GCIS: Africa's first Solar Facade(d) building

Merit Award
4SA Afrisam

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Africa's First Solar Facade(d) building reached practical completion on 17/5/2013 in the form of the new offices for GCIS. The building was erected in an impressive 15 months - 2 months shorter than originally programmed by the contractor Murray & Roberts Building.


The building embodies a design approach that focused on qualitative integration of the urban context, heritage sensitivities and a balanced technological input. The placement of the building aimed at expressing the 'accessibility' of Government and it's department of communication to it's people. No longer is a building placed behind site boundaries, but rather put where the people are - right in the urban domain, right on the pavement where the building is allowed to interact with the people. Through a delicate level difference at the main entrance, a clear distinction between public & semi-private is established. Balconies to the corner of the building, the northern and eastern facades also establish an interaction between the occupants of the building and the public domain.


The integration of Solar Photo Voltaic cells within the laminated glass facades to the east, north and west is an "African First". Although the technology has been around for a number of years in Asia, Europe and the America's - never before has this particular type of PV been introduced to buildings in Africa. In order to determine the efficiency and appropriateness of this technology, two types of PV facade glassing fittings are used. A research study has also been put in place to monitor the east vs north vs west facade output from the PV panels. The design avoided the costly and environmentally questionable battery-packs/plant typically associated with the use PV's. The DC output from the PV's are simply taken through an inverter and feeds directly into the building internal 'grid'. A consumption saving of 25%-30% is anticipated during normal office hours due to the introduction of the PV's. The PV's add an aesthetic appeal which reflects to the internal space of the building as well. This attempts to constantly remind all occupants of their role and responsibilities within the context of the "49m" campaign. The juxta-positioning of this 'technological' element (PV) with the 'heritage arches' on the eastern facade celebrates the design aim of integration. The three arches wh\ere constructed from the building material of the original three houses on the site. The shape and geometry of the arches are a replica of the original door ways, but now only a memory of what once was.


Due to the "private" nature of the building's use internally, not all public-private integration was possible. To allow the occupants a secure outdoor environment a 22m x 22m courtyard form the heart of the building. The canteen spills out into the courtyard which boasts a magnificent timber deck, braai facilities, putting green and water fountain. The noise of the water fountain permeates in the five levels of offices above the courtyard and provides the function of 'white noise' to the offices as well.


Ample balconies and sun-screening to the windows ensure maximum daylight to the interior of the building while avoiding the unwanted solar heat gain.


The interior of the building aimed at being crisp, light and bright but with a materiality that had to be appropriate to a Government Department. The use of colours throughout the interior helps establish a cohesion with the exterior character of the building.


Key statistics of the building:

Gross Floor Area: 18 010m²

Total Usable Area: 15 180m²

Total Parking provided: 342bays

Water Consumption: a saving of 1.1mil litres of water will be saved per annum

Electrical operation: 57W/m²

HVAC system: Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV)


We are very proud of our contribution to the building and give recognition to our associates on the project: Urban Concept architects and ADO Architects. The hope of SNA architects is for the GCIS to have a long and happy stay in this building!