Verde green

Cape Town boasts most sustainable African hotel

The Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development & Tourism, Alan Winde, opened Hotel Verde, Africa's greenest hotel

Having set themselves the target of building Africa’s greenest hotel, Hotel Verde owners, Mario and Annemarie Delicio, have not just put Cape Town on the map; the couple has set the trend in the hospitality industry in the field of creating a green environment on the continent.

Guy Stehlik, CEO of BON Hotels, says the significance of being involved in a project of this nature is invaluable, as he witnessed the team going to great lengths to minimise the hotel’s carbon footprint, from (under) the ground up. The location’s large solar arrays are to provide power to the establishment as well as shade to the patrons who visit from the scorching heat of the sun.

André Harms, Hotel Verde’s sustainability consultant, is the expert behind some of the more technical aspects of the building: “We had the opportunity to change the status quo here and we looked at different ways of doing everything, right from the word go.”

This includes various methods of “dematerialisation”. The hotel is built with concrete slabs containing recycled materials, using Cobaix Void Formers. Strategically placing these recycled polypropylene, hollow spheres save approximately 1 279 tons of concrete, while maintaining structural integrity.

Harms says in order to bypass the need for standard air-conditioning systems, traditionally one of the biggest energy consumers, the hotel uses geothermal heat pumps coupled to 100 boreholes drilled approximately 65 metres into the ground, where the temperature is a consistent 19 degrees. “A complex network of pumps and piping (specifically designed for the hotel) that use the earth as a heat source in winter and ‘heat sink’ in summer, boost efficiency and dramatically reducing operational costs.”

Hotel Verde also boasts photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and a sophisticated grey water recycling plant that will reduce the hotel’s water consumption by a massive 37%.

“The interior of the hotel has been carefully considered, with a lot of thought going in to the functionality required from its position as an airport hotel, to the visual appeal, all tying in to the green aspect. Natural, fresh, optimum temperature airflow is fed into every room and will reduce the need to use the air conditioner,” says Harms.

Guests are encouraged to embrace its greening philosophy and will be offered rewards for sustainable practices during their stay. Verde’s general manager, Samantha Annandale, says the establishment wants to educate guests as well as encourage them to minimise their impact on the environment. We have come up with fun, subtle ways to do that, which will hopefully become second nature that guests then take home with them.”

“There is strong emphasis on natural lighting throughout each of the rooms and everything is geared towards technical convenience of the highest standard. The fully equipped hotel gym is the first in Africa to have power-generating equipment. These machines push power back into the hotel as you work out,” Annandale says.

Should the importance of green buildings still be doubted, its potential to improve the quality of life should not be underestimated.

Green Building organization reports that air quality is a lot better inside green buildings than traditional buildings and green buildings are usually more efficient in using natural light inside the structure.

According to the website Scientific American, natural light is important for humans because it doesn’t create as much stress on our eyes as artificial light. "Large amounts of sunlight can also help people feel happier; and green buildings have started to target this factor in medical buildings.”

From a financial point of view, it is wrongly assumed that the construction of a green buildings is more costly than that of a 'traditional' building. However, this is often not the case. In some cases the additional costs might be higher initially but once the sustainability is achieved the buildings pay it back over time, as is the case with solar panels.

Leading analysts and green building specialists say the trend towards sustainable building or green building initiatives is gaining traction in South Africa, and this is being driven partly by increases in administered prices such as electricity.

According to the Green Building Council South Africa, six new buildings received a Green Star SA rating recently, boosting the total number of certified buildings to 37. A further 87 buildings are registered and are aiming to achieve a Green Star SA rating.

Marc Edwards, CEO of Tower Property Fund, says properties in their portfolio with strong green credentials have electricity costs of “about R8/m² against a normal office block’s electricity cost of between R30/m² and R40/m²”.


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