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New City of Johannesburg Council Chamber receives five-star Green Star rating

The City of Johannesburg’s new state-of-the-art Council Chamber, which is currently under construction, has received a five-star Green Star SA-certified design rating in the category for Public and Education Buildings. According to the WSP sustainability consultants this is the first municipal Building in South Africa to be rated under the PEB tool which also achieved a Socio Economic Category Rating, as only the second project in the country to be awarded this category rating.

The New Council Chamber is the first phase of the City of Johannesburg Space Optimisation Programme which seeks to optimise space, improve efficiencies and to improve service delivery. The New Council Chamber is a transparent drum, that enables an unimpeded visual link between indoor and outdoor. This connection is one of the core values of Lekgotla, and embodies the fundamental principles of our democracy, transparency and accountability.

A Green Star rating represents a holistic approach to sustainability. While energy and water efficiency are important elements of building in a sustainable manner, the quality of the indoor environment, resource-efficient material selection and quality processes are also taken into account.

 

Why Build Green

The City commitment to the Green Agenda means that the design of the chamber looked at a number of environmental qualities.

The effect of climate change is forcing cities to consider how they will function in resource-constrained environments. The development of the new Council Chamber by Joburg Property Company embodies the City’s commitment to transparent governance as well as environmental sustainability

According to Joburg Property Company (JPC) CEO Helen Botes, the number of wards falling under the jurisdiction of the City of Johannesburg has significantly increased since 1994 and the old chamber which was constructed 40 years ago is no longer able to accommodate all ward councillors while allowing for public access to the proceedings.

“The new, larger Council Chamber has been designed with further expansion in mind. The Chamber will feature designated areas for councillors and the press as well as a public gallery to facilitate public access to municipal governance,” says Botes. It is designed to demonstrate the City’s commitment to Transparency and Accountability “ Johannesburg a city at work for democracy.”

The new Council Chamber is being constructed on vacant land south of the current chamber. The project recognises that the construction of the building is not simply about environmental sustainability, but also about promoting economic opportunities for local communities.

According the sustainability consultants WSP the Building’s green star rating is attributable mainly to the following green attributes

Energy-efficient design and natural light

The design is primarily focused on energy efficiency. A highly efficient glass, which allows light into the building while preventing heat from entering the space, is being used fo the extensive façade. The Chamber itself will be shaded from direct sunlight by the circulation area around it, providing an inherent passive shading feature to the building. The design takes advantage of natural light – adjusting the levels to optimal visual comfort while not using energy unnecessarily.

Optimal circulation of fresh air

Air-conditioned fresh air is delivered into the Chamber through displacement ventilation at floor level. This helps to reduce the energy required for cooling. The air is not recirculated at all and stale air is extracted through the centralised chimney. High levels of fresh air have been shown to improve concentration levels and prevent the transmission of airborne bacteria and viruses.

High-quality building materials, fittings and finishings

The high air quality is supported by the choice of materials, fittings and finishings, selected for their low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can cause headaches and eye, nose and skin irritations, which is why the indoor environment should be kept free of these pollutants.

Slowly released stormwater

The building has been designed to absorb stormwater into the surrounding piazza where it will be filtered and slowly released into the stormwater drains. This will relieve some of the burden of intense summer storms on an already overburdened drainage system.

All aspects of carbon reduction are considered

Concrete with a high fly-ash content is used as well as rebar made from recycled steel. These materials use less energy to manufacture and thereby reduce the embodied carbon associated with the structure. In addition, the contractor is implementing an environmental management plan that minimises the impact of the construction process and waste management on the environment.

“The final design represents an environmentally friendly building that supports the health and wellbeing of its occupants,” says Botes. The design of the chamber as a transparent glass building allows for a visual link of the outside environment and the community which council serves to have a visual connection with the council. To be the first building in this category to achieve a Five Star Green SA rating has set the benchmark in the market and shows a commitment by the City to lead and to deliver a World Class African facility.