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Contents of June 2008

South African cities: management will sustain rejuvenation

What’s new and happening?


Environment-sensitive buildings across South Africa  


Is the rejuvenation of Johannesburg’s inner city sustainable?

Will the Ellis Park Precinct be more than just a “pretty face”?



Diatoms: a novel method for monitoring urban waters

IFAT international reveals trends in waste management

Lilliesleaf alters the landscape

Buffer strips: apartheid legacy

Public participation of value?



Urban management required
South African cities are in desperate need of better management of waste and the urban environment, as well as maintenance practices.

Relevance to the issues of the day is of utmost importance in publishing a magazine. In the case of Urban Green File, the topic is broad: urban environmental planning and management.

And it is difficult to ensure all relevant topics are covered in each edition. However, with one’s ear close to the ground and by criss-crossing our cities on many visits to the offices of municipalities, developers and consultants, it is not impossible to stay abreast of the topics the industry deems important.

Right now, the move towards energy- and water-efficient buildings is significant. Urban Green File has, therefore, dedicated several pages to the topic of green buildings. Urban rejuvenation is another subject many designers, property owners and municipal officials face so it also gets significant space in this magazine. In this edition, the city visit and the Ellis Park Precinct address urban rejuvenation.

It is obvious South African cities will only become environmentally-sound once better waste and pollution management practices are adopted. Litter and pollution in the form of solid-waste disposal, sub-standard sanitation infrastructure, and effluent emanating from households and industry, threaten the very existence of our cities. For this edition, Urban Green File travelled to Munich in Germany to source information on the latest environmental technologies.

The future of South Africa’s cities does not only depend on waste management but also on sound general urban management and maintenance. I, for one, cannot help but worry that all the money and effort being spent on the upgrading of 2010 stadium precincts could go to waste. Considerable funds were spent a decade ago when Johannesburg hosted the All Africa Games yet the landscaping and street furniture around the ”improved” Ellis Park Precinct quickly went to waste after the closing ceremony. Are Johannesburg’s city officials taking the need for precinct management into account in their budgets this time round? It would be a travesty for investment in the Ellis Park Precinct to go to waste after the closing of the 2010 Fifa World Cup!

In accordance with our drive to remain relevant to our readership, the content package of Urban Green File is constantly reinvented.

Readers will notice some regular sections, such as “battle of the ’burbs”, “planning personality” and “tree of the issue” have fallen away. This has allowed us to give more space to in-depth articles while balancing this with in-brief items of interest. We invite you to write in and tell the Urban Green File team about your views on the magazine. - Gerald Garner



Aliens make way for fynbos
The Vergelegen wine estate near Somerset West is undertaking a massive alien-vegetation clearing project. The R14-million, 10-year programme hopes to restore 2 000 ha of land to pristine fynbos. Urban Green File has learned that 8-million, densely-packed invasive trees have already been cleared.

According to Vergelegen CEO Don Tooth, the estate realised the full extent of the alien-vegetation threat after a major fire in 1997.

“The fire was driven by 160 km/hour winds that swept through the property. We realized the alien vegetation would more than double and seriously set back all previous environmental goals achieved.”

As alien vegetation uses 50 to 800 times more water than fynbos, clearing it has already boosted water flow and wetland areas are re-emerging. “A wetland that was virtually dead is now fed by three streams a local resident says are running for the first time in 50 years,” says Gerald Wright who heads the programme. “In the first year of control, 22 indigenous plant species were recorded and this has reached 35. Two species of Lachenalia have been discovered for the first time in the area.

Lachenalia liliflora was deemed extinct and the other lily has yet to be identified.”

This programme has made Vergelegen a leader in the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative that encourages wineries to play a major role in the conservation of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Development path for cape town established
Cape Town’s Central City Development Strategy (CCDS) has submitted its progress report to the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee. The CCDS is a joint process between the municipality and the Cape Town Partnership to establish a shared vision for the future of the central city, as well as a preferred development path and implementation plan.

According to Andrew Boraine, chief executive of the Cape Town Partnership, the aim of the report is to assist the city’s planning department and other statutory authorities in their efforts to implement meaningful and relevant development parameters in order to make decisions and approvals.

The report includes detailed descriptions of each of the 20 sub-precincts comprising the central city, which stretches from Green Point to Salt River

A park appears overnight!
Johannesburg City Parks has unveiled its Diepkloof XtremePark Makeover. This park was revamped in 24 hours by contractors and members of the community.

Prema Naidoo, member of the mayoral committee for the environment in the City of Johannesburg, tells Urban Green File this park is part of an annual initiative by City Parks to fast-track and address outdoor recreation disparities. He believes it will mobilise community ownership of green spaces and restore the integrity of the city’s open spaces. The park was designed by Insite Landscape Architects and the installation was handled by Top Turf Group. It comprises 2 ha and includes a splash pool, soccer field, multi-purpose court, playgrounds, park furniture, water fountain, a memorial and a natural amphitheatre area with a big screen.

Erosion curtailed
Groot Constantia Estate has completed a restoration project to curtail erosion of the river bank on which the historic Cloete wine cellar stands. Gabions will now redirect floodwater and halt the erosion that would have eventually threatened the cellar built in 1791.

Although the construction of the gabion structure was an expensive exercise, it will not only last for ”a very long time” but, in itself, will be of heritage importance to future generations, says Jean Naude, CEO of the Groot Constantia Trust.

The new structure will also benefit the ecology of the sensitive river system, which is located further downstream.



Nieuwoudtville gate house completed
With reference to the article in the October 2007 edition of Urban Green File featuring the Nieuwoudtville Caravan Park, we noted that you stated “the chalets were not built due to budget constraints”.

This is only partially correct as, in March 2007, the gate house, which formed part of the overall design, was completed.

In the case of the gate house, the main walls comprise nonload-bearing earth and lime-plastered straw bale providing superb insulation. They are protected by being raised on a plinth of locally sourced sandstone. Rubble trench foundations are used with rubble sourced from a nearby dump. This helps reduce the use of concrete by about 75% while promoting additional work on site. The radiating roof structure and ”latte” screen uses non-toxic, boron-treated poles with a natural oil finish. The roof is planted with local succulents to assist with insulation and to help maintain the earth’s biodiversity. The walls are finished with non-toxic, breathable paints.

In October 2005, the project was awarded the silver medal in the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction for Africa and the Middle East and, in 2006, was one of the 15 finalists competing for the Global Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction held in Bangkok in April 2006. - Andy Horn, Eco Design Architects

Weather-resistant materials required
I read with interest the article on new markets planned in Johannesburg (Urban Green File e-mail bulletin of April 29 2008), which referred to weather- and vandal-resistant materials. I would like to add “with minimum maintenance”.

To this end, we at the Hot Dip Galvanizers Association, would be glad to discuss hot-dip galvanizing and/or duplex coatings with specifiers for the selection of a cost-effective coating system. - Terry Smith



Green benchmark set
A massive paradigm shift has taken place. When it comes to the design and construction of buildings in South Africa, the future is green. Nedbank’s new Sandton development could set a benchmark for green building development of the future.

Just off the ground in the Sandton CBD is the second phase of Nedbank Corporate’s head office. The Phase 1 design, completed in 2001, was already a very energy-efficient building for its time. With the client’s commitment to sustainable principles and best practice, Phase 2 is intended to become a benchmark green project for the South African construction industry.

Vibrant urban precinct

In line with current thinking around maximizing opportunities and creating vibrant urban precincts adjacent to the Gautrain transport nodes, this development will include retail, commercial and residential uses. The offices will be the main component, and the residential and retail elements will give the building a 24-hour cycle.

The offices are scheduled for completion during the last quarter of 2009 and the apartments are due to be finished about 15 months later.

The project is being constructed above an existing basement that formed part of Phase 1. Two levels of retail will run along Maude Street with additional parking and the building’s plant rooms. Six levels of offices will separate the retail and upmarket residential units with the building’s maximum height set at 29 floors.

Public transport promoted
“We are in a high transport node, which is a good thing in itself,” Xavier Huyberechts of GLH & Associates Architects tells Urban Green File. “By building near a transport node and densifying the existing urban fabric, a lot of energy could be saved through commuters using public transport rather than individual vehicles.

This building is five minutes’ walk from the Sandton Gautrain Station and there is a bus rapid transit stop right in front of the building. The retail component in front of the parking area opens up onto Maude Street, which gives life to the street edge, and improves the quality of the city and the interface of the project with the city. This will include shops, showrooms, restaurants and coffee shops. A covered walkway in front of the retail area will offer protection to pedestrians and create a more human scale.”

Ken Reynolds of Nedbank Corporate Property Finance says: “An elaborate staircase has been designed for pedestrian access off the street at the main entrance and we are investigating a bridge walkway link from our building to the Village Walk shopping centre”.

