As the world begins to show signs of a return to normalcy, sustainability has become the rallying point for business strategy, commonly referred to as the ‘green recovery’.

Waterfall is unique in that it was master-planned as a green fields development, leveraging global best practice in urban design and sustainable technology.

New research shows that companies that prioritise Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles are more resilient in turbulent times and better able to navigate headwinds. According to the Financial Times, investors have caught onto this trend, and between April and June this year, they injected record sums into sustainable investment funds during the COVID-19 pandemic – over R284 billions of net inflows globally.

The same can be said for the property sector, where a firm commitment to sustainability has been proven to safeguard against a range of socioeconomic and environmental issues. Nowhere is this truer, than at Waterfall, Gauteng’s fastest-growing business and lifestyle node.

Building a smart, sustainable city

Waterfall is unique in that it was master-planned as a green fields development, leveraging global best practice in urban design and sustainable technology. As Attacq’s flagship development, sustainability has been integrated into every aspect of this world-class city.

A cornerstone of sustainability is measurement, and for this, data is a crucial asset – and its application for insights is critical to how Waterfall has been developed. The more data gathered, analysed and leveraged to inform strategy, the more meaningful its contribution to environmental impact reduction can be. Attacq recently partnered with GCX, the sustainability business specialists, to implement an Eco-Analytics Dashboard which allows the company to monitor the environmental and financial elements that contribute to Waterfall’s carbon footprint in real-time.

Chief Development Officer at Attacq and Chair elect of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), Giles Pendleton, says; “Innovations such as these allow for improved reporting and greater insight into how our buildings are performing as standalone assets. In this way, we are able to work together with our clients to change behaviours, or implement initiatives that reduce consumption, individual carbon footprints and ultimately, their cost of occupancy.”

Investing in the things that matter

Attacq is in the process of installing a scientific grade weather station which once up and running will provide access to local climate patterns and insights. Data such as this can be used by engineers to design air conditioning and ventilation systems tailored for the local conditions. The uses for this kind of data are endless. Waterfall City has its own unique microclimate, and a smart weather station will allow us to monitor climate change and future proof any new development.

Sustainable by design

When setting up the original architectural guidelines for the residential estates for Waterfall, the Waterfall Management Company enlisted the help of Century Property Developments to deliver a robust set of guidelines that prioritised the environment in terms of aesthetics and design.

“These guidelines are still in place today and advocate the use of raw materials such as brick and concrete in their natural forms, both of which have a lower carbon footprint, are less reliant on grid energy and are better for the environment,” says Wille Vos, CEO of the Waterfall Management Company.

“Our approach applies across all residential developments within Waterfall, whether they are our own or those of a partner. In 2019, Balwin properties registered 16,000 units for the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) certification, covering more homes than any single property developer in the world to date. The EDGE standard requires a minimum of a 20% reduction across energy consumption, water usage and embodied energy in materials. Balwin in partnership with Absa has also launched South Africa’s first green home loan, the Absa Eco Home Loan – which is now available for buyers in the EDGE-certified Polofields development on Waterfall,” adds Vos.

“Furthermore, in an effort to save water, we have built an Ozone Water Purifying Plant which we use to purify water from the Jukskei river, which is then used to irrigate all the common areas on Waterfall,” Vos concluded.

The birds and the bees – environmental stewardship

Another unique initiative currently underway is Waterfall City’s biodiversity enhancement strategy. Under this initiative, a biodiversity specialist will explore how the city can improve, or reintroduce, biodiversity within the area. The plan is to create sanctuaries for insects, birds, animals and plant species to thrive. Within this is a commitment to promote the use of indigenous trees, grasses and plants that are more water-wise and attract indigenous bird species and wildlife. So far, the precinct has achieved around 80% indigenous landscaping within residential estates and 100% in all common areas.

Closing the loop on waste

In terms of waste control, Waterfall is currently reviewing its entire waste management system to incorporate circular economy approaches that assess all the material flows in its waste streams. The aim is to look at reuse, reduce, recycle strategies to conserve what can be re-deployed, ensuring that nothing is lost or wasted. This conservation approach extends to all of Waterfall’s water and energy optimisation initiatives.

“In general, we work on a 2-day resilience in terms of water across the precinct. The Mall of Africa has 2.2million litres of stored water, and most recently, we added 270 kilolitres worth of rainwater harvesting storage at Deloitte. Overall, the Attacq portfolio (excluding Mall of Africa) has 883.2 kl of storage capacity with our target being 1 000 kl. We aim to be self-sufficient during water supply outages, improve water quality and decrease our impact on the environment,” adds Pendleton.

“At Waterfall, we understand that a secure supply of water is a critical business continuity enabler. As a precinct, we’ve worked hard to invest in the things that matter, ensuring that through our dedicated water and energy infrastructure, any possible interruptions to client business needs by water shortages or load shedding are minimised. In fact, Mall of Africa houses one of the largest rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system of its kind in the southern hemisphere,” he notes.