Balwin Headquarters – Net Zero ambitions for a 6-star building

Balwin Headquarters – Net Zero ambitions for a 6-star building

The new Balwin Headquarters on 105 Corlett Drive has been awarded a 6-star Green Star Office Design v1.1 rating – one of the first 6-star major refurbishments in South Africa. The project is a refurbishment of the iconic Creative Council building, located adjacent to Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.

Commenting on the importance of sustainable development, Steve Brookes, CEO of Balwin Properties, says, “I have four generations in my family, and one starts thinking: what legacy do we leave for the next generations? Sustainability means making sure that the next generation of our family, and all the people of South Africa, have a better world to live in.

Balwin Properties has been a dream of mine since I was a 14-year-old boy. It’s a fantastic business made up of partners and collaborations of professionals – I’m very proud of our people. We want to make this a better place and aim to be the leading residential property developers in South Africa.

Made up of four basement levels and five office floors, the development will push its sustainability ambitions even further by aiming for Net Zero Carbon and Net Zero Waste certifications. Paragon, who handled the original design of the building, was also commissioned to undertake the refurbishment.

This entailed the removal of the three iconic cone-shaped elements from the building and the addition of two new floors under the elevated concrete box. The original building had a double volume storage area in the basement. An additional slab was cast into this space to add another level of parking to the building. In the existing double volume from ground floor to first floor a new floor slab was cast on upper ground level to increase the GLA. On the roof level a steel structure was added as a third floor to the building. The steel roof will house a photovoltaic installation that will provide sustainable power for the development. The architects managed to keep the concrete structure and the quintessential elevated concrete box, and added the additional level on top, without having to strengthen the foundation.

Solid Green assisted the project team with the integration of Green Star objectives and processes throughout the design and construction phases. Architect Kim Newell from Paragon says, “It has been very interesting to have Solid Green on board as it has helped us greatly to achieve the Green Star certification. Originally, we had designed a full glass form that fitted into the existing concrete box, and we had in mind a similar design for the roof. But, to make that design function in terms of sustainability, we were looking at double glazed performance glazing that would cost a fortune. Solid Green also advised us in terms of glare and thermal issues, as the glazed building would not have been a very comfortable space in which to work.”

The design had always included timber fins that the architect envisioned for shading and much of the glass was also replaced by vertical brickwork panels, as is visible in the architectural renderings. Says Newell, “Replacing the glass changed the aesthetic, which is still very successful with the black brick panels, dark grey glazing and the timber fins that will be fitted onto the building. It is going to be a very interesting, as well as comfortable, building for people to work in and visit.”

The timber fins, which will be installed in January 2022, are a design element that looks easy but needed quite some tweaking. The type of wood used is FSC certified Accoya, and the team had to attend several workshops with this very durable type of wood to get the detailing right. Solid Green provided guidance on the spacing and angling of the fins to achieve the right amount of thermal comfort.

Zendré Compion, Senior Sustainable Building Consultant at Solid Green on this major refurbishment, comments, “There is inherent value in refurbishment projects like this, and the Green Star tool is set up in a way that credits building projects for doing major refurbishments. Not only did this project use previously developed land, but it also reused 100% of the original structure, only adding structural elements in order to increase the building lettable area.

A commissioning expert was included in the team to ensure that the building is commissioned to the highest standard, while Balwin has an in-house team member who is responsible for renewable projects and will look after building tuning upon completion.

The value of tuning and commissioning is easily underestimated on projects but, where Commissioning professionals are included from project inception, building systems perform better, are more reliable, and lead to a reduction in energy and water consumption. The base building rating has greatly benefitted from the project’s renewables component that has also enabled Balwin to target Net Zero Carbon for their headquarters.

Project Team

Owner Balwin Properties
Accredited professional Solid Green Consulting
Architect Paragon
Electrical engineer Sutherland
Fire engineer Sutherland
Lift specialist Kone
Mechanical engineer Sutherland
Quantity surveyors JMHT Quantity Surveyors
Structural engineers Sotiralis Engineers
Sustainable building consultant Solid Green Consulting
Wet services Sutherland
Main contractor Onsite Solutions
Project manager Onsite Solutions
Environmental consultant LEAP
Interior designer Paragon Interface
Commissioning agent Cardinal Commissioning Services
Renewables RWP

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