Natural light exploited
Huyberechts says the design concept for Phase 2 takes its lead, aesthetically, from the Phase 1 development. “We are keeping the same language but we are being very innovative in terms of the multi-functional configuration.”

The basics of Phase 2 were designed at the same time as Phase 1, and the two utilise the same philosophies. The design was then changed and adapted in line with newly-available systems and technologies, and within the constraints of the structure of the existing basement on six levels.

Huyberechts says: “The new phase, like Phase 1, is organised around an atrium, which allows us to have a compact layout without the space being too deep.

So the building has a small footprint with very little external façade. The atrium brings a lot of natural light into the building.

This concept is very important as it provides a place where people mix and mingle. Pause areas are also provided in the office spaces for people to relax and meet one another.”

The new building is completely northfacing with the east and west façades the smallest so that most of the office space is north- or south-facing. “From the start with Phase 1, we wanted a crescendo of buildings so that the smallest building on the north climbs up to a very tall building on the south boundary of the site. This allows us to exploit the use of natural light. Both phases have double glazing and thermal breaks in the glazing so the envelope is very well thought-out.

The orientation of the building and decision to use smaller windows are all part of the passive design.”

Green lungs provided between buildings
The complex has been organised around two large gardens – each about the size of a soccer field – providing green lungs between the buildings. This is a relaxing, natural environment onto which the staff restaurants open. “There is general knowledge now that you need to improve the amenities in a building in order to give employees the sense of being part of a team and to improve productivity,” Huyberechts says. “This sense of belonging in a corporate environment must be done through the design. So, for example, the finishes in the staff restaurant are upmarket, to make people proud of where they work. Nedbank has invested a lot in amenities for staff. There is also a crèche, which is very popular and growing all the time, as well as a travel agent, hairdresser, library and convenience shop. And the location of the building in Sandton, opposite Village Walk, is convenient and adds to the capacity of having amenities close by. It capitalises on city living. I believe it adds a lot to the corporate life of Nedbank as a whole, and to the employees as individuals.”

Energy efficiency prioritised
Eric Noir of Green by Design Architects says: “When designing an energy-efficient building, the first thing you do is embrace passive design and then you look at the systems. This building will have a full economy cycle so, when the air outside is the right temperature, fresh air can be pushed right through. This is more efficient than chilling air all the time and has a much higher air quality”.

Although air-conditioning cannot be avoided in the apartments, Huyberechts says residential units lend themselves more to passive heating, cooling and ventilation than offices, which require more costly systems. In the residential component, large terraces have been designed to protect the openings from sunlight.

The units will have individual air-conditioners to allow users freedom in determining the ambient temperature of their environments.

Due to power-supply problems, gas geysers are also being considered for the apartments – these also have a smaller carbon footprint than coalfired electricity.

In terms of back-up power, the bank cannot afford to lose power as this affects productivity too drastically so a full back-up diesel generator system is being installed. During load shedding and power outages, the generators will only power air-conditioning in critical areas, such as the data and computer rooms.

Noir adds that, from an operation point of view, the bank is looking at giving its staff laptops. These use a lot less energy, generate a lot less heat for the air-conditioning system to cope with, and can endure two or three hours of load shedding.

In terms of energy-efficient lighting, the intelligent Digital Addressable Lighting Interface system will be implemented.

Noir says this system gives users access to their own lighting by plugging into the corporate network and allowing them to switch on, dim or increase lighting levels to their own requirements.

“The real benefit is that it gives individuals control over their environments and this is unusual in a corporate workplace.

The other major benefit is that it allows lights to dim when natural light comes in from outside so the output lux levels remain the same while the lights are dimmer. It also generates a lot less heat so it saves on air-conditioning.”

Huyberechts adds: “With control over every single light, the system allows us to test and push that boundary as low as we can. Lighting accounts for about 50% of a building’s energy consumption so any saving is significant. Obviously we need to balance this with other legal requirements and lighting needs to be homogenous – in patches it is very tiring.

So it’s the overall ambient lighting that we are trying to drop and this works well in a computer-based environment.”

In Phase 2, clear low-E glass has been specified and this is an improvement on Phase 1 as it allows for temperature control while it also affords the building a better quality of light.

Rejected heat re-use chosen above solar panels
Noir says the team looked at solar panels but found there was not enough space on the roof or space for storage to make this viable. “But we have a lot of waste heat that we’re rejecting from the air-conditioning plant so it’s a lot more economical to take the heat through a heat exchange and use it for water heating. Solar is the buzzword at the moment but it’s not necessarily the most cost-efficient, elegant or environment-friendly solution.

Greywater to flush toilets?
“In terms of water consumption, the idea is to use no municipal, potable-quality water for toilet flushing or irrigation if we can,” adds Noir. “We are looking at using the greywater from the apartments above to flush the toilets in the office component below. The beauty of this system is that greywater shouldn’t be kept for more than 24 hours any way. This means you need to find a use that closely matches the source. In this case, only a small holding tank is required at the intermediate level.”

Green roofs considered
In Phase 1, a very European-style garden was created. This style will be implemented again in Phase 2 with a big change in directive in that only indigenous vegetation will be used. The possibility of planted roofs is also being explored. The residential component has a smaller footprint than the offices and allows for an intensive, manicured roof garden on the first level of apartments. Planting on the terraces is also being considered. Noir says:

“Through green roofs, we are exploring a top-down approach to stormwater management where we capture it as high as we can and slow it down before releasing it into the municipal system.”

John Truter of WSP Structures Africa adds: “The municipality doesn’t require us to attenuate water for this development because the parameters were determined when Phase 1 was built. So we will actually be ahead of municipal requirements”.

Construction activity greened
“We have an existing frame that we tried to comply with as much as possible but, over time, there were new ideas we tried to incorporate,” Truter tells Urban Green File. “We have strengthened the existing basement with a special piling arrangement and strengthening of the columns to accommodate what’s happening above. We did wind-tunnel testing to make sure the building will function optimally – structurally and for the occupants. In terms of recycling, we have an undertaking from the contractor that as much of the site waste will be recycled as possible during the construction process. Ironically, site waste tends to have a very good engineering quality.

Recycling also requires very little effort so, by reorganising slightly and having a different focus, quite a lot can be achieved.

We will be using fly ash, which is being done in the market, but we’re exploring ways to enhance this. We’re also looking at ways of reusing steel. And we will be using high-density polyethylene pipes, which are much more environment-friendly than uPVC pipes. The electrical engineer is investigating the same alternatives with a view to the electrical conduiting.

“We are also trying to de-mass, or dematerialize the building, by using as little concrete and steel as possible. Fortunately, this is a situation where we need to use high strength concrete for the columns so they can be smaller. This helps the process. We are also examining post-tensioning in the design to help with dematerialisation.”

Huyberechts says the contractor, Group Five, has also identified greening as a priority.

“A whole change of mindset needs to come from the contractor in terms of the sorting and re-use of waste materials, and schooling of labourers.”

Noir says, once the tender stage was completed, the contractor was brought on board as a fully-fledged consultant within the professional team. “They are able to offer knowledge and advice on types and quantities of materials that impact on the design from a buildability point of view before materials are even bought. The site is unbelievably tight and is situated in a builtup, high-traffic area. We are looking at the equivalent of UK best-practice standards, which require the contractor to be mannered in terms of deliveries and not to interfere with peak-hour traffic. And, working at night without disturbing neighbours, such as hotels, requires control of dust, noise and light pollution. All this becomes part of the challenge for the contractor and impacts on his and the client’s reputation.”

Huyberechts says, in terms of finishes, the style of the building was established from Phase 1 so some items have not been changed, like the stone façades. Higher up the façades, the architects are looking at an insulating plaster made of 95% natural fibres although this has yet to be confirmed.

“This is one area that can still be improved in terms of green ratings – the choice of materials – but as we are not building yet, we hope to revise some of these items as we go along.”

Frustration with suppliers
Reynolds says frustration when making responsible life-cycle decisions seems to be at the point of the supplier. “The steel in this country comes from one source, and you have to take what you’re given, so you have no choice. Similarly our power comes from a coal-fired source of energy.” But Huyberechts says pressure is sure to come from this and other similar projects for entrepreneurs to offer alternatives in terms of manufacturing, supply and service delivery.

New generation of sustainability
“Green design is a very new thing for the building industry as a whole in South Africa,” says Huyberechts. “In this project, Nedbank is embracing this new direction.

The bank has indicated that green needs to become a priority and this wasn’t easy to do because this building was designed before the green wave. Fortunately a lot of the right basic principles were there, such as orientation. These were bettered with Green by Design and the other consultants to, hopefully, make a building that will spearhead the movement in this country.”

