6 Stars for a sustainability icon

FRONT ROW (seated): Jenni Lombard, GBCSA; Aviwe Mabudle, GVK; David Green, V&A Waterfront, Kirsten Goosen, V&A Waterfront; Sean Mahoney, StudioMAS; and Tessa Brunette, Arup

MIDDLE ROW: Franette Ventura, V&A Waterfront; Graham Brookman, GVK; Yogesh Gooljar, Arup; Rameez Abrahams, GVK; Richard Suter, Smith & Co; Jolyon Smith, Arup; Marius Alberts, Deloitte; and Erika Smith, Smith & Co

BACK ROW: Jaco Jordaan, Planning Partners; George Viljoen, StudioMAS; Anthony Graham-Jolly, Arup; Chris Maughan, GVK; Andrew Wade, SRL; Andy Robertson, V&A Waterfront; Charl Bruce, GVK; and Vusumuzi Nondo, V&A Waterfont.

The Ridge, a new commercial building in the Portswood District of the V&A Waterfront, celebrates its 6 Green Star Office Design rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), a rating considered as demonstrating “World Leadership”.

According to the certification, the Ridge exceeded the base entry scorecard level of 75 for a 6 Star Office design rating, by achieving a total 80 design points.

Of significance were the 9 innovation points given by assessors on the scorecard against an achievable maximum of 10. These are awarded over and above any credit obtained in other categories and are special points awarded at the discretion of the GBCSA.

The innovation category encourages efforts which demonstrate that sustainable development principles have been incorporated to the wider process of design, construction and performance of buildings, as well as any positive environmental influence brought to bear on the wider geographic area in which the project is located.

One such example of innovation is also the building’s outstanding feature, its eye-catching cross laminated timber façade. This plays a major role in the indoor comfort of all building occupants – functionally and in the choice of a natural material – which grabbed the attention of the green building assessors.

Further innovation points were given to passive design criteria. The way the building breathes – its indoor climate control – is based on mixed mode ventilation, using mainly fresh air and having openable windows.  Heating and cooling is based on further innovative criteria. (Information is given in the notes below).

An unusual innovation credit comes from the highly creative use of plastic waste as ecobricks inside non-load bearing concrete floor slabs, to displace the use of conventional concrete or polystyrene ‘void formers’.  This appears to have been a first for a South African commercial building and achieves various sustainability goals.

According to Vusi Nondo, Executive Head of Development at the V&A Waterfront, there is also much more to the Ridge than some environmental firsts:  “The V&A Waterfront’s ethical development approach defines our master planning which focuses on sustainability and care for the people who will use the building. This approach is ‘Our Normal’, a vision to set the tone for sustainable green building, guiding our planning and development strategies.

“A vital part of our circular economy is the focus on people. This building creates an unparalleled internal environment with the highest level of natural light and fresh air, a virtual oasis in the city. Occupants and visitors can enjoy inspiring views, inner green spaces which include a groundbreaking ‘central street’ concept naturally ventilated with fresh air, breakaway zones, and an all-round environment conducive to productivity.

“The Ridge is the very opposite of conventional city buildings which are dominated by concrete and glass. Its pioneering timber façade and mixed mode natural ventilation mechanical systems are firsts for South Africa”, he explains.

Lisa Reynolds, CEO at the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), commends the V&A Waterfront and the entire professional team on another iconic 6-star Green Star certified building within the Waterfront precinct. “The Ridge represents the V&A’s commitments to world class sustainability leadership as well as showcasing local built environment professional talent capable of delivering innovative sustainable design” says Reynolds. “Green buildings like The Ridge help to inspire a built environment in which both people and planet thrive”, she adds.

Georgina Smit, Head of Technical at the GBCSA explains that a 6 star Green Star Design rating at the project design stage represents an intent to achieve a sustainability performance level that equates to world leadership, exceeding South African excellence (5 star) and industry best practice (4 star).

“Six-star ratings are unusual in SA and is not an easy achievement for a design rating. Only nine other offices have achieved this accolade to date, either through our Design or As Built rating, or both, since 2010. It involves a committed client, a dedicated professional team and an integrated design approach by all” she adds.

Mark Noble, Development Director at the V&A Waterfront and the project leader says: “We believe that this is one of the most unique green buildings in Africa, if not the world.

“This has been a fascinating journey for us, supported by Deloitte, who subscribe to sustainable and green building, and actively promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“In a highly challenging year for the whole property industry with the pandemic, our getting this accolade required dedication and great skills from an outstanding professional team in reaching the practical completion stage in the face of lockdowns and extreme human safety restrictions”, he concludes.

Additional Information for Editors on the Ridge’s Green Star Innovation points

Included in the Green Star innovation points awarded to the Ridge by the GBCSA assessors, the scorecard recognised the innovative systems that contribute towards a comfortable indoor climate for office workers.  These have given the Ridge its reference as a ‘Living Breathing Building-organism’ so-dubbed by the design team.

These passive design features include:

  • A ‘central street’ from an air circulation perspective – meaning a large atrium beginning at ground level, which allows for upward air circulation out through special windows in the roof lights.
  • A thermally activated building system (TABS) which uses water pipes embedded into concrete soffits (above where people work) to create large thermal ‘sinks’ that regulate temperatures inside the office spaces.
  • Natural ventilation, as allowed by openable windows in the timber façade.
  • Underfloor displacement ventilation, which allows the circulation of temperature-regulated air into the offices when the building is forced to use air conditioning (HVAC).

The full professional team who worked on the project:

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