The four-star green design rating for the three-storey building at the university’s Second Avenue campus is also the first for any building in Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape.
The rating followed months of rigorous planning and implementation in the areas of energy efficiency, materials, water usage, indoor air quality, transport, ecology and lighting to ensure that the stringent standards were achieved.
“We’re very proud of this achievement. It sends a clear message that NMMU is intent on living its value of respect for the natural environment,” says NMMU’s Graham Gouws of Infrastructure Projects, who championed the university’s first green building project.
Though “going green” can add up to 20% on initial building costs, NMMU expects to reap savings of at least R45 000 a year from efficient lighting, the use of occupancy sensors and solar energy (photo voltaics contribute 5% of these savings) and a further R68 778 in water savings.
“In Australia and some countries in Europe, this green approach is compulsory if building owners want government departments to occupy their buildings. We want to do the right thing but also to prepare for the changes that will come,” said Graham, whose colleagues began research into international green building standards some four years ago.
In fact, the university had submitted its initial building “green” plans before the SA rating model was formally introduced by the Green Building Council of South Africa about 18 months ago as part of the pilot phase of a new tool to measure a building’s impact on the environment.
“The Green Star SA rating tool plays a key role in ensuring an integrated design approach with better environmental outcomes, which are clearly evident on this project, where the project team worked closely together to achieve an excellent design outcome for this facility,’’ says Manfred Braune, Technical Manager for the GBCSA.
From an energy and water savings perspective, it has been estimated that new building will use about 60% less energy than a similar building, and 75% less water due to low flow fittings, the use of air cooled chillers, water wise irrigation and rainwater harvesting to feed water needs for flushing.
According to Andy Feldman, who formed part of an extensive team of design consultants as a sustainable building engineer, the building with an internal open-air courtyard is concrete framed, with a face brick outer façade for improved thermal performance. The protected courtyard also allows for increased day lighting into the four-wing building.
“NMMU’s certified rating is representative of best practice in green building design. Green Star recognises and rewards developers who incorporate green building design features that reduce the environmental impact of a building. NMMU is to be congratulated as the first building public and education building to be rated under the pilot scheme for its design rating,” says Andy, of the sustainable design consultants Arup.
The new 5500m2 building, which will open for business in March next year, uses “green” materials, like “smart” glass and timber that is approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council, an international body promoting the sustainable management of forests. The smart glass, for example, assists in reducing unnecessary heat gain, therefore keeping lecture rooms and offices naturally cooler.
The use of rain water harvesting for use in the toilets; automation of air and light; and through the use of low VOC paints are among the many other initiatives that assisted in achieving the accreditation. The new building has six rainwater tanks each with a capacity of 5 000m3.
According to Gouws, mechanical engineers will ensure that the new systems operate optimally during the first year to achieve the optimum performance since more than 1 000 people are expected to use the building on a daily basis, both during the day and evening classes. Their water and energy consumption will also be displayed on screens within the building to provide live data illustrating the current use.
In order to ensure that NMMU adhered to the stringent demands of the rating, the university worked hand-in-hand with a team of green consultants, Arup, from Cape Town.
“It was a huge learning process for all of us, but we are now better versed for future building projects,” says Graham, adding that university has a number of massive developments ahead including a new science block, another engineering building and a new teacher education centre.