Noir comments: “We’ve really seen 2007 as a watershed year from a sustainability point of view. With a few exceptions, all the buildings we’ve been involved with have started in a conventional way but needed to be delivered in a sustainable way. Really, from now on, we are seeing a new generation of buildings being built with sustainable imperatives informing the design from the start. This watershed was really sealed and rubber-stamped by the power-supply crisis in early 2008. We, generally, try to improve energy and water consumption in a building because those are the things that have payback periods attached to them.

Typically, the way buildings are procured at the moment, within the realm of the property portfolio, leaves only so much scope for justifying increased capital expenditure in order to recoup some of that money through running costs. The benefits in terms of the productivity or image of the bank can’t really be quantified in terms of building design. So it’s been fantastic to see Nedbank really embracing these ideas at a corporate level. It makes it possible to look at many other issues, such as indoor air quality, choice of materials and all issues that normally do not have a payback period and are, therefore, considered throwaway costs. This makes it possible to use a rating or accreditation system for the building. So it’s a huge milestone; a radically different way of thinking.” The Green Star Rating Tool is being developed by the Green Building Council of South Africa and will be released as a pilot tool in July 2008. It is being adapted and customised for South Africa from the Australian system. Nedbank is looking at becoming involved in developing the tool for national use using this Phase 2 development as a pilot project.

Green is here to stay!
For those who have been fighting the green battle tirelessly, and often without reward or acknowledgement, victory seems imminent. When companies of the magnitude of Nedbank and Group Five take up the banner, for whatever reason, it is clear green, in the construction industry, is here to stay!



At-source sorting of building rubble required
The City of Johannesburg has recommended that Pikitup investigates the viability of developing a builders’ rubble plant for the city. Apparently Pikitup has submitted a feasibility study to the city manager and is now waiting for the capital needed for the project to be approved and to commence development of a site. Some 25% of Gauteng landfills are filled with builders’ rubble, according to Pikitup.

But the recycling of building rubble seems dependent on at-source sorting.

“The value of potentially-recyclable materials decreases when it is dumped as a conglomerate,” claims Frans Dekker, landfill management chief for the City of Tshwane.

“This is why the separation of building rubble at source is the answer to increased efficiency and material worth. Much separation and recycling occurs on landfill sites.

However this is not a financially- or environmentally-feasible approach as the material has to be cleaned (water wastage) and re-transported (financial and environmental cost).” Dekker would like to encourage large material/product distributors to provide a service whereby products/materials are retrieved from building sites for re-use or recycling (less transport).

In this regard, Carla Botha of WBHO says improved planning to include on-site waste management will, more often than not, result in increased capital cost but, in the long run, save money for the construction company and the client while, certainly, increasing the environmental responsiveness/greenness of both parties and this has untold marketing, as well as other business, possibilities.
— Read the June 2008 edition of Urban Green File’s sister magazine, Building Africa, for an in-depth investigation of the disposal and re-use of building rubble.

Car manufacturer opts for solar panels
By the end of 2008, Toyota will have installed 270 solar panels at its Durban plant. This, Toyota claims, will enable it to operate at full capacity while also reducing demand on Eskom. According to Business Report, Toyota’s renewable energy project began in 2006 with the installation of 44 2,5 m² panels. The second phase was completed in June 2007 when 150 panels were installed. In the third phase of this project, Toyota will install another 120 panels. While the project has cost Toyota R3,5-million, the company expects to save R95 000/month on energy costs when the project has been completed.

“Not only is this a significant financial saving, it also shows Toyota is supportive of Eskom’s energy-saving initiative,” comments Ferdi de Vos, Toyota spokesperson. Through this initiative, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere will be reduced by approximately 1 350 t/annum.

Cape town prioritises green building
According to the Cape Town Partnership, the city will, in future, take into account energy-efficient, and green design and building practices of proposed developments, and will look favourably on developers who can show they have reduced electricity demand in existing buildings through energy-efficiency ”retrofitting” programmes.

The Cape Town Partnership strongly encourages greening of all existing and new buildings, and has informed Urban Green File that, together with PJ Carew & Associates, it is conducting research for a benchmarking exercise across many buildings in the central city area. Results will be communicated shortly, according to Sarah De Villiers Leach of the Energy Efficiency Initiative.

Innovative louvre system facilitates energy efficiency
The Green House in Parkwood, Johannesburg, has been designed by Enrico Daffonchio of Daffonchio & Associates Architects. The building serves as the head office of McNab’s and boasts a custom-made, sun-protecting louver system to control the indoor climate. So effective is this sunscreen system that the building does not need any energy- intensive air-conditioners.

In a departure from the normal notion of facing a building north, the façades of the Green House face mostly east and west in order to exploit the natural heat of the sun for indoor heating. The building also boasts an underfloor heating system making use of solar panels on the roof.

According to Daffonchio, the green building design approach focused on three aspects: energy consumption, water consumption and choice of materials. “The correct combination of these three elements enables an architect to reduce the carbon footprint of a building”, he tells Urban Green File.

Rupert McKerron, CEO of McNab’s tells Urban Green File, although the building is visually appealing and innovative, the basic structure is actually quite simple and inexpensive.

“We have saved money on the structure and this allowed us to spend on technology, such as the sunscreen louvre system.”
— An in-depth feature article on this building will be published in the August 2008 edition of Urban Green File.

Recycled building material offers a green option
Designers of green buildings should not only be concerned about energy and water efficiency. The choice of appropriate building materials and products is as important.

In this regard, architects should take note of the increasing trend to recycle building rubble. The rubble can be successfully specified as aggregate for building projects and help save significant amounts of space on landfills.

In this regard, Urban Green File can disclose the Cape Town recycling sector continues to boom. Hiretech Construction Equipment is one Cape Town-based company that has joined the rubble-recycling sector.

However concerns have been expressed that recycled material is still not being specified by consulting engineers and not allowed on many local council’s sites.

David Johnston of Hiretech says, though, the quality problem can be overcome with regular samples sent to laboratories.

Hiretech employs five casual workers at a time to pull plastic out of the stockpile before sending it through the machines.

The market for recycled building materials is creating a boom for manufacturers of mobile crushers as these can easily be moved from site to site to crush rubble.

Hiretech has taken delivery of a Finlay 664 tracked screening plant from Pilot Crushtec.

In Johannesburg, Patcrush is running a successful construction rubble-recycling business. This company simply crushes material and supplies it to the building industry for use in filling applications. Crushing is mostly done on the same site where the material is reused.

However some operators deal in recycled crushed materials. “I’ve dealt with a couple of guys who recycle rubble by placing bins on building sites,” Steve Jones of Patcrush tells Urban Green File. “The customer pays for the service of having the material removed while a waste company, such as Stones & Stones in Crown Mines, resells it back into the industry.”

Schools opt for solar energy
Schüco International KG has implemented a solar energy system on the roof of the German International School in Johannesburg. The installation has been done in conjunction with South African company Solarzone.

The initiative forms part of the Solar Roofs on German Schools and Institutions Abroad programme spearheaded by the German Energy Agency and the German Federal Ministry of Economics & Technology.

The school’s solar thermal collectors supply energy for hot water to the kitchen and school showers for up to 1 200 users per day. The photovoltaic installation serves as a battery assisted, stand-alone system with parallel grid connection. In this way, the operation of important consumers, such as the telephone lines, computer systems and emergency lighting is assured of electricity during power cuts.

Schüco claims this system will save 22 300 kWh of electricity per year and reduce CO2 emissions by around 18 000 kg/year.

Meanwhile Pretoria Boys High School has informed Urban Green File it is fitting its Rissik and School houses (boarding residences) with Suntank solar water-heating systems.

Estate implements sustainability principles
The Kindlewood residential estate in Mount Edgecombe has, reportedly, been designed with sustainability in mind. The design is in line with the principles advocated by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), according to development director David Jollands.

In terms of energy efficiency, innovations include the use of photovoltaic panels to supply power to the boardroom lights; solar panels for heating water, along with energy-saving appliances; the use of a VVR airconditioning system that is secondary to the building system for ventilation and uses less power than a conventional system; and the use of energy-saving fittings that reduce dependency on artificial lighting.

Smart water-saving measures include the use of indigenous plants for low water absorption and the use of underground rainwater harvesting, which collects and filters greywater and then re-uses it for irrigation.

Energy-efficient lighting required
Entries for Eskom’s 2008 Energy Efficient Lighting Design Competition will close on August 1 2008. Architects, interior designers, engineers, electrical contractors, consultants, lighting specialists and people with a passion for design and/or efficient lighting have been invited to stand a chance to win prizes totalling R250 000.



Is Jo’burg’s rejuvenation sustainable?
A patchwork of aesthetic improvements has made a difference to the appearance of Johannesburg’s inner city. But is the city’s development and management environmentally-sound and sustainable?

Since its establishment in the late 19th century, Johannesburg has seen times of greatness and success. More recently, though, it has experienced a time of degradation and gradual abandonment.

