The latest completed extension at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Tshwane is its most significant as the centre achieved a 4-Star Green Star SA Retail Design rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) – the first operational mall in South Africa to achieve this rating.

The addition of 50 000m2 also transforms it into the largest retail centre in Africa with a trading area of 170 000m2. The pre-existing part of the centre, which constitutes up to 45%, is not green certified.

The R2 billion two-phase redevelopment was an intensely considered project long before construction began in 2014. With stars in mind and the use of the GBCSA’s Green Star Retail Centre V1 rating tool, the focus was on the building’s environmental performance within eight main categories: management, indoor environmental quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land-use ecology and emissions.

Given the nature and size of the project, the certification process was time and detail intensive, which required a close working relationship with the GBCSA by all stakeholders on a number of aspects to ensure compliance to the targeted points of the retail centre rating tool. Although similar to the Green Star office rating system, the retail sector has lagged in using the tool for Green Star certification, which makes what Menlyn Shopping Centre has achieved particularly notable.

Integrating green change

The phase 1 extension included the addition of a food and entertainment court, fashion wing and grocery avenue, which is now being enhanced with phase 2’s new retail section and some refurbishment of the stalwart original structure. Bearing in mind that by their very nature, shopping malls are highly consumptive environments – and not just in terms of the merchandise being sold – any sustainability goals have to be introduced at design stage.

As much as it was intended for the design process to solidify as soon as documented, the design for the new extension had to remain in a state of flux throughout the construction phase. Changes, multiple tenant specifications, value engineering, service co-ordination, build ability and construction methodology does impact and alter the documentation and details that have been issued for construction. Embracing such challenges, developing the design intent, keeping with the original concept ideas and at the same time enhancing the end-user experience is what ultimately captures the essence of meaningful and thought-provoking architecture.

Post-consumer recycled reinforcing steel was specified along with timber sourced from environmentally responsible forests. Mulch was made from wood offcuts and surplus building materials such as bricks were ground down for landscaping or fill. There was a 30% reduction in ordinary cement in concrete with the use of fly ash; more than 70% of the pre- and post-construction waste repurposed; and notably, the introduction of preferential parking for alternative transport modes.

Management enhancements

While some may argue that by their very nature, shopping malls cannot be sustainable given their focus on consumerism, a strong focus on waste must be an imperative, and not just in the present but for the future too. The centre has made a commitment to reduce, recycle and rethink waste, and this requires Menlyn Shopping Centre to move away from traditional solutions to a greener approach that looks at the prevention of waste as well as minimising waste as a by-product of production.

A waste and recycling management plan (WRMP) has been introduced to manage the collection, storage, treatment and disposal of all waste and meet a 57% recycling goal, which will ultimately result in diverting up to 80% of waste away from landfill. This also impacts shop tenancy, where an agreement requires compliance with the centre’s waste philosophy, and is particularly pertinent to those revamping their outlets.

Water efficiency has also been given priority, as has air quality and lighting. In limiting municipal water consumption, the introduction of a rainwater harvesting system, low-flow sanitary fittings, and metering of the major water uses for continuous monitoring have been fitted. Further, potable water consumption in the phased section was also reduced by some 70% in comparison to a conventional building of this type.

With more feet entering the building given the addition of 200 shops to the existing 300, comfort of people is a further imperative and even though shoppers may not realise it, the quality of fresh air at the Menlyn Shopping Centre exceeds the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) regulatory fresh air requirements by 150%, which, aside from health benefits, also means additional safeguarding against any indoor air pollution.

As with many green solutions, energy efficiency is crucial – particularly on a project of this size – and with an energy consumption requirement reduction of 50%, as stipulated by SANS204, the installation of an energy-efficient heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system was required.

Charles Starbuck, facilities manager of Menlyn Shopping Centre, with experience of running the existing established part of the centre, says it is somewhat easier to stand back and focus on how green implementation and related technology would enhance the new build. It became very apparent that building green still needed to focus on functionality and reliability in order to maintain the future upkeep of the development for the next ten to 15 years.

“The challenge in implementing sustainability initiatives, however, requires huge capital injection, especially where it is a retrofit. As a result it is a difficult and expensive choice to make, and its success requires us to continuously educate tenants and the public about the sustainable efforts we introduce.”

While it may have been working to budget, fortunately Pareto did see the value of a facilities managers’ input and included the facilities team early in the original design phase. Starbuck makes a pertinent point when he says such knowledge, gained from day-to-day involvement and experience, guides the implementation of green facility interventions and provides valuable advice on cost-effectiveness of such interventions.

The ripple effect

“All our sustainability expectations are being met, particularly as the new facilities are easier to maintain and manage, and will not impact on the overall customer experience. The fact that they are also cost-effective is a bonus,” Starbuck says.

One of the best endorsements of the Green Star efforts comes from existing and new tenants gradually introducing and implementing their own green initiatives as they revamp or design their stores. The Menlyn Shopping Centre has also included some imperatives that must be complied with in terms of tenancy agreements, such as the previously mentioned waste handing during store upgrades.

By Kerry Dimmer

See earthworks Issue 33, August-September 2016 for the full feature.