Changing the way we define ‘value’
Sustainability is the ‘new normal’
As the world begins to show signs of a return to normalcy, sustainability has become the rallying point for business strategy the world over. New research shows that companies that prioritise Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles are more resilient in turbulent times and better able to navigate headwinds. According to the Financial Times, investors have caught onto this trend and between April and June this year, they injected record sums into sustainable investment funds during the COVID-19 pandemic – over $71.1bn of net inflows globally.
The same can be said for the property sector, where a firm commitment to sustainability has been proven to safeguard against a range of socioeconomic and environmental issues. Nowhere is this more true, than in Waterfall, Gauteng’s fastest growing business and lifestyle node.
Building a smart resilient city
Waterfall is unique in that it has been built from the ground up, leveraging the very best in urban design and green technology. The flagship development for Attacq and the Waterfall Management Company, sustainability has been integrated into every aspect of this burgeoning city.
A cornerstone of sustainability is measurement, and for this, data is a crucial asset – and its application for insights is critical to how Waterfall has been developed. The more data gathered, analysed and leveraged to inform strategy, the more meaningful its contribution to environmental impact reduction can be. Attacq recently partnered with GCX, the sustainability business specialists, to implement an Eco-Analytics Dashboard which allows the company to monitor the environmental and financial elements that contribute to Waterfall’s carbon footprint in real-time.
Chief Development Officer at Attacq, Giles Pendleton, says; “Innovations such as these allow for improved reporting and greater insight into how our buildings are performing as standalone assets. In this way, we are able to work together with our clients to change behaviours, or implement initiatives that reduce consumption, individual carbon footprints and ultimately, their cost of occupancy.”
Investing in the things that matter
Attacq, in conjunction with Waterfall Management Company, is in the process of installing a scientific grade weather station which once up and running will provide access to local climate patterns and insights. Data such as this can be used by engineers to design air conditioning and ventilation systems tailored for the local conditions, or shared as an alert via the GO Waterfall App with local residents who may choose to adjust their in-house units to better climatise to the weather conditions of the day. The uses for this kind of data are endless.
Sustainable by design
When setting up the original architectural guidelines for the residential developments for Waterfall, the Waterfall Management Company enlisted the help of Century Property Developments to deliver a robust set of guidelines that prioritised the environment in terms of aesthetics and design.
“These guidelines are still in place today and advocate the use of raw materials such as brick and concrete in their natural forms, both of which have a lower carbon footprint, are less reliant on grid energy and are better for the environment,” says Wille Vos, CEO of the Waterfall Management Company.
Century have also always been great believers in green technology and in their spec houses and cluster developments on Waterfall, they have strived to create homes that use less than 50% of the energy used by a normal home. They implemented all the things they feel people should do when building a green home, like installing insulation under the floor slabs and in the walls, in addition to in the roof to make the house far more thermally stable. Al the homes have LED lighting, double glazed windows and sliding doors, with a wood-burning fire place and have liquid petroleum gas piped to the home to power stove hobs and geysers.
“Our approach applies across all residential developments within Waterfall, whether they are our own or those of a partner. In 2019, Balwin properties registered 16,000 units for the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) certification, covering more homes than any single property developer in the world to date. The EDGE standard requires a minimum of a 20% reduction across energy consumption, water usage and embodied energy in materials. Balwin has also launched South Africa’s first green home loan, the Absa Eco Home Loan – which is now available for buyers in the EDGE-certified Polofields development on Waterfall,” adds Vos.
“Furthermore, in an effort to save water, we have built an Ozone Water Purifying Plant which we use to purify water from the Jukskei river, which is then used to irrigate all the common areas on Waterfall.” Vos concluded
“In terms of landscaping, we promote the use of indigenous trees, grasses and plants as they are much more water-wise and attract indigenous bird species. We have so far achieved around 80% indigenous landscaping within residential estates and are proud of our 100% indigenous landscaping in all common areas.”
Rehabilitating the Jukskei River
The Jukskei River meanders through Waterfall all the way from the Munyaka development in the south-east to the Waterfall Country Estate in the north-west. The picturesque river is a great asset for the development, since it creates a natural greenbelt with an abundance of indigenous tree varieties and other flora that not only attracts a wide range of birdlife, but lends itself to scenic walking and biking trails, parks and rest areas along the river’s grassy embankments.
The Jukskei spring is located near Ellis Park stadium. Before flowing into Waterfall at the Kikuyu development, the river flows through Hillbrow, many industrial areas and informal settlements like Alexandra, which results in it being continuously polluted. Keeping this river pristine for the enjoyment of all, used to be a full-time job requiring an 18-man team fighting a losing battle against the large amount of litter that comes down the river on a daily basis. In a normal summer month, the team removed up to 12 skip-loads of waste (72m3). We soon realised that this way of cleaning the river was ineffectual. A better long-term solution lay in building a litter trap across the river, which would catch the bulk of the trash flowing downstream. Application to construct the litter trap was lodged with the Department of Water Affairs in early 2017, with permission finally granted in December of that year. It took the authorities a while to realise that keeping the river clean is not just in the interest of Waterfall, it’s in the interest of the city as a whole, since the river flows through many areas of Johannesburg and all the way to the Hartebeespoort Dam.