But city management and private organizations are actively applying plans to rejuvenate the inner city. The question is whether or not environmental sustainability, which will pull the city through future hardships, is being achieved?

Johannesburg’s heartbeat

Johannesburg is still attracting numerous people who are searching for better opportunities.

It, therefore, maintains its role as the economic hub of sub-Saharan Africa. This is according to Nathi Mthethwa, City of Johannesburg regional director of Region F (Inner City). He tells Urban Green File the continued influx of people from rural regions and other African countries impacts the city environment greatly and emphasises that the primary objective of the city is to protect the value of the inner city for continued successful utilisation by future generations. The aim is to create a “world-class African city.”

Flora Mokgohloa, executive director of the department of environmental management, City of Johannesburg, agrees much focus has to be placed on the inner-city environment as the heartbeat of Johannesburg.

Mthethwa’s city philosophy, in turn, seems to be on the right track according to the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” But does what is happening on the ground truly reflect the philosophy of sustainability?

Managed in quadrants
The inner city has been divided into four quadrants to assist the management process by ensuring that, while a specific spot is being concentrated upon, decayelsewhere is prevented. “The previous management system resulted in issues of dislocation whereby the inner-city problems were merely transferred to other areas,” Mthethwa tells Urban Green File. “While the new system allows for complete eradication of decay.” This can be achieved as each quadrant manager is tasked with indicating the priority streets and hot spots to be targeted within a holistic approach. Yet the system is not perfect as it was only initiated in the last quarter of 2007, and is challenged by a lack of capacity and budget. A team of 160 personnel has to focus on all quadrants while this number is only suitable for one.
Mthethwa lists the quadrants as:
*            Greater Ellis Park (development focused on 2010).
*            Core CBD (from Marshalltown to Joubert Park with much focus on transportation, pedestrian traffic, retail and business functions).
*            Maintenance (Braamfontein, Newtown and Fordsburg – areas that have been rejuvenated and cannot be allowed to revert to degradation).
*            The heartland (in terms of urban decay, consisting of Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville).

A patchwork of aesthetics

Although specific areas have been improved and cleaned up, largely by the private sector in conjunction with small public financing assistance to enhance the value of the inner-city environment, Neil Fraser of Urban Inc tells Urban Green File that, in general, the inner city is still in a poor state. “With the exception of bits and pieces of focal areas, the rest is pretty tatty.”

Focus areas include Newtown, Main Street, Ghandi Square and Braamfontein, with improvements to Jewel City, the legal precinct, and the interior and exterior upgrading of the old fort. He suggests there has been a significant focus on the aesthetics of these areas but, seemingly, minimal attention has been paid to sustainability.

“The inner city initiatives up to now have been quite patchy with no real programmed planning and characterised by superficial cleaning-up exercises.”

However, he feels that the efforts the city has been putting into the inner-city, especially since the Inner City Charter has been instituted, are a great advance on the previous situation.

3 major drivers of future transformation
According to Fraser, towards 2015, Johannesburg will be faced with three major areas of transformation that will impact greatly – positively or negatively – on the city environment. These include the change of function from purely commerce to primarily residential, the introduction of public-transportation schemes – Gautrain and bus rapid transit (BRT) – and densification, specifically around transport nodes.

These transformations require planning and preparation now to ensure future sustainable implementation and functionality.

A city does not exist in isolation
— Comment by Gerald Garner

It is clear that many initiatives have been undertaken to rejuvenate Johannesburg’s city centre. Although the merits of some of these can be debated, it is probably true to argue that any attempt at improvement deserves support.

It is clear from this article, though, that although even more emphasis should be placed on aesthetic design, consideration must be given as to whether such design contributes to a sustainable urban form. Perhaps the aesthetic focus exists because most urban regeneration is being handled by architects and landscape architects who have been trained to think visually. However, for the rejuvenation endeavours to be sustainable, life-cycle maintenance, ecological performance, waste management and general environmental quality should be considered.

Urban Green File is concerned about the South African tendency to think in isolation. Is this a legacy of apartheid planning and city management? While it makes sense to delegate urban-management responsibilities to different regions, it is imperative that planning and design consider the entire city. Johannesburg’s inner city is too often treated as a region surrounded by highways that exist in isolation and it competes for investment with areas like Sandton. The irony is that the inner city and Sandton fall within the boundaries of Johannesburg. In terms of planning, they should not compete. Whatever is most appropriate for each region within the context of the bigger city should be allowed to happen.

For me it is always surprising to hear statements that Johannesburg is a densely developed city, for instance. It is not. In fact, low-density sprawl is probably the biggest threat to environmental quality. While the city centre may be dense, surrounding areas are not and it is this imbalance that causes many of Johannesburg’s problems. It is true the city centre needs green spaces and a proper urban park – without doubt. But the issue can also, partially, be addressed by promoting denser developments in proximity to the city’s many large parks like the botanical gardens in Emmarentia, Delta Park, Zoo Lake and Rhodes Park.

Public-transport routes and urban rivers should be planned holistically; linking the inner city with the wider urban environment. And Urban Green File maintains Johannesburg’s river courses present the biggest untapped opportunity. Why are proper cycling paths not developed next to streams, such as the Braamfontein Spruit? This could provide a transport corridor all the way from Sunninghill to Parktown and the city. As the route follows the stream, the incline is not steep and it is ideal for cycling. All that is required is a hard surface for cycling and safety provided by metro police, CCTV cameras and decent lighting.

First impressions last
Mthethwa emphasises that waste management is of significant importance in enhancing aesthetics while solving much of the city’s pollution, specifically stormwater.

“Irrespective of the quality of buildings and open spaces, dirty streets and publicuse areas ruin the impression of visitors and users of the city.” He tells Urban Green File that various mechanisms have been initiated along with Pikitup to minimize waste.

The first level being 24/7 cleaning services divided into three shifts providing frequent, even continuous, collection by cleaners designated to one street each.

“This methodology is quite costly but is aimed at providing targeted action to bring back investor faith in the city and increase pedestrian use.”

The second level is gradually being introduced alongside the 24/7 programme with the ultimate goal of minimising the need for cleaners. Reduction through recycling, which will minimise waste carted to landfill sites, is being supported by intensive public-education programmes.

Mthethwa emphasises it is vital to get community buy-in as littering is a behavioural issue that needs to be amended.

He is overjoyed the attitudes of a number of people have been changed. A research project in conjunction with Kaya FM revealed that cleanliness was one of the community’s top requirements for the inner city. Region F has undertaken a project,

“It’s my inner city, let’s keep it clean”, with eight of the applicable City of Johannesburg by-laws simplified and marketed to the community via three-language brochures (English, French and Zulu), outdoor adverts, youth theatre productions and further education of community leaders.

“The user-friendly brochures are handed out and explained street-by-street and door-to-door with the aim of in-your-face education,” says Mthethwa. Furthermore he advocates that law enforcement without civic education is useless as most people in Johannesburg are not accustomed to by-laws.

Pikitup programmes
According to Pansy Jali of Pikitup, various programmes have been put in place to enhance waste management in the inner city:
*            Public or open spaces have become illegal dumping hot spots. Pikitup has special programmes in place to keep trouble areas clean. These do not only Minvolve the cleaning of illegal dumping spots but also community education and awareness campaigns. In this way, the cleanliness of the targeted areas can be sustained.
*            Pikitup has joined forces with Mondi’s Curbside Recycling Project with Ronnie Bags. Jali says, through this project, residents are encouraged to make use of Ronnie Bags to dispose of their paper waste. The paper is then collected on predetermined dates for recycling.
*            A pilot project undertaken by Pikitup in October 2007 entailed the introduction of 17 underground bins in the inner city (see article on page 34 for information on similar systems). Jali confirms a vast improvement has been noted in these areas and Pikitup is in the process of installing 10 more underground bins in the inner city (to be completed by the end of June 2008).
*            In addition, Pikitup has installed more than 2 000 swivel bins in the inner city thus far.

Fraser comments on the swivel-bin placements by Pikitup, advocating that, in some areas, they are placed too far apart. He says an American study concluded that people do not bother to use waste receptacles if they are further than 10 m away while, in South Africa, this distance is even less. Detailed studies have to be conducted to clearly understand the needs of the community regarding waste. According to Fraser, Washington performed a six-month analysis whereby a large spectrum of people from different walks of life, genders, ages and situations (pregnant and disabled, among others) were questioned about what makes them throw garbage away and what their prerequisites for distance and type of receptacle are.

“The perspective was changed from that of the refuse collector’s comfort and union wishes to that of the refuse creator’s requirements,” says Fraser.

Furthermore, he advises that the Johannesburg inner city should be more proactive about collection and recycling of waste by implementing a food coupon or similar system to involve community members while, simultaneously, solving other social issues.

A city improved?
Have the many initiatives to improve the cityscape succeeded? Urban Green File walked the streets once “paved with gold”.

