Never too late to Green

Built in 1904, 14 Loop Street has now been extensively refurbished – on the inside and out. The result is that it has been transformed into a prestigious, upmarket office block, and sets a new benchmark in green building development in the process.

Rob Kane, chairman of the Central City Improvement District (CCID) and director of Vunani Properties, which owns the building, says the company was attracted to 14 Loop Street as it is the last city block to be upgraded in what is fast becoming the financial heart of the city. Some of its other recent commercial developments in Cape Town include The Decks on Green Market Square and 56 Short Market Street. “Vunani has developed or bought properties in the CBD of over R250m,” says Kane. “This shows our own faith in the future of the CBD”.

He says “going green”, while still retaining the old character of a building, is still a fairly new concept in South Africa, although it is fast becoming a trend with both tenants and landlords.

He says as far as possible, his company sees all its future developments having to be ‘green’ and this is always a challenge as, at the moment, tenants want green but are not willing to pay the premium for it. “This presents the developer with a tough decision as most of the costs of being green are for his account (upfront) but most of the benefits are for the tenant,” says Kane.

Asked why green features like these are important, he says: “The current (high) energy usage of buildings in SA is not sustainable and more and more companies are realizing that the green road is the only one to take”.

Most commercial buildings have an average life span of 24 years, which makes “going green” a priority for the future. 14 Loop Street’s “green” features include large double-glazed, tinted, openable windows that let in lots of natural light and require substantially less air-conditioning. The air-conditioning system is low energy, low emission. Toilets are dual flush and urinals are waterless. Recycled materials were used in the renovation. In addition, power consumption will be reduced and water is collected off the roof for reticulation into the building’s grey water system.

“There is always a balance between commercial viability and wanting to provide sustainable developments. With 14 Loop Street, we seem to have achieved an acceptable balance,” says Kane. The development value of the building is R34 million.

Tenant, Dr Guy Preston, Head of the Department of Water and Forestry’s (DWAF) “Working for Water Programme,” says the building is “perfect” for the programme’s needs.

“This is the only building we considered that met our green requirements. It’s an example of what can be achieved, and I have no doubt that it sets new standards for green buildings in the future,” he says.
Preston adds that DWAF worked closely with Vunani in the refurbishment process and is “highly impressed” with the final product.

He says 14 Loop Street will act as an inspiration, and as a trendsetter, for developers who take the green concept seriously.

“It’s wonderful to see what can be done, and how an old building can retain its essential character, while undergoing a major renovation, with green considerations top of the agenda,” he says.

He says the building’s large windows will be obvious to passersby, and the low height partitioning will be easily notices by visitors, as will some of the reconstituted/recycled/renewable materials used. But most of the other green features are largely hidden (like the efficient air conditioning system, collection and use of rain water, double glazed tinted windows, etc).

“We are also very pleased to be located right in the middle of a city that has undergone major, lasting change in recent years. It’s a vibrant, safe place to be and it’s wonderful to see so many big businesses returning to the CBD after a long absence,” he says.

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