A breath of fresh air: 6-Star Interiors rating for Firmenich’s Firsouth Office

A breath of fresh air: 6-Star Interiors rating for Firmenich’s Firsouth Office

Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company, is committed to providing both their staff and visitors with a healthy and comfortable interior environment.

As part of their commitment, they have chosen to certify their Firsouth office with the Green Star SA Interiors v1 tool.

The Firsouth office is targeting an ambitious 6-Star Interiors v1 certification for their refurbished offices and laboratories. The office, with a usable area of 1109,2m2, is situated in an industrial zone in Midrand, Johannesburg, near highway access. The building itself is largely glazed, which ensures that most of the interior has access to daylighting and external views.

To deliver on the client’s values and aims, the Tétris design, furniture and project management team had to view the entire project delivery as a sustainable eco-system. The outcome is a workplace filled with light, plants and detailing for productive, comfortable and healthy workspaces. The design team used the hexagonal shape of a chemical molecule as the framework for its design and combined it with the structured geometry of traditional African ShweShwe fabric patterns. Planters, carpet tile designs and wallpapers all reflect this design language and combine well with Firmenich’s global brand standards to create an international look and feel that’s combined with local culture.


The team worked closely with the client to understand the specific requirements for their office and laboratories. Air quality is core to Firmenich achieving a healthy workspace environment. Air flows are managed to ensure that odours remain inside the laboratories and don’t extend beyond these areas. The HVAC system distributes fresh air throughout the space, and CO2 monitors continually measure air quality to ensure full compliance. Non-critical air conditioners are on timers to reduce unnecessary use of power.

Access to two outdoor balconies and openable windows allow for additional fresh air to enter the building. Interior spaces are shaded by external awnings, which also decreases the need for excessive use of air conditioning and provides visual comfort from glare. Areas are accessed through sealed, no-touch, double doors that are activated by access cards to ensure that each space is thermally controlled.

Cebisa Mafukuzela, sustainable building consultant at Solid Green, adds that the project has included Indoor Air Quality monitoring that focuses on virus management.

Considering the Covid pandemic, Firmenich prioritises the health and safety of employees and has installed a system that ensures indoor air quality remains at a healthy rate.


At the request of the client, the design and project management team was tasked with providing solutions for harvesting rainwater, storing water, sourcing underground water and ensuring efficient water use.

Rainwater is harvested from the roof and parking area and then stored in a 100kL underground concrete water storage tank. This system reduces the reliance on municipally supplied water by approximately 67%. Collected rainwater is pumped to an above ground 5kL tank and then through a reverse osmosis treatment plant to provide potable water to the building. To become even more self-sufficient, a borehole was sunk to access natural underground water. The quality of the water production is consistently tested and measured, thereby ensuring the continuous supply of compliant potable water.

No-touch timed sensor taps are used throughout, which equates to a water saving of 60% in relation to conventional taps. All toilets are Propelair toilets, which use 84% less water in comparison to conventional toilets. In addition, a circular heat pump ensures that hot water is immediately available when taps are opened, thereby reducing water wastage.


A 75% reduction in municipal power use was achieved through the installation of 110kWp photovoltaic system with battery storage, which ensures continuous productivity despite power outages. Energy consumption and peak demand figures are measured by meters that are connected to the building management system (BMS), which is updated continuously at the polling speed of the BMS controller (live trending). This information is displayed on a screen in the main entrance foyer to allow staff and visitors to see the usage, to share reduction targets and to create awareness. As part of the energy saving strategy, the project has opted to select energy efficient equipment wherever possible to ensure that the operating consumption is as low as possible. All lighting used within the building is energy efficient LED.


An operational waste management strategy has been put in place to ensure that waste generated throughout the offices is collected, sorted, and recycled where possible. All waste types, including food, plastic, glass, tins, general waste, paper and cardboard, will be collected in recycling bins and transferred to the waste storage area for collection for recycling on a weekly basis.


Limited car parking is provided for allocated staff members to encourage the use of alternative transport modes. One electric car station is available on site located near the entrance of the building. Cyclist facilities such as gym showers, lockers and changing facilities are available for employees.

The office is located within on kilometre walking distance of a bus and taxi stop as well as other amenities such as an ATM, convenience store, a restaurant, a place of worship and a retail shop.

For Ashley Sams, Firmenich’s Global Workplace Solutions Workplace Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, the highlight of the project is being able to bring together the improved workplace experience, enhanced offices and laboratories as well as various sustainable initiatives into a single project. He says:

To get the balance of achieving these in an equally successful manner with the various stakeholders involved was a challenge that I’d like to think we successfully navigated.

This inclusive approach, together with a creative yet practical vision, has enabled Firmenich to confidently demonstrate its commitment to user wellbeing and sustainability.

Project Team

Developer: Firmenich
Accredited Professional: Solid Green Consulting
Architect: Tétris
Interior architect: Tétris
Electrical engineer: Presto Electrical
Mechanical engineer: SFGP
Quantity surveyors: Tétris
Sustainable building consultant: Solid Green Consulting
Wet services: Tétris
Project manager: Tétris

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