Bustling BRT

Mthethwa believes the BRT system will change people’s lives by alleviating congestion and reducing transport costs while offering great opportunities for the city, such as the creation of new economic nodes around stations. According to Sammy Mafu of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), the BRT will greatly help the city’s urban-development policy, which focuses on the creation of compact cities and limit urban sprawl in order to use urban infrastructure and land more efficiently and effectively. In essence, the BRT is simply the idea of creating a rail-like performance using road-based technologies that are affordable to most cities. Mafu lists some of the principle characteristics:
*            Existence of an integrated “network” of routes and corridors.
*            Segregated median busways rather than kerb-side bus lanes.
*            Closed median stations with pre-board fare collection and fare verification.
*            Larger vehicles to better match supply and demand.
*            Distinctive marketing identity for the system.

Mafu informs Urban Green File that the roll-out of the various BRT road sections is at different stages of progress. The first BRT contract in Ellis Park (Charlton Terrace) has been completed while construction is in progress on Bertrams Road, Saratoga Avenue, Edith Cavell Street and the Joubert Park busway. According to the JDA, construction was expected to commence in mid-March 2008 on the section from the intersection of Main Reef Road and Commando Road up to the intersection of Empire Road/Jan Smuts Avenue. A prototype station will be erected by the end of July 2008 – most likely on the Joubert Park busway.

BRT not all good for Jo’burg
Fraser admits this transport system does have potential to create opportunities along with massive positive impacts. However he is concerned the South American BRT model is being placed within the South African urban context without necessary planning and without response to the urban form and requirements. He suggests there are few places in the city that can cater for dedicated lanes while the South American model’s bicycle lanes do not even fall within the South African application.

Furthermore, he believes, the Rea Vaya BRT will use the city grid to its best advantage and not to the city’s best advantage, such as the transformation of Rissik Street, which will lose its ceremonial value. Katherine Cox, also of Urban Inc, is not convinced a thorough impact assessment of the BRT system was completed to analyse the impact of increased pedestrian and informal trading activity while taking space and connectivity into account. “I am concerned the Johannesburg BRT is not all good and it may just add to the confusion,” says Fraser.

Green space should be increased
Fraser is adamant the areas of open space should be increased along with the growing city population and master planning has to be improved to adequately incorporate open space, especially green space. Mthethwa agrees. “A balance has to be achieved as we cannot only look at infrastructure; open spaces have to be included to make the environment more pleasant for residents.” But he raises concern about space. “Johannesburg already has such a high density, increased densification will lead to negative impacts on the environment.” A clear balance needs to be created whereby ground space is opened up to create parks and walking trails, and densities are increased using air space.

Cox informs Urban Green File that international norms indicate 5% to 10% of the urban environment will be open space (hard and soft space, excluding roads and sidewalks) for ”breathing” and recreation.

“In comparison with some cities internationally, such as Portland and Vancouver, where you trip over all the open spaces, Johannesburg is far behind with estimates of only 0,9% of open space.” According to Cox, the city needs to start looking at massive greening projects, such as the Soweto Tree Planting initiative, undertake intensive runoff studies to find solutions to flash flooding, as well as investigate the extension of urban-agriculture initiatives to increase sustainability.

Mokgohloa responds with the city’s 200 000 tree target by 2010 – a portion of these trees will be planted within the inner city. “Some 40 000 trees have already been planted throughout Johannesburg,” she says. “For every parking bay across Johannesburg, three trees will be planted.”

Furthermore, Mokgohloa mentions, wherever the City of Johannesburg has the opportunity to develop parks and finds the space, it does. With this in mind, Cox argues against the use of space left over after planning to develop inner-city parks as this may result in poor layouts and positioning within the urban context.

Integration is key to success
According to Mthethwa, integration is the key to city success. A multidisciplinary Inner City Task Team has been established whereby all departments work together to reach a level of programme integration. These task teams cater for the various pillars of regeneration, such as services, housing, safety and security, economic development and environment, with each pillar interrelated and conscious of the other.

“Gone are the days when paving that had just been upgraded is chopped up by another municipal entity for service upgrading.” The integrated task team aims to have better impact on the ground whereby space with a diversity of problems is approached and all the problems are solved in cohesion and at the same time.

Cleaner air in sight?
Mokgohloa informs Urban Green File the council has undertaken a study and monitoring programme of the inner city as a hot spot of air pollution.

Audits of all boilers were made as a majority still run on coal and are operated poorly (merely by security guards) and maintained. During the next financial year, businesses will be requested to improve boiler technology to improve operation so that it is less harmful to the environment.

Mokgohloa is hopeful public-transport initiatives, such as the BRT, and the Jo’burg-Tshwane Metro Rail express will further lessen air pollution.

Jenny Moodley of Johannesburg City Parks provided Urban Green File with information on the upgrading of five innercity parks: Pieter Roos, LeRoith, Alec Gorshel, JZ de Villiers and Donald Mackay.

Mafu says the JDA has been involved in a number of projects to improve public spaces by using public art (the Braamfontein eland and Jewel City paving mosaics, for example) and upgrading, via improved paving, street lighting and the provision of street trees and street furniture (Newtown, Jewel City, Fashion District, Greater Ellis Park and Braamfontein).

Energy efficiency achieved
Mthethwa says the city needs to move away from depending on a constant energy supply and mentions the Department of Development Planning and Urban Management is applying more pressure on developers to provide energy-efficient systems and proposals in new buildings.

Furthermore, he hopes a new public-education programme, to be initiated in July 2008 in collaboration with City Power, will include energy efficiency as a hot topic. Mokgohloa says energy-efficiency plans are being implemented within 15 municipal buildings across the city. She hopes these buildings will be the catalyst and role models for the private sector to do the same. Fraser suggests numerous initiatives are being undertaken by the private sector to increase energy efficiency of new building developments, including the visitors’ centre at the Metropolitan Centre, which the architect, Nicholas Sack, claims caters for a number of environmental issues, the Zurich Re building in Ferreirasdorp, and the new Absa Tower West, which will be the energy centre of the Absa campus.

A city challenge
According to Mokgohloa, a major inner-city challenge is the 100- year-old infrastructure that cannot cope with demand and circumstances.

The Klip and Jukskei rivers – both originating in the city centre – are canalised in the city region and suffer from large amounts of pollution due to the city’s stormwater system.

Old sewer lines lie above stormwater lines and leakages result in sewage flowing into these rivers with serious impact downstream. Stormwater becomes the carrier of waste due to high sewage and litter loads while it causes erosion damage downstream due to high flow rates. “Environmentally, this is a huge challenge to overcome,” states Mokgohloa. Plans that have been initiated and will be implemented within the upper regions of both rivers include:
*            Litter traps upstream approximately 1 km from Bruma Lake. These traps are closed every evening and cleaned. A costly but necessary exercise.
*            The application of grids on all stormwater drains to collect litter before it enters the stormwater system.
*            Improved Pikitup services – the inner city is much cleaner than it was two to three years ago.

Are we achieving a world class African city?
Mafu acknowledges the city is achieving sustainability through improved multiple precincts, increased private-sector investments, low vacancies of corporate rental space, low vacancies of residential accommodation and office space, along with greater business turnover and business confidence. Additionally, he recognises that urban development-zone tax incentives help improve the public environment by promoting private-sector investment. “Improved retail and residential space makes a positive contribution in terms of investment in the inner city and it is the city’s role to ensure there is an ongoing commitment to investment in the public environment.”

Urban Inc is concerned many city projects are knee-jerk reactions to crises, andsolutions are not thoroughly integrated into the existing urban context.

According to Fraser, this issue is aggravated by yearly council budgets that force government departments to utilise financing in certain time periods. This results in rushed designs missing the finer details that provide actual sustainability. Furthermore, Fraser says he was struck by the high level of awareness of sustainability in the US and that greening is top of the agenda there. International developers are forced to comply with minimum green requirements while cities like Vancouver charge a green fee (16 Canadian dollars per square foot) for the development of parks and affordable housing.

The only way South Africa can truly achieve sustainability is by making it mandatory and by forcing developers to work within fine margins. Mthethwa advocates the process is incremental and, by comparing Johannesburg now to Johannesburg five years ago, there has been a major improvement, and the city is progressively getting there. “The Inner City Regeneration Charter sets stringent commitments and time lines within a five-year plan,” he declares. “This prevents the previous pitfalls of rhetorical statements and undelivered mandates.”



Design for 2010 and beyond
As a catalyst for overdue urban rejuvenation, the design of the greater Ellis Park Precinct shows promise. But will it succeed in leaving a legacy or is the focus on short-term aesthetic enhancements?

Prompted by the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the City of Johannesburg is upgrading its greater Ellis Park Precinct – an area that was in dire need of rejuvenation. Could this initiative be an example of the positive spin-off South African cities will enjoy for many years after the last goal has been scored?

