approach of using the old and expanding as a benchmark for future projects.

This benchmark project is an important case study. It also forms part of Tshwane’s Inner City Regeneration programme. It will house various government structures but most notably the national Department of Public Works (DPW), a key role player in the built environment.  The brief was simple: create an iconic landmark that incorporates green attributes.

The site is home to the Art Deco Heritage building built in 1938; it will be restored and incorporated into the new design. This central location and urban infill site with low ecological value means that from the start this benchmark project was focused on being sustainable.

The innovative systems and technologies such as the ice thermal storage, greywater reuse and programmable lights are being tested and evaluated to inform future DPW decisions. The project team will provide extensive guides and operational training for the occupants and maintenance team. The building management system coupled with the building information model will help the country’s biggest property owner and tenant to monitor these features and this will impact the way national assets are managed and acquired.

Being an office environment the interior conditions were rather important. Fixed solar shading devices will minimise heat and glare while allowing natural light to penetrate the interior spaces. The central atrium will counter the need for excessive lighting and provide a sense of transparency. The interior designs allow for reconfiguration as well as improvements in technology which falls in line with the dynamic corporate environment.

The generous roof garden will include decking, benches and a water feature – a valuable space to rejuvenate throughout the day. In addition, there is a 1200 m2 vegetated roof garden that acts as a thermal barrier for the top floor and contributes to the stormwater management system. The vegetated roof is a powerful example how natural elements can contribute to indoor environmental quality and biodiversity. The team also plan to install vertical planters for the sidewalk screening.

The budget is tight for this benchmark project yet it provides an opportunity for government to explore the multitude of sustainable features available and set the benchmark.

*The full article appears in the Aug-Sept 2013 issue of earthworks magazine. Images: Dennis Gilbert (