Modernistic glass, dazzling white exterior, breathtaking sea views and striking oceanic artwork inside the building… And then there is the whiff of the breeze fresh off the Atlantic. Offices don’t get more desirable than the Nautica, situated on Beach Road in Granger Bay, Cape Town. With its address, Nautica has a lot going for it – but now it can add ever-important green credentials to its list – a 4-star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA). The multi-tenanted commercial office development, with its more than 5 000 m² of rentable space, deserves it, though. Its owners have worked hard to pull this off.
The building completed a stringent ‘green’ overhaul and assessment, under the Green Star SA Existing Building Performance (EBP) tool. Since its inception in 2014, this EBP tool has enabled hundreds of SA building owners to acquire green building credentials without needing to spend vast sums of money or impacting the environment by creating a new structure.
‘This tool allows building owners to evaluate how “green” their building is, and what initiatives need to be put in place to improve their green score,’ says Candice Manning, sustainability lead at AECOM, which consulted for Growthpoint Properties, the owner of Nautica. ‘Building owners who choose to certify their buildings and achieve only a 2- or 3-star rating are given the opportunity to improve their water and energy usage, and implement policies and procedures to help them achieve a better Green Star rating when re-certifying after three years,’ says Manning. This has galvanised companies such as Growthpoint to upgrade entire portfolios in order to acquire this rating.
For Growthpoint, the big idea behind Nautica’s re-imagining as a green building was its positioning as being part of the group’s Thrive Portfolio. Growthpoint has more than 80 buildings with green-star certifications. A significant portion of these is rated 4-star Green Star EBP v1, accounting for nearly 20% of the total gross leasable area in its office portfolio. ‘We’ve spent more than R3.7 million in attaining these certifications,’ says Timothy Irvine, Growthpoint’s regional asset manager for the Western Cape. ‘We’ve achieved a lot in this area – much of which forms part of our Thrive Portfolio.’
Irvine describes Thrive as ‘a premier portfolio combining quality and aesthetics with sustainability for the benefit of our clients, and one that prioritises the health and well-being of the people in the buildings’. Thrive office spaces are designed with the future in mind, says Irvine, and give Growthpoint’s clients the opportunity to do just that: thrive. Very simply, the office space within the Thrive Portfolio promises to increase staff productivity, foster innovation, retain and attract talent, and reduce energy costs. This forms a key part of Growthpoint’s strategy.
So how did they go about it with Nautica? ‘We started with a good product and, with a few interventions, we were able to make it a great green building,’ says Irvine. He describes Nautica as an excellent A+ multi-tenant office building with four floors of offices served with 65 basement parking bays and 45 open bays.
‘A big standout feature, which we believed would make it an ideal candidate for an Existing Building Performance certification, is its ventilation. Located in the V&A Waterfront area of Cape Town, the building is right on Granger Bay and features vents at water level, through which cool, clean air enters the building, flows through the building and is expelled, together with any pollutants, out of special ventilation at roof level.’ Clean air is constantly being replenished with the self-ventilating system. ‘With this thoughtful design, it scored highly on its indoor environmental quality – its fresh air well exceeds its regulatory requirements,’ says Irvine.
Building features include an abundance of natural daylight, which is managed to reduce glare. Additionally, its location ensures that the people who work in it have excellent access to the city’s public transport infrastructure.
Irvine stresses, too, that this building is home to great businesses that also prize the environment, operating in sectors such as renewable resources, engineering and yachting. ‘It’s a building that’s truly in harmony with nature and its surroundings. Not only is it environmentally friendly; it also embraces its superb connection with the sea through its unique collection of ocean-inspired art and a giant propeller art installation.’
Of course, an existing-build certification begs the question: is it easier or more difficult to work with an existing building to achieve environmentally friendly credentials? The experts agree – this can change on a case-by-case basis. With a new building, if the green intentions are clear from the start, it makes it more likely that environmental credentials will be achieved. ‘Even so, there can be challenges that take a lot of effort to overcome if you want a new building to qualify for external certification,’ says Irvine.
Certifying existing buildings can be tricky too. Sometimes, there is just too much work to be done and it’s too costly to justify the commercial case of retrofitting. ‘This, however, has proven to be the exception in our portfolio,’ says Irvine. ‘And where this is the case, we seriously evaluate whether such a building is suitable for our continued investment.’ There are times, he adds, when retrofitting an existing building can be relatively straightforward. This was the case with Nautica, which was thoughtfully developed with its environment and surrounds in mind.
The GBCSA commended the property group for its efforts. Grahame Cruickshanks, managing executive: market engagement for the GBCSA, singled out Nautica’s high score in the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) category in particular. ‘This is playing an increasingly important role in the green building space,’ says Cruickshanks. ‘And a substantial portion of Growthpoint’s points came from a good score in this category.’
The GBCSA is seeing a growing awareness of IEQ in the marketplace, particularly within buildings that are occupied by knowledge workers – typically office spaces, says Cruickshanks. ‘The role of IEQ has an impact on health and wellness and, in fact, productivity, and there is evidence to support this. The World Green Building Council has released a number of studies on health and wellness in different building types.’
Green building certification is good for owners and tenants, points out Cruickshanks, who says that all major responsible companies nowadays demand a green building when considering new space. ‘The Nautica building reflects an investment in this by targeting categories like natural daylight, reduced glare, and zero toxicity in the materials used in the finishes, such as low-VOC paints,’ according to Cruickshanks. He emphasises how this allows both the landlord and tenants to benefit: the landlord because the building will be more attractive to tenants, so lowering vacancy rates; and tenants because they see the benefit in the health and wellness of their employees, which has a positive impact on their productivity.
Irvine is in agreement. ‘Our Thrive Portfolio is in high demand and has a significantly lower vacancy percentage,’ he says. ‘We continue to be acknowledged for our own environmental and other good business efforts by our inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index and the FTSE/JSE SRI.’ Among other achievements, the company became members and participants of the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark in 2018. Of course, green building is good for the environment, society and the economy. The benefits of green buildings extend significantly further than the individual property owner and a building’s occupants.
AECOM, Growthpoint’s sustainability consultant on the project – and indeed on its existing building stock – was also rightfully satisfied with this outcome. ‘We were so pleased to be able to support Growthpoint’s goal in achieving 4-star EBP ratings for their existing building stock,’ says Manning. ‘It’s deeply satisfying when clients show their commitment to climate change mitigation through investing in their assets and reducing their GHG emissions and water usage.’ It also shows, says Manning, that they care for the tenants who occupy their buildings. ‘A 4-star rating is best practice in South Africa, and a great achievement.’
Manning says AECOM encourages property owners, as a starting point, to complete the Energy Water Performance (EWP) office tool, to benchmark their energy and water usage to determine if investment is required to improve their score. ‘We also use the performance period to implement initiatives that change facilities management but do not cost vast sums of money to achieve.’
It is about good practice and good management of the building. ‘By property owners and managers making good decisions about the way a facility is managed, one can make a huge impact on reducing the environmental impact of a building,’ according to Manning.
Nautica does just that.
SUSTAINABLE BUILDING CONSULTANT