Solid Green’s New Offices in Parkhurst!
As Solid Green approaches its 10th birthday, directors Marloes Reinink and Chilufya Lombe have taken the bold step of purchasing a property in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, for the company’s new offices. Here we share the start of our journey towards our new home!7
The 500sqm site of Solid Green’s new office is an existing 200sqm residential building with extensions on all sides, which has been used as an office. Our architects, Activate Architecture, have been briefed that Occupant Comfort is a top priority for us – if the space is comfortable and healthy, then people are productive. And, due to the nature of our consultancy work, we are targeting very high sustainability goals – Net Zero Carbon through the Green Building Council South Africa, and possibly a CORE Green Building Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).
Marloes, who is herself a Living Building Challenge Ambassador, says:
As we are not able to demolish the existing building and are obliged to work with the existing structure in order to avoid a lengthy rezoning process, we are busy assessing the possibilities of an ILFI CORE certification, which outlines the ten best practice achievements that a building must obtain to be considered a green or sustainable building, putting the connection to nature, equity and the need for a building to be loved on par with the typical water, energy and materials concerns.
Our brief to Activate is for flexible, open plan workspaces to accommodate 20 people. Formal and informal meeting spaces, shower and changing facilities, an outside seating area and vegetable garden, and a bicycle storage area are also included.
Key Health & Well Being requirements that are being addressed are:
- Air Quality, which is being addressed through openable windows, natural ventilation, and sensors for air quality control (CO, CO2 and VOC);
- Drinking Water promotion and filtration;
- Nourishment, through the availability of fruits and vegetables, food production in the garden, and mindful eating;
- Light quality, with sufficient daylight, views to nature and glare control;
- Movement, with the inclusion of ergonomic workstations, a good Walk Score for the area, and a multi-use space where yoga can be practiced;
- Thermal comfort and control, with comfort monitoring
- Sound mapping and good acoustics, which requires an acoustic plan that identifies and addresses internal and external noise sources;
- Mind, through access to nature; spaces exclusively for contemplation, relaxation and restoration; and sleep support.
Says Michael Magner of Activate:
The decision was made to reuse the existing structure as much as possible without compromising on the function of the new office space. The key idea is to accommodate as much open plan flexible office space as the original walls of house will allow, with a new facade, doors and windows to deal with the performance criteria that the client is setting. This includes a multifunctional space that spills out into the garden on the north side of the site
We are replacing the existing roof with a new concrete slab which will be used as the platform for a photovoltaic installation and can also become the floor slab for a second story should Solid Green need to expand in future. We are planning to reuse the existing timber trusses in the new build. There is also an existing pool on site that we want to repurpose as a stormwater retention system to supply grey water for toilet flushing and irrigation.
Michael adds that the architecture of the front façade will respond to the busy Parkhurst commercial street with a solid but interesting boundary that includes a living wall as well as a planter and bench as a gesture to the public edge, with two new indigenous trees shading the off-street parking.
As with all our activities, our staff have been included in the process from the outset. “We held a session asking people what they want in the new office, which informed the brief,” Marloes says.
We have also presented the new design to them. Our staff is responsible for the energy and comfort modelling, which is being used as an integrated tool in determining the design of the building envelope. And they are helping to research materials for flooring and other components.
She adds that simplicity in the project’s design will not only save on cost but also reduce the unnecessary use of materials. The choice of materials will centre around those with a very low embodied energy and the focus will be on healthy materials where toxins are eliminated as far as possible. Choices will be guided by the Living Building Challenge principles for the Materials Petal – Red List free materials where possible, local sourcing, responsible sourcing (for example, FSC or reclaimed timber), and the reuse of materials where possible.
Sustainable water and waste management principles are also being embraced, with the possibilities around water harvesting, water recycling and water reuse currently being scrutinised; together with waste minimisation during both the construction and operational phases of the project.
Our intention is to break ground in October this year, with occupation of our new space planned for April next year. We will be sharing the story of our new home as we progress, so keep watching this space!