HomeIndustry SectorsEnergy EfficiencySustainable design used to improve building occupants’ health

Sustainable design used to improve building occupants’ health

Despite a lockdown induced slowdown in new-build projects, engineering consultants Zutari says they are still receiving enquiries from property developers to pursue Green Star ratings that promote sustainable design principles.

The engineering consultant has worked on two of only a handful of projects in South Africa to receive an As-Built 6 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa. This rating is the highest level of sustainability accreditation in the country.

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The first 6 Star Building Zutari worked on was One Discovery Place in Sandton, which was developed by Growthpoint Properties in a joint venture with Zenprop Holdings. As the environmentally sustainable design consultant Zutari was responsible for integrating the design and building services, explained Yovka Raytcheva-Schaap, Associate, ESD Consulting & Project Management.

In addition to achieving a 6 Star Green Star As Built rating and a 5 Star Green Star Design rating, the Exxaro head office in Centurion, also developed by Growthpoint Properties, is the first building in South Africa to achieve Silver Level WELL certification for Core and Shell by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

The tenant Exxaro is also pursuing a Green Star ‘Interiors’ rating for the head office, said Louwna Joubert, ESD Consultant at Zutari: “The overlap between all of these different ratings and certifications is the indoor environmental quality category. The interior design team did an excellent job and ticked all of the boxes, from large open spaces and space planning that allows views to the outdoors and immediate connection of occupants to appropriate material and finish selections.”

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Explaining how the Green Star certification and WELL rating process dovetailed at the Exxaro head office, Raytcheva-Schaap noted that a high score was the goal from the outset: “During the concept design phase, we explored the option for a WELL rating because both the client and tenant were keen to push the envelope.” While Green Star targets environmental sustainability, WELL focuses on occupant health and well-being.

“It was a natural process to leverage Green Star targets towards a WELL rating. From our early assessments, it was clear that WELL certification was also within our reach,” added Raytcheva-Schaap. The health of building occupants is currently under the spotlight due to the Covid-19 pandemic, from ensuring infection control measures in air-conditioning systems to creating a healthy and comfortable indoor working environment.

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In terms of current property trends, Raytcheva-Schaap sees an increased focus on developments that pursue greater energy and water efficiency and increased indoor environmental quality. “This will really contribute to the sector promoting better living and more sustainable practices that are likely to become the norm rather than the exception going forward,” she explained.

Looking at the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, Zutari has developed a comprehensive tool to assess buildings in terms of their readiness for return to office after the prolonged lockdown. In addition, Zutari collaborated with the GBCSA to develop a broad guideline for such safe return. “Many are expected to do so in the New Year. However, the pandemic is not over yet, so it is important that property owners implement operational and management practices to ensure the health and wellbeing of building occupants when they do return,” concluded Raytcheva-Schaap.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.