The National English Literary Museum is a name that belies its purpose. While it may house some of South Africa’s greatest literary works in English, space has been allocated to indigenous languages well. The building and its set up also look to redefine the concept of museum. As opposed to being a musky environment for antiquated material, the museum provides ample room for school groups and visiting researchers to work in.

As a testament to its dynamic identity the building is one of the pilot projects for the GBCSA’s Public and Education Buildings rating tool.

Set to be complete in 2015, this site will have a xeriscaped garden, a green roof and two interlinked ponds. Vegetation will be a mix of grasses, trees, shrubs, bulbs and succulents playing homage to the various biomes of the plot. The occupancy sensors, building management system and recycling facilities will ensure that will minds are being enriched the environment is being conserved and preserved.

The structural requirements of this building didn’t deter sustainability features from being incorporated into the design. The waterproofing element feeds into the stormwater system that supplies the restrooms. In the underground bunker the precious collections are held so extra care had to be taken care in view of the roof garden. The sloped roof will have Penetron (a waterproofing agent) mixed into it. Derbigum (a waterproofing membrane) will overlay this and topped with Zipcore (a HDPE product) that allows water to drain out. A layer of Geomesh will then be applied and then sealed with Bidim (a geotextile) finishing the five layer water protection system.

Solar laminated glass line the south facade allowing natural light with the glare or heat gain while limiting electrical lighting. FSC certified timber and steel with recycled content are used through the building. In addition, 20% of the contracted project value in terms of materials and products were sourced within 400 km of the site.

As a Department of Arts and Culture, this pilot project falls in line with the onslaught of local and national government buildings setting the green standard and pushing sustainability.

*The full article appears in the Aug-Sept 2013 issue of earthworks magazine. Copies available at selected CNAs, Exclusive Books and Spars.