Economic regeneration of the area, in order to increase revenue for the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, is the long-term aim of the Johannesburg Development Agency’s (JDA’s) Ellis Park Precinct initiative. This is according to Agmat Badat, senior development manager for the JDA.

Further aims include infrastructure upgrading with a view to the 2010 Fifa World Cup and to potentially reverse the economic, social and physical decline characteristic of the area for many years.

Badat says: “It is the JDA’s vision to promote the area as a preferred destination, not only for sport but for entertainment, education, industry, commerce and residence.”

He reinforces that social issues are a challenge to be dealt with, including unemployment, prevalent drug availability, illegal dumping (pavements and vacant stands), and an influx of people making use of transport and education facilities as potential targets for street crime. In addition, an influx of people and cars for sporting events create easy targets for smash and grabs and break-ins.

Monica Albonico of Albonico Sack Mzumara (ASM) Architects & Urban Designers, who worked in association with MMA Architects and Newtown Landscape Architects (NLA) on this project, emphasizes that the urban design of this area should respond to a monitoring system comprising various tiers of policing.

Badat says: “Various physical-decline symptoms relate to the social issues, such as a large number of liquor outlets, panel beaters, scrap yards and second-hand shops, dilapidated and abandoned buildings, which are illegally occupied, illegal land-use (commercial and residential), along with pavements and stormwater systems that have not been maintained.”

In a nutshell, the JDA’s requirement for the design of this precinct is durability and functionality while wowing people who utilise the area.

Two critical components
Albonico elaborates on the two critical components that influence the urban-design process: upgrading of the stadium and the introduction of the bus rapid transit (BRT) system arranged to serve surrounding institutions while alleviating the impact of parking associated with the upgrading of sports facilities. “Public transport is an integral part of the 2010 legacy while sports facilities will offer a valuable asset for the surrounding community,” says Albonico. Furthermore, the design aims to reinvent the streets with a robust armature of green corridors, defined access points and a focus on pedestrian use and accessibility.

Area-specific landscape strategy
Albonico informs Urban Green File that adequate landscaping forms an integral part of adding value and uniting the precinct’s various profiles and sidewalk typologies. “Each area requires a different landscaping strategy while being, as far as possible, low maintenance and robust so that it can stand up to heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” she says.

Christa Otto of NLA stresses that each area has its own language that ties in with the entire landscape while being responsive to the specific context, social micro-climate and existing themes. Landscape-design challenges include vandalism and the need for hardy vegetation.

For this reason, a suitable planting palette, which requires little to no irrigation, was selected. Primarily, indigenous trees are proposed. Provision of a 12- month maintenance period to ensure the establishment of vegetation via manual water-truck irrigation was included in the landscaping contract.

Bus rapid transit defines precinct
According to Albonico, the BRT system is one of the three routes within the Ellis Park Precinct that defines use and function. This public-transport infrastructure comprises a dedicated inner lane in both directions, served by central road islands that accommodate stations comprising high-tech, enclosed structures that will temporarily hold people within the central island and guide pedestrian movement safely across the roads to sidewalks. “Certain and unavoidable road widening had to occur to cater for the additional lane and this has created a fair amount of controversy due to properties being demolished,” Albonico elaborates.

She emphasises that an attempt was made by an integrated team to route and align the system to minimise its impact and reduce the loss of space to private property as far as possible. “With any infrastructure development, there are implications. Adjustments are unavoidable, so various options and their cost implications were presented for city officials’ final decision.” According to ASM, at the time of the writing this article in late April 2008, 40% of the Ellis Park Precinct BRT route was complete.

Heritage harnessed
Heritage routes within the precinct act as historical connections with particular character and link to other corridors. The scale is primarily pedestrian-related with an emphasis on the incorporation of art by local artists at various intervals. Albonico believes that landscape art will successfully capture the spirit of the place while showcasing the work of emerging artists from surrounding suburbs, such as Troyeville. Apparently the public art is meant to transform the neighbourhood, such as the area around the infamously unsafe Joe Slovo Drive and Beit Street, where “African angels” have been placed to ”watch over” the environment and create a humanising focus.

Pedestrians prioritised
Pedestrianisation is an essential aspect of the precinct’s design. Otto indicates this ensures that human use, as the lowest common denominator, is accommodated as far as possible. “Additional lighting and signage will be introduced to provide legibility, specifically for the influx of tourists to the area, as well as safety and security for all pedestrians and locals,” adds Albonico.

Adequate lighting will improve passive surveillance while, in most places, a strip of planting will separate pedestrian traffic from vehicular activity.

Benches will be strategically placed beneath shade trees, sidewalks will be suitably sized and surface-treated while paraplegic-friendly ramps will be incorporated at all intersections. NLA recommends the use of smaller trees in certain areas due to limited sidewalk space. Human scale and natural surveillance also had to be considered. “The primary idea is to create sub-spaces, which are more intimate and bring groups of users together for sport and other functions,” Albonico points out.

Green corridors act as routing system
Finally, a routing system of major significance is the establishment and enhancement of green corridors. It is an overall urban-design principle to create a network of public open spaces. “Our goal is to turn lost spaces into positive spaces by turning misused open areas into pocket parks,” intimates an enthusiastic Albonico.

Formal and informal parks will line all connections linking to Bezuidenhout Park. She hopes to achieve three times as much greenery as before and thus provide a “spicing” element along the 2 km route.

Square functions as connection
The specific landscape design NLA undertook within the greater Ellis Park Precinct includes the design of the sports precinct, otherwise known as the Ellis Park Central Square, situated between the Johannesburg Stadium and Ellis Park Stadium. The square acts as the node from which six other landscape zones, including streets and public open spaces, radiate.

According to Albonico, the central square is of major importance for sport and social interaction. She emphasizes that the previous design of the space, completed when South Africa hosted the All Africa Games, inadequately catered for current and future needs. The elevated nature of the previous park cut off visibility – problematic in terms of safety and security. The new design aims to increase unity and flexibility as a space through which large crowds can comfortably pass. “This area is in dire need of revitalization as it is in a state of degradation,” stresses Otto.

NLA’s primary goal for the square is to establish a connection between the two stadiums hence the trees and planting should not hinder the connectivity but rather strengthen movement systems and vistas. Albonico informs Urban Green File that the origin of the Jukskei River is celebrated within this space by means of an interactive water feature in which children can learn about the historic river system.

Furthermore, she points out that movement from the inner city symbolically terminates at the fountain, which has a civic scale and presence with respect to the choice of material (granite). The materials are of a high quality and robust with clearly define dedges.

The water feature will work in four parts. The first portion consists of fine mist bubblers, which symbolise origin, followed by small jets and a transition to larger bubblers symbolising the flow of a river.

The feature will conclude in a waterfall structure that further enhances the idea of origin and magnitude. NLA promotes the use of sculptural, indigenous trees and focal planting to create emphasis and an aesthetically-pleasing environment surrounding the water feature.

The square’s clear edges are defined by a double line of trees while the large scale is composed of sub-spaces as far as possible.

Otto confides that NLA hopes an irrigation system will be included in the budget to ensure this 2010 prime project is enhanced and the quality of the project is maintained. The square will be completed by the end of 2008.

Transport square links with city
The second high-activity open space to be upgraded is the New Doornfontein Transport Square. This space is derelict and has become increasingly dangerous over the years. Albonico says the taxi rank’s redesign had to accommodate the same number of taxis to maintain efficiency. In addition, a market and basketball court, along with a certain amount of greening, and possibly even an orchard, will be constructed.

The upgrading of the taxi rank highlights that the urban design of this precinct is not just about public spaces but also about connections that should be celebrated, and made more obvious and attractive to users.

Otto is adamant the revitalisation of the taxi rank, which is split from the rest of the precinct by the railway line, will improve links to the rest of the city. She lists the landscape design characteristics as
*            a forest of fever trees (Acacia xantophloea) as a central green feature;
*            the inclusion of contrasting periphery trees, including the river bushwillow species (Combretum erythrophyllum) with vibrant autumn colour and yellow woods (Podocarpus latifolius) with dark evergreen colours; and
*            monkey thorns (Acacia galpinii) to be introduced within two seated areas surfaced with packed rock (cemented) and bordered by star jasmine.

Albonico mentions that, just by including trees, this landscape can be greatly improved. Completion of the taxi precinct is scheduled for August 2008.

Detailed design creates sense of place
At Ellis Park, the landscape architects and urban designers will make use of various design details and street furniture to create a unique sense of place.

Street vistas enhanced
Otto emphasises the importance of enhancing the street vistas and existing lines by retaining as much of the existing elements as aesthetically and practically feasible in combination with suitable replacements.

