Boutique Hotel targets Net Zero Carbon
Hotel Nieu, an upmarket off-the-grid boutique hotel on the corner of Cameron and Marais streets in Nieu Muckleneuk, Pretoria, was born out of a desire to create intentional urban communities. The project is aiming to achieve a Net Zero Carbon rating through the Green Building Council South Africa.7
The intention of the Hotel Nieu development is to provide upmarket hospitality services to people who care deeply about sustainability and the appropriate stewarding of resources. The property offers sixteen individual private suites for short- and long-term stays as well as business conveniences including a 10-seater boardroom and dining room.
Centrally located for access to the city centre and major highways, the property is close to Brooklyn Mall, various embassies, the University of Pretoria, Loftus Versveld rugby stadium and the Gautrain bus routes. An electric vehicle (EV) charging station is available onsite with an EV for shuttle services; and shared Qhubeka Bicycles are available to guests for commuting within the neighbourhood.
The site houses older heritage buildings, newer existing buildings and new buildings. Paul Boshoff, the hotel’s architect and co-developer says:
Where we redevelop a building, we are sensitive to existing buildings, history, character and finishes. We seek to retain the best aspects of the building and then introduce new infrastructure, utilities, and more appropriate modern amenities and functions. Our aim is always to reduce utility demand and dependence. We work on both the older and newer existing buildings.
For the new buildings, a self-sufficient living pod was designed that allows for rapid deployment. The pod sits on top of a water reservoir concrete raft foundation that helps to modulate temperature in the units; and has a lightweight, highly insulated top structure, which makes for easier transport and also assists in temperature regulation and control. With a north orientation for good passive heating, the pod has a standardised ablution module (factory assembled and fitted); solar panels linked to Endless Power control modules; and an insulated hot water solar-powered vessel that was sized to accommodate water-based (in slab) heating in winter.
Zendré Compion, Sustainable Building Consultant at Solid Green, explains that a Net Zero Carbon building is defined as a building that is highly energy-efficient, with the remaining energy use being generated from renewable sources so that there are zero net carbon emissions on an annual basis. In the case of a Net Positive Carbon building, the energy from renewable sources results in more energy being produced than is used on site. Zendré says:
The building industry currently produces a third of the world’s CO2 emissions and should therefore take the lead in attempting to drastically reduce the amount of CO2 generated in the construction and operations of buildings. Net Zero/Net Positive is not about slowly pushing the building industry towards betterment, but rather about inspiring the end goal now.
Hotel Nieu aims to produce more energy on site than it will use. In addition to applying good passive design principles, this will be achieved through a rational design process that includes specifying high performance materials and active energy-producing systems like solar PV with battery back-up.
Paul explains that the Hotel Nieu philosophy revolves around six elements of sustainable net-zero living: human capital, water, energy, food, personal security and transport.
In addition to our energy-efficiency and generation measures, the project uses tested low-energy light fittings, water heating and appliances; and we monitor and audit our energy consumption to ensure continuous improvement.
We harvest and treat rainwater for reuse, offer onsite-purified drinking water and a public street drinking fountain, use borehole water instead of municipal water, and feed irrigation and stormwater overflow back into the system via our landscaped wetland. We also monitor and audit our water usage and use water-saving sanitaryware and appliances. All of this helps us to minimise our water footprint and ensure that not a drop is wasted.
Lucas Uys, landscape architect, explains that the hotel’s landscaping is designed for functionality and the gardens include edible elements and greenhouses, which contribute to the boutique hotel’s self-sustainability. Each suite offers a degree of self-catering functionality; while healthy and high-quality catering is also available onsite.
With a philosophy that is designed to inspire as well as contribute towards sustainability, Hotel Nieu is leading the local hospitality sector and providing a mindful ‘home-away-from-home’ for its guests.