Our New Office: Chapter 3

Our New Office: Chapter 3

Work is progressing well at our new office in Parkhurst. Gavin Westbrook explains that, as one of Africa’s foremost sustainability consultancies, Solid Green is walking the talk and actively pursuing the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Core certification.

The underpinning of the foundations is complete at our new office on 6th Street, Parkhurst. This will allow another floor to be added in the future as the company grows. We made a decision to pioneer a Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) structure for the roof (future first floor), instead of using the original concrete coffer slab. This will have much lower embodied energy and reduce the building’s CO2 footprint. It is also much lighter and helped to reduce the amount of strengthening and modification that the foundations required. The wooden structure will also be much better from a biophilia point of view as we will have more natural materials in the space.

Fine-tuning the details of the CLT structure and the steel supports and brackets turned into a very involved and complicated process as we kept finding new aspects of the old building that we had to work around. However, we have now placed the orders for the timber beams, CLT slab, steel supports, and performance glazing facade. The wet works on site are proceeding well, so everything should be ready for when all the other elements arrive.

Design concepts have been underway with regards to the layout, look and feel of the new office interior. We have taken the information from our biophilia workshop and how we want to use the new offices spaces, to inform how we use the furniture we already have from the old office, and to decide what we want to add. The ideal would be to reuse as much as possible from the old office with some clever design solutions that will make the space functional, adaptable and ergonomically efficient. Natural lighting, glare, acoustics and multiple workspace options – including sit desks, standing desks and couches – have been identified as the main interior design challenges that we want to address.

In terms of waste management, we have been working with our contractor to ensure that we don’t have materials going to a landfill. All the old fittings – doors, windows, roof tiles, HVAC etc – that had some value have been collected by salvagers so they can be used on other sites. A special effort was also made to capture the gasses from the old HVAC units and not just let them be released into the atmosphere as they are powerful greenhouse gasses. They were removed by the HVAC contractor to be reused elsewhere.

Most of the original brickwork is being saved and cleaned so we can reuse it onsite. The old Oregon pine roof timbers will also be cleaned up, inspected and reused. The rubble from the section of the old building that needed to be removed was a little trickier. Most of the smaller waste haulers do not really offer a recycling service and the larger contractors were not interested in our little project. We eventually found a company that would take the rubble and crush it to be used as aggregate in new bricks as long as we delivered the material to them. We also found a few other construction sites near us that needed fill material and where happy to take the rubble off our hands. One waste skip was mistakenly taken to be used as a fill stabilisation at a landfill in the beginning of the process, as the contractor thought that it was an acceptable use. Ironically, the site supervisor, was quite taken with the idea of reusing or recycling materials and has taken to the process wholeheartedly!

We are looking forward to moving into our new home soon. Watch this space for more updates!

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