Sustainable. ECO-FRIENDLY. Energy Efficient

There is an increasing trend and need for energy conscious architecture and we as architects are striving towards utilizing affordable new green technologies and getting homes ‘off the grid’ or to function with minimal impact on the environment. This is especially relevant in the South African context where we are experiencing increasing problems relating to water and energy resources. Initially when all the solar products entered the market they were not ergonomically designed to be aesthetically pleasing and were designed purely for functionality however there has been a drive toward creating more aesthetically pleasing elements which can be incorporated within the architecture and within the design of the building. The new green technologies are assisting us in designing homes which are more energy efficient and that have a much smaller carbon footprint.

Francois Marais architects prides itself on introducing passive solar design right from the conception of the project. Aspects such as building orientation, window openings, natural ventilation, natural vegetation, building skins and atriums are feature aspects in creating buildings that can sustain themselves. Emphasis on placing living spaces within the home to take advantage of Northern light and minimizing the openings on the western façade is of utmost importance. New technologies that have thermal properties are applied in the plaster on the residence which results in an insulated envelope around the house eliminating the need for additional mechanical heating and cooling. In South Africa there is a big movement toward solar power due to our favourable sunlight and temperatures.

With ever developing technologies and an increasing need for sustainability there are more and more products on the market that are becoming affordable allowing green design to form part of the residential market. Conscience design and careful planning can result in huge energy savings without any additional costs to the client. The new energy regulations in South Africa are also making it compulsory to employ green design techniques creating a demand for more affordable sustainable technology.

There are a wide range of eco-efficient materials that are ever increasing on the market. The use of concrete roofs for example are becoming more popular because of the advancements in technology in waterproofing techniques. There are various polymers that can be mixed into cement in the roof and floor screed as well as the plaster that creates an insulated envelope reducing your energy loss by up to 50% through the walls and floors and up to 35% through the roof using waterproofing products that have got both waterproofing and insulating capabilities. The inclusion of eco-efficient materials and techniques stems from the beginning of the design process and is no longer an add on or quick fix. Thorough research is undertaken for each project to best utilize the surrounding elements, such as the site position and natural resources of the site to ensure that each design is intricately tied to its context and provides the user with the most user friendly efficient experience.

When approached by KPMG to design a new building in Platinum Park, Polokwane, Francois Marais Architects undertook this as an opportunity to design the first green building of its kind in the city of Polokwane, as far as it can be ascertained.

KPMG opened its new environmentally friendly (green) building in Platinum Park, in August of 2010 and as far as it can be ascertained, it is the first green building of its kind in the city of Polokwane.

KPMG is a global firm providing a network of professional audit, tax and advisory services.  According to Mr Marc Dufourq of Francois Marais Architects, architects of the KPMG building and responsible for the project management of the building, the project of R20 million consists of three floors and provides 3500 square meter office and conference facilities, with basement parking.

The building boasts the latest eco-friendly technologies. It is equipped with an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, which assists in regulating the internal climate and air quality of commercial buildings, providing a healthy working environment for its inhabitants.  The building is completely airtight when sealed to further enhance this feature.

The sophisticated lighting system found in the KPMG building, has electronic sensors that detect the volume of people working in the building at all times, and makes adjustments to not only provide suitable lighting to all its staff, but also provides an opportunity for companies to save on lighting costs when certain areas are not in use.

The KPMG building uses ‘greywater recycling technology’. The term “greywater” is used to describe wastewater derived from washing processes within the building as well as captured rainwater, however excludes wastewater from the toilets.

As Polokwane is known for its high day time temperatures, large pane ‘energy saving’ glass surfaces form an integral part of the design. The glass prevents the sun’s ultra violet rays from affecting the temperature in the building, and angled louvers assist in shielding the building from excessive heat caused by the sun.

Dufourq said they have registered the building with the Green Star Council and are aiming for a 4 star, Green Star SA rating. Green Star SA is widely recognized across South Africa as an indication of buildings that have been certified by the GBCSA to satisfy certain environmental criteria, as outlined in the GBCSA Technical Manual [Green Star SA – Office Design v1].

Francois Marais Architects’ design skills stretch far beyond the borders of South Africa, and presently they are the lead architects in several developments in Lusaka, Zambia. Ensuring that both residential and commercial projects undertaken in Zambia are tailored to the Zambian lifestyle infused with trends and timeless elegance.

In our ever changing environment where time is money, and detail sacrificed for speed,

the challenges architects face to bring their visions to reality where less has become more, for the client who stretches every budget to the maximum, we at Francois Marais Architects have changed our focus to more sustainable building and designs.

Sustainable building and “Green” Architecture is a specialized field, where knowledge of the location, climate, orientation of building combined with the correct use of building techniques such as cavity walls, insulation in the walls, roofs and floors, sun protection, glass, shading devices and many more effect the internal living/working Environment.

The future challenge for an architect, will be designing functional aesthetically pleasing buildings without getting trapped by designing away sustainable structures, with exterior ornamentation.