8 July 2022

Working towards a more energy-efficient Waterfall

This article marks the fourth in our series of articles where we delve deeper into the underlying infrastructure of the broader Waterfall development. Here, the spotlight turns to everything energy-related and how, together with our partners, our eco-friendly planning has identified ways in which the development can reduce carbon emissions across the residential and commercial ecosystem.

Given global concerns around the lasting damage fossil fuels are causing to the planet, it has been imperative for Waterfall to think creatively and leverage more sustainable resources as it moves towards a net-zero carbon footprint.

Willie Vos, CEO of the Waterfall Management Company, says it is important to use relevant technology to analyse how the development uses its energy infrastructure, and how to harness solar potential more effectively.

“The sun is a free energy source, but to benefit from it requires an integrated approach. Whether it is the passive climatic design of homes and buildings to maximise natural light and conserve energy, or using gas to provide an additional advantage, our specialists have considered a plethora of options,” says Vos.

From the ground up

At a fundamental level, Waterfall has adopted a strong environmentally-conscious approach to planning and development when it comes to energy. Given the greenfield nature of the development and how almost every building on Waterfall is, in effect, a new-build, it was an ideal opportunity to implement and encourage passive climatic design principles and introduce green innovation rather than trying to retrofit existing buildings later.

Many of the homes within Waterfall are thermally efficient, where lessees were encouraged to build using solar geysers and panels, energy-efficient lighting, and low energy consumption fittings and appliances. Such homes are proven to promote both energy- and water-efficient usage, are more comfortable to live in, have long-term cost benefits and much higher resale values. Developments such as Waterfall Country Estate, Waterfall Country Village Estate, Waterfall Valley and The Polofields also use piped LP gas as a highly effective alternative to traditional electricity.

A sustainable approach provides the golden thread across all residential developments within Waterfall. The intention is to keep the carbon footprint small, air pollution low, and energy efficiency high.

“Everything that is planned within Waterfall is focused on using as much alternative energy as possible. This also includes installing smart water and electricity meters to optimally manage the environment. New developments incorporate aspects like LED lights, double glazing, and insulation on ceilings and under floors, to improve energy consumption,” Vos adds.

Taking control

In conjunction with Attacq, Waterfall’s commercial developer, the Waterfall Management Company is also looking at the possibility of buying its grid back from Eskom to start generating its own electricity. While it is still early days, given the complexities around the regulatory environment, everything done within Waterfall concerning energy is approached with this prospect in mind.

“Our intention is to use as little energy from the traditional grid as possible. Already, many of our billboards and most of our CCTV cameras are powered by solar. Furthermore, we have begun the process of changing the traffic lights within the development to solar,” says Vos.

Even so, Waterfall has been in the fortunate position to have worked closely with Eskom since inception to have its electricity supplied directly by the provider, resulting in a substantial saving for users.

“The entire electricity grid within Waterfall has been designed by our engineers and approved by Eskom. Once it was completed, ownership was transferred to Eskom to manage. As a key customer of Eskom, Waterfall has an excellent relationship with the incumbent,” says Lourens du Toit, Head of Sustainability, Infrastructure and Land at Attacq.

Green buildings

Kyra Rautenbach, Sustainability Manager at Attacq, says that working directly with Eskom means that Waterfall is on a low tariff. “The energy efficiency we are incorporating across the development, therefore, brings with it significant benefits from both commercial and residential perspectives. At Attacq, our focus has been on incorporating resilience into the commercial side to ensure a lower cost of occupancy. We have aligned our operational teams with the development managers, as everybody from the top to ground level commits to maximising energy efficiency,” she says.

To this end, the newly-completed Nexus 1 building was recently certified by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) as Waterfall’s first Net Zero Building. Its efficient design and solar power system ensure that there is enough renewable energy to meet the building’s needs, resulting in zero operational carbon emissions.

To date, there are 27 green-rated buildings in the precinct. “This highlights the calibre of the buildings we are constructing within Waterfall. We are also fortunate that because our Waterfall portfolio is new, the energy infrastructure is working as well as it should be,” says Rautenbach.

Perfect balance

Rautenbach says that all aspects of building design have focused on energy efficiency. Passive energy measures like the building envelope and glass; and active systems, like lighting and heating, have been implemented to work in unison with one another.

“With these puzzle pieces in place, we can ensure everything is optimised, from an energy perspective. Solar becomes the last step in the process, where we offset the remainder of the usage when the building becomes fully operational,” adds Rautenbach.

It is not only new buildings that benefit from energy efficiencies but existing ones in the portfolio as well. One such example is the flagship facility, Mall of Africa, which was retrofitted with solar in 2018, following its opening in 2016. Today, the mall boasts an extensive rooftop solar PV/diesel integrated plant, the largest of its kind in the world. The installation covers most of the available roof space, approximately 45 000m², and the energy generated is used to power part of the Mall’s daily operations.

On-premises sub-stations

Further enhancing the energy environment is the fact that there are three sub-stations within Waterfall dedicated to commercial users, two sub-stations for residential users, and another sub-station focused on Vantage Data Centers’ first-ever African campus currently being built within Waterfall. In total, these six sub-stations see Eskom supplying Waterfall with 180MW (megawatts) of power.

“The overhead electricity lines running from the Waterfall sub-station, located off Allandale Road, into Megawatt Park are being upgraded. Due for completion at the end of the third quarter next year, this upgrade will not only benefit Waterfall, but the surrounding community as well. The additional capacity supported by these upgraded cables will inject further efficiencies into the environment,” adds du Toit.

However, the work on energy optimisation is far from done. Says Vos: “We will do whatever we can to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel. Already, we have the capacity and the ability to make a significant difference in improving our energy usage.”

Piet Joubert, GM of the Waterfall Management Company, agrees. “Pioneers like Waterfall always face teething problems. We have the expertise to harness the likes of solar and other alternative energy measures, but throughout this process, we must keep in mind that whatever is done must be economically feasible. On an individual residential level, it might not be a problem. When it comes to doing something on the scale of a city, then regulations must be taken into consideration, to create a truly world-class infrastructure environment. Sustainability has been integrated into every aspect of Waterfall, ensuring that every development, be it commercial, logistics or residential, is efficient, cost-effective and eco-friendly,” he concludes.