In just 22 months the biggest 4-star Green Star project of 2012 became a reality for financial and risk services giant Alexander Forbes.  The building needed to project principles of transparency, progression, efficiency, sustainability, and trustworthiness.

“More importantly however,” says CEO Edward Kieswetter, “and our key objective, was to ensure the health and wellbeing of our employees, whom we consider to be the company’s greatest asset.”

It was crucial that the building had to incorporate a culture of open accessibility and staff comfort – something that was previously impossible given that its headquarters were spread over two buildings in Sandton.

Zenprop Property Holdings needed to react quickly in providing Alexander Forbes with a site that not only had stature in accordance with the company image, but enough space for a building that would house up to 2 500 employees. It also needed to cater for green technology design and create an inspiring working experience for staff.

The site chosen  was 115 West Street, on the corner of Rivonia Road, West Street and Katherine Street, and conveniently positioned opposite the Gautrain Sandton hub.

Accredited by the GBCSA with a 4-star Green Star Office V1 Design rating on opening day in October last year, and registered for an As-built certification, it is the largest – at 38 000 m2 rentable and 100 000 m2 total – and most complex green building ever produced by Paragon Architects in consultation with PJCarew Consulting.

When describing the building, Hugh Fraser of Paragon Architects talks about columns and scallops, the movement of light and shading, floating, and organic shapes. “But make no mistake,” he says, “commercial architectural work can be rather unromantic in practice, especially when working to such a tight building schedule.”

At 115 West Street, the sense of transparency has been achieved with the inclusion of some 22 000 m2 of glazing which allows for 58% of natural daylight and provides 64% of office areas with views.

The forethought that has gone into the comfort of employees is considerable, and largely directed by PJCarew Consulting, whose expertise in achieving a balance between green technologies, lifestyle needs and allied cost savings is well known.

Included in the building is a crèche, restaurant, gym, shower facilities, coffee shop and convenience store. More significant, however,  is the peppering of breakaway or pause rooms, both informal and formal, which Kieswetter describes as people energy centres for work, think and play.

Water recycling is achieved through harvesting grey water from a column of centrally-based ablution facilities and the gym.  This water is clarified with enzymes before being combined with filtered rainwater and the recycled water is pushed back into toilet and urinal flushing systems.  The same grey water is also used in support of the Xeriscaping of indigenous and drought tolerant plant material that have been used across the ground floor.  Projections are that Alexander Forbes will save 67% of potable water use compared with a similar Johannesburg office building.


* This article first featured in February – March 2013 issue.  Images: Christoph Hoffman (