First six star rated green building in Rwanda

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa, a multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy, has achieved a six star rating for its Nobelia Office Tower in Kigali, Rwanda.

Nobelia Office Tower in Kigali, Rwanda is Africa’s first six star green building outside SA.PICTURE: Carlos Arroyo Architects

This is the first six star rated green building in Rwanda, and on the entire continent – outside of South Africa.

The Nobelia Office Tower in Kigali, Rwanda, will be a 19 storey tower, of which 16 floors will be dedicated to office space. To curtail urban sprawl the 11 469m2 structure is being built on previously developed land, close to commercial, residential, recreational and retail zones. The final assessment for the design of the building has been completed, and the project owner is lobbying for funding to go ahead with construction.

“WSP’s Green by Design team was appointed to this project based on the company’s expertise and reputation as sustainability consultants, as well as its working relationships in the broader industry,” says Eloshan Naicker, WSP sustainability consultant.

“We are very proud of achieving this six star rating. At the onset of the project the owner’s brief was to produce a design that would set the bar for green buildings in the country – and we have certainly met the brief.”

According to Eudes Kayumba of the Green Building Council of Rwanda: the six star Green Star rating of this project has inspired the council to use the design of the Nobelia Office Tower as the benchmark for all future green buildings in Rwanda and the wider Central East African region.

The design phase of the project commenced in 2014 and was completed in October 2015 and WSP Green by Design was involved from conceptualisation through every phase of design – finding ways to be innovative and delivering consultation to the project team around Green Star requirements. In addition, the consultants developed a high level strategy for the project team and facilitated the implementation, to ensure quality of services could be maintained.

“The six star rating was not easily achieved, as we had a number of challenges on this project – not least of all developing the rating standards, which first had to be established for a Green Star rating to be possible in Rwanda,” says Naicker.

As the Green Building Council in Rwanda is in its infancy, a local context report had to be developed to establish the groundwork for the Green Star and set the appropriate standards for the climate and environment in Rwanda, as this is to be the standard to which all building projects will be rated. This process required a significant amount of research and assessment, all undertaken by WSP Green by Design, and submitted for assessment to the Green Building Council governing body.

Naicker says that undertaking this process also provided the Green by Design team with invaluable insights on the local environment, which was influential to key innovations in this project.

Some of the innovative and significant sustainable features of this building include:

Offsetting the importation of building products and related carbon emissions, the project specifies the use of volcanic ash, which is a natural substance and widely available in Rwanda, instead of cement, which would normally have been imported from South Africa.

The building façades contain no glass and are made of a polycarbonate material (acrylic glazing) and a mesh structure that allows plants to grow under it. The objective was to ensure vegetation could grow all over the mesh, creating natural shading. In addition, the entire façade is manufactured to be 100 percent disassembled for later reuse or recycling.

A sophisticated HVAC system will be incorporated to dehumidify the fresh air, which will be distributed through hollow core floor slabs, where the air is fed at floor level, displacing the air in the rooms and extracting it higher up at ceiling level.

Onsite waste management needed to be addressed as all organic waste will be used to create compost onsite – adding ecological value by improving soil, plant growth and biodiversity.

An onsite water treatment system will be installed, which will result in a 90 percent total reduction of water discharge by treating black and grey water for reuse onsite for irrigation and other services.

A 430 panel PV installation generating 198 804kWh/year will reduce the peak energy demand of the building by 53.4 percent.

All usable areas have occupancy sensors and LED fittings with intuitive daylight sensors, which can detect how much natural light is available and compensate for the difference.

Further recommendations were made that no formaldehyde or ozone depleting products, be used in the construction of this building, improving the quality of the indoor environment.

“Overall, during the design assessment the building achieved a high score for its energy performance potential. This score can be attributed to the reduced carbon footprint and CO2 emissions that the design was able to achieve.

“To achieve a six star rating you need to be prepared to push previously conceived boundaries. And, through the collective and dedicated efforts of the project team, we were able to achieve the best possible outcome on this project, and have certainly set the benchmark high for future green building projects in Rwanda,” says Naicker.

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