The Precinct targets Mauritius’ first EcoDistrict certification
Solid Green’s Sustainable Cities and Research Department recently visited Mauritius as part of our role in supporting The Precinct to target an EcoDistrict certification. Here, Cebisa Mafukuzela shares more about their work-holiday adventure on the island.7
Most of the time our work has us sitting behind a computer, guiding project design teams on building design to ensure performance benchmarks and targets are met, reviewing documentation, providing input on performance, writing and compiling reports and documents for certification purposes, and doing research.
However, now and then, a project team is required to do some site work. The Sustainable Cities and Research Department recently visited Mauritius as part of our role in supporting The Precinct in targeting an EcoDistrict certification. Phase 1 of the development, Unity Building, has already secured a 5-Star Green Star Office v1.1 Design Certification.
The property is being developed by Gateway Real Estate Africa (GREA) in partnership with GRIT Real Estate Income Group. Strategically located at the entrance of Grand Baie, approximately 20km from Port Louis, the project is envisioned as a state-of-the-art office space.
The EcoDistricts certification will be a first for Mauritius and aligns well with the ESG targets set by both GRIT and GREA, organisations that are committed to making sustainable development decisions that are focused on driving carbon neutrality and maximizing the positive impact on the communities they serve.
Adrie Fourie, Head of the Sustainable Cities and Research Department and I, embarked on our journey in the middle of February, not knowing the full extent of the adventure that awaited us. After an uneventful flight, the first thing that hit me was the density of the air and the heat, which I surprisingly enjoyed. However, my suitcase was nowhere to be found! Fortunately, the officials at the airport were efficient, taking my details and assuring me they would reunite me with my suitcase soon.
The drive from the airport introduced us to this beautiful, green island with an undulating landscape and an architectural expression unique to the island – culturally inspired buildings sit next to modern structures hiding between dense tropical vegetation. It was like nothing I had seen before.
Our hotel, a stone’s throw away from The Precinct, is an eco-responsible and EarthCheck Silver Certified hotel, boasting several sustainability initiatives, including:
- Wastewater recycling used for irrigation purposes, with automated sensors, aerated taps and rainwater harvesting systems to reduce potable water consumption.
- Renewable energy initiatives across the whole chain of hotels, contributing to 20% savings in power consumption.
- Motion sensors to switch lights and HVAC off when guests are not in their rooms.
- Integrated waste management where waste is separated for recycling, managing nearly 40% of waste being recycled.
- Food waste that is reduced through programs that distribute surplus foods to nearby communities and farmers, who collect non-donatable food for composting.
Fortunately, after breakfast the next day, I was reunited with my suitcase. While doing my research for this trip, I found several stats that spoke about the low levels of theft and crime in Mauritius and the speedy recovery of my suitcase felt like a testament to that.
I facilitated the first EcoDistricts workshop, providing insights on Centering Equity in EcoDistricts to the steering committee comprising relevant stakeholders and role-players. The training session focused on defining all vulnerable groups impacted by the project. The EcoDistricts Protocol understands that, when cities identify and acknowledge those most vulnerable to change, they experience stronger and longer-lasting growth. The well-attended workshop provided us with significant insight into contextual nuance and its impact on equity.
The next two days, facilitated by Adrie, required participants to workshop specific ways in which the three Imperative Commitments – Equity, Resilience and Climate Projection – will be embedded in The Precinct EcoDistrict. Focus was placed on creating a strong commitment from all stakeholders in support of “collective impact” to tackle the complexities and interconnections of precinct-scale sustainability. The remainder of the sessions were focused on collectively identifying the action plan that will move The Precinct toward carbon neutrality, while formulating its sustainability strategy around the 6 Priority Areas of the EcoDistricts Protocol: Place, Prosperity, Health & Wellbeing, Connectivity, Living Infrastructure and Resource Regeneration.
We also had the opportunity to visit La Croisette Mall, an exceptionally beautiful space with an open-air design. This design approach provides a unique shopping experience as a result of the strong connections created with the external natural environment. It also reduces the need for air conditioning and electrical lighting. Walking in the streets of Grand Baie and grabbing a drink while overlooking the crisp blue harbour littered with boats and catamarans, made this the most holiday-ish work trip I have ever been on.
Before leaving, Mauritius had one last surprise in store for us, Cyclone Freddy! With staff on high alert, the building was readied for a 1 in 100-year storm. Many businesses on the island were forced to close, the international airport was shut and, while Cyclone Freddy passed at approximately 120km to the north of Grand Baie, waves reached heights of 8m, a significant amount of rain fell across the island and, the next morning, the after-effects were still very visible.
The trip to Mauritius was very successful workwise, and it was an experience I will never forget – from the weather to the people, the warm beaches and the ever-changing menu at the hotel restaurant. But the most valuable part was spending time with my colleague Adrie and getting to know someone I work with on a personal level.
Hopefully we will be invited back once the project is certified and the other two building on site have been completed, with no suitcases going missing and, hopefully, no hurricanes to give us the full experience of island life!
- May 2023
- Cebisa Mafukuzela, EcoDistrict, GREA, GRIT Real Estate Income Group, Mauritius, Precinct