Discovery Building, South Africa

Aurecon helps to develop one of the largest and greenest office buildings in Africa

“The Discovery building is set to become a pioneering green precinct concept due to its behemoth size and the way that employee wellbeing and health is at the heart of all the design principles,” says Martin Smith, Aurecon Technical Director – Buildings.

One of South Africa’s largest health insurance and financial services providers, Discovery, is building their new landmark headquarters in Gauteng’s economic hub, Sandton. The project is making waves in the local built environment due to the sheer size of the development, and the way in which employee wellness is being promoted through the design, as well as its green ambitions.

The first phase of the project, which started in 2014 with completion expected in 2018, is set to become one of the largest and greenest office buildings in Africa completed in 2018. The Discovery building will have a ground floor plus eight levels of office space, a Tier 3 plus data centre and an activities-related feature roof level. The Gross Floor Area (GFA) of Phase 1 and 2 combined is approximately 150 000 m2. Once completed, it will be the size of 18 rugby fields, with an additional 24 rugby fields’ worth of space for parking.

The Discovery building is being developed by Growthpoint in joint venture with Zenprop Property Holdings. It is the largest commercial office building in South Africa targeting a 5-Star Green Star SA rating and it extends the boundaries of an energy efficient, environment- and occupant-friendly building. Aurecon is providing mechanical and ESD (Environmental Sustainable Design) services for the project. Green initiatives include optimally designed energy efficient lighting, grey and rainwater harvesting systems, water-efficient sanitary fittings, as well as carbon monoxide monitoring in the basement. Aurecon also carried out in-depth analysis on the striking, swirling facade that draws light into the building and is critical to thermal heat control.

Some of the strongest design principles are the ideas of people well-being and movement, with features such as a rooftop running track, an indigenous landscaped roof garden, and visually attractive staircases that encourage staff to use stairs instead of elevators. The building features an abundance of natural light with most of the building being wrapped around a series of sunlit atria that plug into a central concourse, the largest atrium being big enough to house a Boeing 737.

The vision for the Discovery building extends beyond providing IEQ (Internal Environmental Quality) for the occupants, to the integration of a building into a healthier, more desirable surrounding precinct. The spaces between the buildings and how the buildings connect to these spaces, is what provides a livable, valuable precinct. The publicly accessible ground floor spills out into a landscaped podium and this will be extended as a ‘precinct connector’ to other developments in the area through innovative pedestrian links.

The magnitude of the project is one of the main challenges. Employing various highly experienced subcontractors and using digital tools such as Building Information Management (BIM) and 3D modelling were crucial to delivering project milestones on deadline.

“Being a part of this landmark project has been an honour as well as a fantastic learning curve as to what can be achieved when sustainability, wellness and community are the golden thread throughout each design decision,” comments Smith.

Growthpoint Properties Limited, a co-developer and owner of the site, received the 2016 CESA Aon Visionary Client of the Year Award in the Private Sector category.

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