Reducing business tourism and MICE industries’ carbon footprints

Greening is a daunting prospect for some. Time and money? Yes. But greener on the other side it certainly is. Meetings SA speaks to companies that’ve already taken the eco-friendly plunge.

“It was time to extend the hard-earned green building expertise across our entire portfolio of office buildings,” says Rudolf Pienaar, Growthpoint Properties offices divisional director, explaining the company’s new R43 million project. In this bold step Growthpoint will replace all light fittings in its office portfolio – 134 office buildings spanning over one million cubic metres of office space – using the latest energy saving technology that’s been designed specifically for Growthpoint.

Besides the positive effects on the environment, the project will directly profit businesses occupying Growthpoint’s office buildings. “These savings should be substantial,” says Pienaar. Already, over the past year, the company invested R20 million on sustainability projects within its portfolio of buildings, resulting in an impressive reduction of over 14 million kilowatts in energy. This comes to a saving of nearly R12 million in annual utility costs.

Presently an innovator in environmentally friendly and energy efficient construction, Growthpoint has earned two coveted ‘as built’ four-star Green Star energy ratings for different office developments in KwaZulu-Natal. “Reducing clients’ energy consumption, and therefore their costs, while improving the working environment makes sense both ecologically and economically,” adds Pienaar.

Essop Basha, head of Growthpoint’s dedicated utilities division, says: “The lighting retrofit for the office portfolio reflects the sustainability policy that’s at the core of our ethos.” Upgrading all the light fittings is only the start of much bigger things to come. Pienaar concludes: “It’s important to keep the ultimate objective in mind that it’s not just to offer energy efficient buildings, but buildings that are sustainable and vibrant offering perfect accommodation for people to achieve their full potential and for businesses to thrive.”

From office blocks to luxury hotels, options are limitless when it comes to greening. The Townhouse Hotel & Conference Centre in the Mother City is seeing superb results from its extensive green conferencing programme. “It’s the hotel’s responsible tourism initiatives that have helped position it as a leader in the conference industry,” says Jacqui Williams, general manager of The Townhouse Hotel & Conference Centre.

She continues: “In September 2009 we appointed a ‘green team’ that drives the hotel’s sustainability initiatives, consisting of representatives from all our departments., Our most recent project saw the completion of the first phase of an energy consumption reduction project. In partnership with Jamtech Projects, Intellibus and Eskom, we replaced all of our halogen and incandescent bulbs in the conference centre with LED light bulbs. We also installed motion sensors in the conference venues to regulate lighting efficiency, thereby significantly reducing our energy consumption by 45%.”

Other sustainability initiatives include a Green Room Policy, with air conditioners being turned off in unoccupied rooms and conference venues. The hotel has installed heat pumps to generate hot water, and has implemented a Green Procurement Policy whereby all chemicals used in rooms are environmentally sound and products such as pencils and paper are bio-degradable and recyclable.

“Organic and locally produced fruit and vegetables are served as part of the menus in the Lounge and at the in-house restaurant, Trees,” explains Williams. “We also recently created a herb garden on the hotel’s rooftop.”

Stefan Schmidt, the hotel’s Michelin-trained executive chef, who also leads the hotel’s ‘green team’, explains: “We’re committed to reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint, using local meats and only fresh ingredients in all our dishes.”

Shopping centres, larger ones in particular, are some of the biggest energy and power consumers in the country. Noting this, Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga, has taken relevant measures to lower its carbon footprint. Since August 2011, the shopping centre’s power consumption has been closely monitored and managed, a move that will save property owners Old Mutual Property (OMP) a considerable amount in annual energy costs.

Gateway is one of the most prestigious shopping centres in South Africa with 150 000 m2 of general letting area, almost 400 shop fronts, and 24 million visitors per year passing through its doors. The centre faces the same energy costing challenges as any large facility in the country where Eskom’s NMD tariff rules apply – if the centre exceeds notified maximum demand, the facility is charged a premium on power usage.

“Maintaining a cost-effective ‘green’ facility is non-negotiable criteria for OMP as one of the leading property management groups in South Africa and a founding member of the Green Building Council of South Africa. With the implementation of this energy monitoring and management solution, one of our most important long-term goals – a key driver of the R6 million integrated intelligent building automation strategy launched at Gateway in 2009 – is being realised,” explains Ken Davidson from OMP’s property investments division.

The power management solution has been made possible thanks to Johnson Controls Metasys Building Management System (BMS) installed at the centre.

Johnson Controls’ Ian Hargreaves says: “To adequately manage the centre’s consumption and utility bill, it needs to measure power usage in real time and act quickly to keep usage in peak periods below the maximum.” He adds: “We’ve been able to do this by integrating a Panel Track Energy Metering System to the centre’s now upgraded and IP enabled Metasys building management system.”

For both Johnson Controls and OMIG the energy management solution is a flagship one. “This the second energy management solution that the OMIG has implemented with Johnson Controls, the first being at the Menlyn shopping centre in Pretoria. We hope that it will serve as a showcase to other property owners, incentivising them to also implement technology enabled green strategies. It’s an investment that’s paying off for us,” concludes Davidson.

It’s all very well to hold your conference or event at a green venue, but what about when it comes to delegate bags, pens, pencils and notebooks? Are those green too? At the 2012 SAACI conference each delegate was given a stylish 100% green notebook and pen supplied by Green Stationery.

Green Stationery is the first stationery supplier in the country to specialise in eco-friendly stationery. Its product range, including pens, pencils, notebooks, and bags, is carefully selected to replace your current often environmentally unfriendly, stationery items at about the same price levels. The products undergo a series of quality and safety tests according to Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations, including tests for lead and other heavy metals, so the stationery is safe for your health and the environment.

Green Stationery products are made from PLA, a bio-degradable plastic of natural plant matter, not petroleum. It has the advantages of being economical, bio-degradable and independent from the cost of oil. Under conditions of soil temperature of about 15°C and humidity of 80 to 90%, PLA will decompose into the earth within 60 to 90 days.

So is green the new black? Most definitely.

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