While planning the construction and funding of a permanent concrete and steel litter trap, the Waterfall Common Services Company researched, designed and implemented a temporary litter trap in May 2018 at the ingress of Country Estate. This floating trap is basically a net to catch litter, attached to a ski-rope, kept afloat by buoys. The rope extends well beyond the normal water line, so that when the river rises in a downpour, the trap has room to rise with it and will continue to do its job. The net has been designed with a break link, so that if a tree or a mattress, for example, comes down, the net simply breaks at the link and floats downriver, where it is recovered and reinstalled. The net itself is around a metre deep to allow fish to pass underneath, and is made up of four panels, so even if something tears it, it is a simple matter to replace the damaged panel only. This solution proved to be incredibly effective – catching around 90% of the rubbish that comes down. While the river cleaning crew used to remove up to 12 skip-loads of litter per month by hand, this amount was more than doubled thanks to the trap, with 150m3 of waste being removed on average monthly. This amount can increase to 300m3 or even 450m3 a month in the rainy season.
The incredible effectiveness of the trap freed up some of the river team’s time, allowing them to manage the the 82 hectares of green belt around the river more effectively. We are trying to keep the area indigenous and weed free, which entails constant elimination of invasive species, something the large volume of litter in the river was keeping us from attending to in good time. The ultimate goal is to turn Waterfall’s greenbelt into a genuine Highveld riverine environment, so that Waterfall can offer a true Gauteng nature experience.
The latest happy news on this front is that Balwin took up the challenge of constructing a permanent litter trap at the ingress of Kikuyu where the Jukskei flows into Waterfall. Construction commenced in (month) 2020 with the trap expecting to be completed in November. This trap consists of a wide concrete structure forming a bridge across the river, with steel grating extending down into the water at a 45˚ angle. The river was widened into a stilling pond just before the litter trap, designed to spread out any floating trash evenly across the width of the grate. The grate traps the litter which is then raked up by personnel standing on top of the bridge and disposed of in skips. The trap is expected to catch 98% of the litter that comes down the river and plans are in place to recycle most of this trash.
The birds and the bees – environmental stewardship
Another unique initiative currently underway is Waterfall’s biodiversity enhancement strategy. Under this initiative, a biodiversity specialist will explore how Waterfall City can improve, or reintroduce, biodiversity within the area. Waterfall City plans to create sanctuaries for insects, birds, animals and plant species to thrive.
Closing the loop on waste
In terms of waste control, Waterfall is currently reviewing its entire waste management system to incorporate circular economy approaches that assess all the material flows in it waste streams. The aim is to look at reuse, reduce, recycle strategies to conserve what can be re-deployed, ensuring that nothing is lost or wasted. This conservation approach extends to all of Waterfall’s water and energy optimisation initiatives.
“In general, we work on a 4-day resilience in terms of water across the precinct. The Mall of Africa has 2.2million litres of stored water, and most recently, we added 295 kilolitres worth of rainwater harvesting storage within the precinct. We aim to reduce dependency on municipal supply, improving water quality and decreasing our impact on the environment,” adds Pendleton.
“At Waterfall, we understand that secure supply of water is a critical business continuity enabler. As a precinct, we’ve worked hard to invest in the things that matter, ensuring that through our dedicated water and energy infrastructure, any possible interruptions to client business needs by water shortages or load shedding are minimised. In fact, Mall of Africa houses the largest rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system of its kind in the southern hemisphere,”he notes.
Paving ways for diverse commuters
Kyra Rautenbach, sustainability manager at Attacq says; “Over and above these elements, as a precinct, we have also made substantial material investments in transport infrastructure and inclusive urban design to ensure that the node is easily accessible for residents and visitors. In terms of accessibility, Waterfall’s purpose-built Allandale interchange was ranked “Best Interchange in Johannesburg”, according to the 2017 Interchange Index. And Waterfall City comprises over 6km of walkable pedestrian routes that are fitted with over 380 directly-monitored cameras.”
Public transport is an important element of Waterfall’s commuter proposition, and to support this, Attacq has constructed a Public Transport Holding Facility to facilitate a safe and convenient taxi experience. This development comprises offices, a canteen, ablution amenities, refuse facilities and a taxi holding bay, and has achieved a 5-Star Green Star SA PEB v1 rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).
Waterfall – a landmark in proven value
Globally, there is a growing movement to change the way we define ‘value’. Increasingly, investors are looking beyond conventional financial data and assessing the ‘intangibles’ when reviewing the merits of a particular investment. Rising social consciousness, which continues to bring to bear the importance of ESG principles being given due consideration in business strategy and operations, is having a significant influence on the economic case for developments to be built for sustainability. Attacq and the Waterfall Management Company are amongst some of the world’s pioneering property companies leading the charge for the development of sustainable and inclusive cities of the future.
Waterfalls Sustainability Fun Facts – Infographic
- Over 6km of Walkable pedestrian routes in the CBD
- 380 directly monitored cameras in Waterfall City
- Mall of Africa houses the largest rooftop solar PV system in the southern hemisphere.
- The litter trap installed in the Jukskei river catches on average 150m3 of waste monthly
- Scientific grade weather station currently being installed
- 270kl rainwater harvesting tank at the Deloitte building
- 5-Star Green Star SA PEB v1 rated Public Transport Holding Facility