Discovery Building, South Africa

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

“The Discovery building is 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, has occupied their new landmark headquarters in Gauteng’s economic hub, Sandton. The project made 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 initiatives.

The project started in 2014 and was completed in 2018, making it one of the largest and greenest office buildings in Africa. The Discovery building has 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, or approximately 18 rugby fields, with an additional 24 rugby fields of parking space.

The Discovery building was developed by Growthpoint in joint venture with Zenprop Property Holdings. It received a 5-Star Green Star SA rating and it extends the boundaries of an energy efficient, environment- and occupant-friendly building. Aurecon provided 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, curved façade that draws light into the building and is critical to thermal heat control.

As the ESD consultant, Aurecon’s role was to integrate the design of the architecture and building services from a sustainability point of view so that the building achieves the desired energy and water efficiencies, responsible use of construction materials, responsible waste handling and, simultaneously, the requirements for occupants’ health and wellbeing. Features of the new building which have contributed to the rating include energy optimisation through the advanced design features of its envelope and building services.

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 Discovery building extends beyond providing IEQ (Indoor Environment 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.

Aurecon’s aim with the Discovery head office project was to not only deliver a word class sustainable building, but to provide an incredible client experience that would build a relationship with the largest property owner in South Africa. Utilising various digital platforms such 3D modelling, CFD analyses, energy modelling as well daylight and glare modelling, enabled the team to provide a fully-integrated BIM solution. The successful delivery of this project resulted in a flagship project for the client; a landmark that differentiated them as the best in their field. Discovery was the first building forming part of Sandton Summit, a large precinct to be developed in Johannesburg. The project team was re-appointed to help with the delivery of this world class sustainable smart precinct.

As challenging as the project was due to its size, complexity and construction over 36 months, the project team delivered the landmark building in March 2018.
“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.

The project won three South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) awards in 2019 – apart from taking top honours in the Interiors and Office Developments: Corporate categories, it was also named the Overall Winner. In addition, it received a commendation at the Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) AON Engineering Excellence Awards in the category 'Projects with a value greater than R250 million' in 2019.

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