Large, upright-growing and more transparent trees are used to reinforce visual connectivity and movement patterns. In essence, the remaining five landscape zones comprise street upgrading projects aimed at uniting them with the existing character of the area. These comprise:
*            Northern Gateway (connection of Charlton Terrace and Bertrams Road)
        - Existing plane trees guide a grid planting layout.
        - Focal planting in BRT islands include Aloe barberae and Dombeya rotundifolia species along with hardy combinations of Aptenia cordirolia and Chondropetalum tectorum.
        - Additional Podocarpus latifolius species are added to complement the existing yellowwoods.
        - Hardy and vandal-resistant indigenous shrub species such as Tecoma capensis, Barleria obtuse and Dietes grandiflora are included within sidewalk strips.
        - Areas of high pedestrian use are surfaced with packed rock fixed in cement to prevent smash-and-grab with loose rockery.
*            Sivewright Avenue and Siemert Road
        - Existing tree species are maintained as far as possible but many will be replaced by a suitable indigenous specie to resolve the rhythm.
        - Simple planted blocks of Star Jasmine and Wild Iris are repeated.
        - Concrete bollards are placed regularly to prevent damage by vehicles and loss of pedestrian space during sporting and theatre functions.
*            Beit Street
        - Expansive roads with narrow sidewalks and building façades directly on the servitude. “
        - The line of shrubs/ground covers to shield pedestrians incorporated wherever possible.
        - Minimal to no existing or additional trees.
*            Bertrams Road
        - Large corridor that runs adjacent to both stadiums with a focal Ellis Park entrance.
        - A large number of the existing trees (Taxus sp.) although having a certain but informal heritage value will be removed due to age and low aesthetic value.
        - The retention of a heritage triangle to be maintained at the entrance has yet to be resolved.
*            Saratoga Avenue
        - Main entrance road to precinct.
        - Two existing triangle islands of mixed palm-tree landscaping.
        - Even though palms are not viewed as suitable contextual vegetation, they have heritage value as part of the existing landscape theme linking to the two palm species at the cathedral corner.
        - One triangle’s palm trees will be relocated to Wits within close proximity so they will not be lost to the area.
        - Replacing lower vegetation with Carissa macrocarpa, which is very hardy but low-growing and, therefore, not a visual hindrance.

Hardy, robust  materials chosen
Resilience and hardiness are the key words that cannot be over-emphasised when it comes to material selection in an urban-design project of this kind. Concrete is the material of choice and perfectly suited to the required specifications due to its resilience, hardiness, availability in a large array of textures and colours, and cost effectiveness.

A concrete-paving manufacturer has agreed to supply a variety of easy-to-replace concrete pavers while custom-designed, hardy, pre-cast concrete benches are introduced within the open spaces and activity corridors. “Natural stone is applied at focal areas to link to the history of the rockery on Observatory Ridge,” says Otto. Subliminally, this natural feature is brought down to pedestrian level. Otto mentions that standard pre-cast concrete bollards will be included in most regions due to budgetary constraints and to link in with existing bollards. She also hopes a custom-designed bollard will be applied at the stadium. Albonico describes the lighting design, which caters for pedestrian and vehicular scales, and owning a subtle African theme: “2010 images have been incorporated into the design without being over emphasised while being cross-cultural”.

Fifa and legacy requirements balanced

A challenge of this project, says Albonico, is the constant alignment to Fifa requirements within the framework of creating open spaces designed as a legacy for the surrounding community. According to the JDA website, a joint inspection of Ellis Park Stadium by a Fifa and 2010 local organizing committee (LOC) team in February 2008 has been described as ”successful”.

The R2-billion Ellis Park Precinct will move to the use stage very soon and the LOC is confident that, come 2009, everything, including the transport infrastructure and upgrading of local neighbourhoods, will be ready for the Confederations Cup.

Whether or not the initiative will succeed in the long-term by leaving a legacy of an improved urban environment will not only depend on rational design decisions but also on adequate urban management and maintenance.

Success depends on precinct management
— Comment by Gerald Garner

Urban Green File welcomes any initiative that strives to improve the urban environment, especially if our cities are made more pedestrian friendly. The design philosophy for the Ellis Park Precinct seems well thoughtout and practical within the context of limited resources. Drought-resistant planting makes sense in such a harsh environment.

However one has to question whether or not this initiative will last. Is this another example of a quick-fix aesthetic approach without addressing the major issues of concern? One cannot help wonder how the City of Johannesburg could justify its initial expenditure on this precinct for the

All Africa Games just to leave the entire area to go to waste. Maintenance and urban management of this area was non-existent for almost a decade. What guarantee is there that it will be any different this time?

Has a facility or precinct manager been appointed and has enough consideration been given to the practicalities of daily urban management? For instance, is the waste collection and management system incorporated into the design of the area?

It is encouraging to hear that the source of the Jukskei River is acknowledged by the design team. In fact, adjacent to the nearby Ponte building is the source of the river in the form of a covered fountain feeding into an underground canal. The significance of this source is in Urban Green File’s opinion not celebrated enough. Does the city realise it is, in fact, the source of the Limpopo River and situated on the continental watershed known as the Witwatersrand. From here water feeds either the catchment areas of the Orange (Atlantic Ocean) or Limpopo (Indian Ocean) river systems. Although the designers of the Ellis Park Precinct cannot be held responsible for this, Urban Green File argues the city should do more, and quickly, to improve the quality of this river resource.

Leaving it for later would seem to be postponing it forever. Ultimately, the precinct will only be successful if it is properly managed and maintained and if property owners are convinced it is a sound investment to develop appropriate buildings that will act as edges or interfaces with the public spaces. Although the existing design and urban scaping work will, undoubtedly, improve the precinct’s environmental quality, long-term success depends on much more than just adding new paving, plants, lights and street furniture. For this, the city will need a dedicated precinct-management team.

One block to kick-start property investment
Monica Albonico emphasises that the concept and strategy of the Ellis Park Precinct involves the promotion of a positive response by the private sector to rejuvenating the existing commercial and residential functions of the area. She says that 2 200 new residential units are planned directly adjacent to the precinct. The JDA believes one block is all that it will take to act as the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the whole suburb and Agmat Badat confirms it is the JDA’s goal, with all its interventions, to regenerate areas – not only from an aesthetic perspective but to encourage property owners to invest in their buildings so that more people are attracted to the area. The JDA has bought a city block in the suburb of Bertrams to kick-start this movement.

Urban microclimate improved?
The approach to the precinct’s microclimate involved a balance of hard and soft surfaces with as much greenery as possible, taking into account that the area has to cater for the movement of big crowds and comply with Fifa guidelines. Otto mentions that design in response to solar aspect is most noticeable, particularly regarding the choice of deciduous or evergreen-tree species at the transport square. NLA’s intention is that adequate shade and non-reflective, penetrable soft platforms will enhance the microclimate while selecting a vegetation palette, which is suited to the climatic characteristics of the region.

Jukskei upgrade not part of project
The upgrading and revitalisation of the Jukskei canal does not form part of the Ellis Park Precinct project for 2010 but treatment of this linear space will be addressed at a later development stage.

ASM recommends that the canal is opened up and the river edges are dealt with to create a more positive effect while dealing with troubling water-quality issues within industrial areas. No specific plan for stormwater management was included in the upgrade as the JDA desired a uniform treatment, which links to existing stormwater control measures. Additional green pads of soft space to attenuate and filter runoff have been introduced to minimise the effect of hard surfaces, however.



Station precincts to be planned
Consultants, contractors and material suppliers would be well-advised to follow developments around the planning of station precincts in northern Gauteng. This is because Intersite Northern Gauteng Region has just issued a call for consultants and/or consortia to submit service fee proposals for the preparation of urban development frameworks for many stations within the region. Stations include Irene, Pretoria, Centurion, Mamelodi Gardens, Denneboom, Eerstefabrieke, Loftus, Kopanong, Soshanguve, Atteridgeville, Saulsville, Kalafong, Rosslyn, Akasiaboom, Silverton, Koedoespoort, Mears, Medunsa and Taliardshoop. The submission of development proposals will close on July 16 2008.

Servitudes not cast in concrete
A ruling in a recent case in the Supreme Court of Appeal (Linvestment cc v Hammersley) has the implication that servitudes are not cast in concrete.

A servitude is registered against the title deeds of a property and is binding on successive owners in perpetuity.

Changing a registered servitude over a property without the consent of the property owners, therefore, provides the ingredients for disagreement.

In this case, the court took up its duty to, from time to time, modernise the law, Andrew Donnelly of Shepstone & Wylie’s litigation department tells Urban Green File.

The court had to consider whether or not a property owner could vary the terms of a registered servitude without the consent of the holder of the servitude.

Linvestment (appellant) applied for an order amending the path of an existing servitude over its property and was prepared to pay all costs relating to the change to ensure the amendment of the servitude did not inconvenience or prejudice Hammersley (respondent) in whose benefit the servitude operated.

