Historic Building Gets a Green Rating

Exterior View of the Newly Refurbished Batho Pele House

South Africa – The historic Agrivaal Building in South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria has achieved a 4 Star Green Star SA Office v1 – As Built rating from the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA). The rating makes the Agrivaal Building an independently certified green government office building.

Driving the sustainability of public sector buildings in South Africa forward, the country’s National Department of Public Works extensively refurbished the heritage-sensitive building and one of Pretoria’s legacy treasures in an environmentally innovative manner.

Agrivaal Building which is part of the Batho Pele House now boasts new standards of energy efficiency, environmental quality and occupancy comfort.

The building’s new ‘South African contemporary’ design brings it up-to-date with the latest in quality office space. Its refurbishment features the red brick associated with historical Pretoria architecture and use of local materials, increasingly linked with the city’s redevelopment.

“We are incredibly proud to announce this important rating for Batho Pele House. It places the building at the forefront of green building innovation in South Africa, particularly in the public sector. This is an achievement that everyone can celebrate,” says Dorah Modise, CEO of the GBCSA.  “We congratulate the Department of Public Works on the exceptional refurbishment of this building and for embracing green building principles and practices for more and more public buildings around South Africa.”

She adds: “Batho Pele House proves that old buildings, even buildings of historical significance, can include the very latest resource-efficient specifications. It has created a symbol of a government that is building towards a better future.”

Department of Public Works project manager, Musawenkosi Mncwango, says: “Our extensive refurbishment of the historical administration building previously known as the Agrivaal Building, and now known to the public as Batho Pele House introduced some interesting approaches to sustainability while respecting the history of the existing building. We are excited the project has extended the lifespan of this unique asset. It will stay a relevant, flourishing and sustainable workplace of government for many years to come.”

Green building is all about designing, building and operating buildings in a sustainable way. Batho Pele House integrates this with all the amenities that come with its central location, including easy access for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, thus lightening its environmental footprint.

The refurbished Agrivaal Building also features generous natural light with glare reduced by smart shading, while still offering great external views. It has an energy-efficient lighting system and low volatile organic compound finishes. Its superior water efficiency is achieved with low-flow fittings, rainwater harvesting and grey water filtration for reuse in the building.

Besides the refurbished building achieving a green rating, its construction process also achieved impressive reductions in embodied energy. At least 90% of its construction steel is recycled and a specialised concrete mix was used which ensured that the original Portland cement was reduced.

Roxanne Dovey, the project’s Sustainability Consultant at WSP Group said that this incredible achievement for a National Government Department demonstrates government’s commitment to reducing environmental impacts on our growing nation.

“WSP’s multi-disciplinary engineering and sustainability appointment on this project realised a well-integrated design for the building, inclusive of future-proofing aspects where possible. The multi-disciplinary nature of the project enabled easier collaboration between the engineers and the sustainability team for the duration of the seven year project,” Dovey adds.

To ultimately achieve the sustainability objectives of the project it was crucial that the activities in all the project stages should be aligned to accomplish this goal.  Being national government’s first project to aim for this ambitious objective the project management process was a learning curve and sometimes challenging.  However, with the assistance of a dedicated team led by Hendrik Prinsloo, a highly experienced Project Manager at HPM Consultants, this complicated and involved process was completed successfully.

“The sustainability team played a major role in monitoring project progress through design development, construction and commissioning stages. The final As Built Rating is a great confirmation that the services provided by WSP have embedded sustainability principles into the design and operation of Batho Pele House,” further explains Dovey.

Modise explains that green building is a good business decision which also mitigates the effects of climate change. Importantly, it is more straightforward than many may think, and the GBCSA works with the public and private sectors to help make it happen.

“Green public buildings are resource efficient and cost efficient, saving on municipal utility bills. They are also proven to create healthy workspaces for government employees and visitors that inspire their well-being and productivity, so everyone benefits from green public buildings,” concludes Modise.