Green Vision
Green vision

Green Vision

Incorporating "green building" techniques into a laboratory and conserving it's surrounding reserve.

Conference Centre

Conference Centre

Featuring modern and sophisticated conference facilities, available to any-
one requiring such facilities.

Catering + Café

Catering + Café

Catering is done on site and there is also a full-time café for use by anyone visiting the building.

"Green" Design and Environmental Elements

From the beginning, there was a drive to ensure that the Grain Building was designed and constructed to be as "green" and sustainable as possible. The SA Grain Laboratory is one of the major tenants in the building and Mauritz Kruger, the architect, knew that it would be a challenge to make the building energy-efficient within a laboratory environment. A number of aspects have therefore been implemented in the building to achieve optimal sustainability.

1. Light shelves and passive measures

Light shelves and passive measuresOne of the main design features used to decrease the building's energy use is the inclusion of solar screens and light shelves. They were included on all the north-facing exteriors and, coupled with the deep façade, minimise any thermal fluctuations caused by excessive exposure to sunlight during the summer months.

Inside the walls, at the base of the windows, there is a specially designed, ash-filled cavity which acts as a mass energy-storage device; ensuring evenly distributed temperatures during the winter months. The angle of the sun in winter and the angle of the shelf ensure that the cavity remains exposed to sunlight as long as possible. This allows the building to warm up and retain the latent solar heat energy which, in turn, warms the building's interior; reducing the need for excessive heating during the winter months. The angle of the sun and the angle of the screen ensure that the cavity wall remains shaded during the summer months to reduce the need for cooling. The tops of the screens are reflective and also assist with lighting the building's interior naturally; thereby reducing the need to turn on lights.

2. Solar light without the heat

Solar light without the heatSolar light was also used to supplement lighting in areas of the building. A Solatube was used, which was designed by an Australian company that allows the reflection of natural light into the building without any of the heat gain. The Solatube essentially works like a "light chimney", bringing natural light to deep spaces within the building, especially in the passages around the laboratory.

3. Occupancy sensors

Occupancy sensors were used throughout the building to reduce the use of artificial light. The sensors were manufactured by an American company and work according to three different triggers: movement, sound and lux levels.

4. Insulation

The insulation design of the building also improves the energy efficiency. The building has a 280 mm-wide brick wall on the south, east and west-facing walls. Within this slightly thicker wall, there is a 50 mm cavity filled with polystyrene. This provides a good barrier against heat loss and heat gain. Polystyrene is an exceptionally good insulator and prevents the building from gaining or losing excessive heat through its traditionally warmest or coldest exterior facades.

5. Window design

Window DesignIn addition to the polystyrene-filled cavities, the windows also play a role in optimising thermal levels. The apertures have been reduced on the south-facing side of the building to reduce heat loss. The windows are also double-glazed to further reduce any heat loss. Windows on the western façade were avoided as this would have conveyed excessive heat during the summer months.

6. Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvestingAnother green aspect incorporated in the design of the building is the rainwater harvesting system. There is a 20 000 litre rainwater harvesting system which is used to irrigate the gardens. The water is channelled into four large tanks in the semi-basement parking level and stored until required.

Alternative forms of water saving were also implemented. Every bathroom is fitted with infrared sensors with user-interface time limits installed on the taps and urinals. This ensures that water is not wasted.

7. Green roof

Green RoofWhile the roof does not strictly add to the energy or thermal efficiency of the building, an aesthetic green roof was included in the design. A natural-looking Astro Turf-type material was chosen to reduce maintenance costs. The green roof area complements the view of the Bronberg Reserve on the southern side of the building. Clear Vu fencing was chosen and pre-painted dark green so that it would blend in with the environment and preserve the aesthetic appeal of the area.

8. Building Management System

Due to the strict environmental controls required by the laboratories, a proficient building management system (BMS) from Siemens was installed. The BMS system allows the administrators to monitor every aspect of the building – from the temperature of the air intake to the lighting and indoor temperatures of a specific room. Working in conjunction with the occupancy sensors, the BMS is also capable of distinguishing whether or not a room is occupied and operational. While the BMS automatically adjusts the performance of the air-conditioning systems, depending on the temperatures being monitored, it can also be switched to manual mode in order to manually adjust the temperature in a specific room. Load shedding can also be done with the BMS to reduce peak demand.

9. Conserving natural species

Conserving natural speciesAnother challenge faced in the design and erection of the Grain Building was to ensure that it did not encroach or disturb a protected species on the site and in the surrounds – Juliana's Golden Mole (Neamblysomus julianae). The building is adjacent to the Bronberg Nature Reserve in the east of Pretoria – one of three areas of the main populations of this species of mole in South Africa.

Several stipulations were therefore applicable to the design and erection of the building that had to be adhered to in order to protect and conserve this tiny mammal during construction and thereafter. A five meter wide green belt servitude was included in the design of the building and was fenced of during construction. No developments on this green belt are allowed by Grain Building.

In addition, nearly all the foreign plant species were removed from the property and replaced by indigenous plants and trees.