Zutari ensures world-class sustainability ratings for top-rated projects

Despite the slowdown in new-build projects, Zutari is still receiving enquiries from property developers keen to pursue Green Star ratings. The engineering consultant has worked on two out of only a handful of projects in South Africa to receive an As-Built 6 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), the highest level of sustainability accreditation in the country. This demonstrates the skills and knowledge of the Zutari team to successfully deliver consulting and certification for such large, complex commercial projects.

The first was One Discovery Place in Sandton, developed by Growthpoint Properties in joint venture with Zenprop Holdings. As the Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) consultant, Zutari was responsible for integrating the design and building services, explains Yovka Raytcheva-Schaap, Associate, ESD Consulting & Project Management.

In addition to achieving a 6 Star Green Star As Built rating and a 5 Star Green Star Design rating, the Exxaro head office in Centurion, also developed by Growthpoint Properties, is the first building in South Africa to achieve Silver Level WELL certification for Core and Shell by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

One Discovery Place and the Exxaro head office are not only in the top echelon of ‘green’ buildings in South Africa, but can be benchmarked against the best internationally. In addition, the tenant Exxaro is also pursuing a Green Star ‘Interiors’ rating for the head office, reveals Louwna Joubert, ESD Consultant at Zutari.

“The overlap between all of these different ratings and certifications is the indoor environmental quality category. The interior design team did an excellent job and ticked all of the boxes, from large open spaces and space planning that allows views to the outdoors and immediate connection of occupants to appropriate material and finish selections,” highlights Joubert. “It is really a journey you embark upon with a lengthy project like this. The entire professional team has to collaborate in terms of problem-solving and it is a proud moment when you see the end result.

“Pursuing a Green Star rating for a project of this scale is all about co-creating a tailored solution to meet the client’s specific requirements. It is a truly integrated approach with all working together to achieve a common goal of sustainability,” stresses Joubert.

Explaining how the Green Star certification and WELL rating process dovetailed at the Exxaro head office, Raytcheva-Schaap notes that a high score was the goal from the outset. “During the concept design phase, we explored the option for a WELL rating because both the client and tenant were keen to push the envelope.” While Green Star targets environmental sustainability, WELL focuses on occupant health and well-being.

“It was a natural process to leverage Green Star targets towards a WELL rating. From our early assessments, it was clear that WELL certification was also within our reach,” adds Raytcheva-Schaap. The health of building occupants is currently under the spotlight due to the Covid-19 pandemic, from ensuring infection control measures in air-conditioning systems to creating a healthy and comfortable indoor working environment.

In terms of current property trends, Raytcheva-Schaap sees an increased focus on developments that pursue greater energy and water efficiency and increased indoor environmental quality. “This will really contribute to the sector promoting better living and more sustainable practices that are likely to become the norm rather than the exception going forward.”

Key to Zutari’s success in this sector to date has been its approach of promoting an ‘engineered impact’ for its clients. “Our team is composed of members from diverse professional backgrounds and with different skill and experience levels. Our multidisciplinary service offering definitely contributes to what we can provide as complete solutions for clients,” elaborates Raytcheva-Schaap. Looking at the Covid-19 pandemic in particular, Zutari has developed a comprehensive tool to assess buildings in terms of their readiness for return to office after the prolonged lockdown. In addition, Zutari collaborated with the GBCSA to develop a broad guideline for such safe return. “Many are expected to do so in the New Year. However, the pandemic is not over yet, so it is important that property owners implement operational and management practices to ensure the health and wellbeing of building occupants when they do return,” concludes Raytcheva-Schaap.