The respondent refused to agree to the proposed servitude amendment and maintained, as a matter of law, once the servitude had been registered in the title deeds, it was not capable of variation without the consent of both property owners.

The Supreme Court of Appeal concluded Roman and Roman Dutch authorities held a registered servitude could not be changed without the mutual consent of both property owners.

Nevertheless the court accepted the duty and challenge it was obliged to make and modernise the law from time to time and said “the interests of justice do, indeed, require a change in our established law on the subject. The rigid enforcement of a servitude where the sanctity of a contract or the strict terms of the grant benefit neither party but, on the contrary, operate prejudicially on one of them, seems to me indefensible. Servitudes are, by their nature, often the creation of preceding generations devised in another time to serve ends which must now be satisfied in a different environment”.

The court decided to follow a more flexible legal approach and held, if the proposed change was reasonable, the court may vary or modify the terms of a registered servitude without the consent of the property owner who enjoys the benefit of the servitude.

Coastal city designed
DHV, the parent company of South African firm, SSI Engineers & Environmental Consultants, has been commissioned, together with the Chinese planning institute, Qinghua, and Arup of the UK to carry out a coastal and urban development project in China. The coastal city will be built on an area of 150 km² to provide space for 1-million inhabitants.

According to DHV, it won the assignment by including, in its concept for the area, an island and lagoon structure, which is reminiscent of the Dutch Wadden Sea. DHV informed Urban Green File: “The concept allows for the creation of fresh groundwater in a sustainable manner for use in the city’s green spaces”. The new coastal city will be built in Caofeidian, an industrial zone in northern China on the Bohai Sea.



Urban water quality monitored
When monitoring the quality of urban waters, diatoms offer a bio-monitoring option that seems more reliable than physio-chemical measurement – and this is an inexpensive and easy method of analysis and sampling.

South Africa is a country rich in natural resources. However one such resource is under threat. South Africa has a limited water supply, necessitating effective management of this precious resource – not only in terms of adequate distribution networks but also in terms of water quality.

For this reason, monitoring schemes are quite common in South Africa – at national, provincial or local level. They monitor the levels of sets of environmental variables in the water resources with the sets of variables usually consisting of physical (for example, temperature and turbidity) and chemical (for example, nutrient levels, salinity, electrical conductivity and pH) variables. However these measurements only provide a ”snapshot” of the overall water quality in a particular water body due to the dynamic nature of these systems. This means fluctuations in the levels of environmental variables may not be adequately detected.

Bio-monitoring provides holistic picture
For a more holistic picture of the condition of water resources, the use of bio-monitoring techniques has been employed. Most notable among these are the South African Scoring System (SASS) based on macro-invertebrates, the Fish Health Index (FHI), the Riparian Vegetation Index (RVI) and the Index of Habitat Integrity (IHI). These bio-monitoring techniques have been used with great success in the National River Health Programme in addition to the measurement of environmental variables.

The monitoring of biological communities has several advantages over the monitoring of physio-chemical variables alone. Biological communities reflect overall ecological quality and integrate the effects of different impacts and also provide an ecological measurement of fluctuating environmental conditions. This approach also measures the response of organisms that are continuously exposed to water and the pollutants therein, and these organisms reflect the actual effects of the pollutants on the aquatic ecosystem.

The use of biological communities to assess water quality is also reliable and relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of assessing pollutants with the traditional analytical methods.

Water-resource monitoring inadequate
Despite the advantages of bio-indicators, there are still some inherent inadequacies in the existing suite of indicators widely used in monitoring South Africa’s water resources.

Bio-indicators are largely based on the animal component of aquatic ecosystems.

This often poses problems, such as difficulty during sampling due to motility, uneven distribution, limitation to habitat, complexity in identification during certain life stages and strong linkages with seasonality.

Indeed, no group of organisms can be labelled as the ”perfect” bio-indicator.

Diatoms can indicate water quality
There is one group of organisms, though, present almost everywhere water is found, that shares few of these limitations. They are most commonly known as diatoms – a group of algae that often makes up the majority of the algal composition of an aquatic ecosystem. Diatoms can occur free-floating in the water or grow attached to substrata, such as submerged rocks, plants and concrete in canals. Diatoms can be distinguished from other algae by a characteristic brown colour and ”slimy” touch due to the secretion of mucilage for locomotion and attachment to a substratum.

Diatoms are regarded by many researchers as ”sub-cosmopolitan”. This means they occur where a certain set of environmental conditions exist. In contrast with so many other organisms, geographical location does not hinder its distribution.

Instead the occurrence of a diatom species at a particular site is governed by environmental conditions at that site. Diatoms attached to a substratum (cobbles, boulders, pebbles and concrete) are referred to as the epilithon and are the preferred communities for monitoring water quality. As these diatoms are attached to the substratum and use nutrients (phosphates and nitrates, among others) and other micronutrients as food source, they respond directly to fluctuations in nutrient levels, stressors (toxicants and/or pollutants) and physical conditions in the water body. They, therefore, reflect and are sensitive to changes in water quality.

The ecological requirements of a large amount of diatom species are well known, so that accurate deductions can be made about the physical and chemical properties of the water in which it occurs. These deductions are usually based on the abundance of certain diatom species.

Diatom indices developed
Since the latter half of the past century, several diatom indices have been developed in an attempt to classify the quality of water – usually based on a scale dependent on the criterion in question (for example, to indicate the level of organic pollution, the trophic level of the water and the general water quality, to mention but a few). The numerical value of the particular diatom index results from the average of the optimum water-quality conditions for the species. This is then weighted by the abundance of each of the species.

Easy-to-collect samples

An attractive feature of the use of diatoms as indicators of water quality is the ease with which diatom samples can be collected and processed. The field equipment needed to collect diatom samples can be made up of everyday items, including a toothbrush (to dislodge the cells from the substratum), a sampling tray and sampling bottles.

Diatom samples require some processing in the laboratory. However the laboratory equipment necessary for the processing of samples isn’t very expensive and processing can be completed in a short space of time, and the relevant skills involved are easily acquired through practice. The end product of a processed sample is a permanent diatom slide ready for analysis by a trained diatomist.

Long-term monitoring feasible
Preserved unprocessed and processed samples, as well as permanent slides, can be stored for years under the right conditions; creating opportunities for baseline and follow-up studies to be conducted.

Also possible is the assessment of the change in water quality of a particular water resource over a long period. In addition, it allows for checking of the proficiency of the analyst when involved in a proficiency-testing scheme similar to those used in routine algal monitoring.

For accurate results, the diatom slide has to be analysed by an individual who has been trained in the identification of diatom species. Analysis requires the use of a microscope and the species is mainly distinguished from one another by the arrangement of a variety of ornamentations on the silica cell wall. For routine monitoring, a few hundred cells need to be identified and enumerated in order to obtain an accurate representation of the diatom community. The abundant data on each species is then interpreted and used to calculate index values. These calculations are often helped by entering the abundance data into a software package, which calculates the values for a variety of diatom indices.

Substantial research in 20th century
Substantial research has been done on diatoms from the early 1900s; covering their classification but, more relevant to this discussion, efficacy as bio-indicators. Most notable were the contributions of Cholnoky, Schoeman and Archibald in the mid to late 1900s. These diatomists described a host of new species and contributed greatly to the knowledge of diatoms and the relationship to water quality on an international scale. More recently, after a period of about 20 years when very little was published on South African diatoms, this kind of research underwent a ”renaissance” with contributions by Bate and Adams and, more significantly, Dr Taylor at the Potchefstroom campus of North West University (NWU).

Assessment protocol developed in South Africa
Dr Taylor applied, with great success, a host of diatom indices – mainly developed in Europe – to the Vaal River. This study paved the way for the Diatom Assessment Protocol (Water Research Commission Project K5/1588 Development of a Diatom Assessment Protocol for River Health Assessment) and resulted in standard methods recommended for sampling and processing, as well as identification manuals of species commonly occurring in South African waters. As a bio-monitoring tool, diatoms have also been used in South Africa in recent years in a variety of environments, ranging from pristine to severely impacted, such as mountainous rivers, wetlands, mining environments and urban environments – research mainly conducted at NWU.

Urban rivers present unique challenges
In light of the advantages involved in the use of bio-indicators, in addition to physiochemical constituents, urban environments provide unique challenges. Streams and rivers in urban environments are often canalised – mainly for the control of floodwaters and the collection of stormwater.

This practice of replacing the natural stream bed with an impervious layer of concrete has impacted on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. The result is the destruction of the natural habitat for many organisms that inhabit these waterways.

So the existing suite of bio-indicators commonly used in South Africa loses its efficacy as there is an absence of organisms on which they are based. But, since diatoms are microscopic, they are less affected by the loss of habitat common in urban environments and, indeed, flourish on submerged concrete canal bottoms because they are directly influenced mainly by chemical water quality.

Another challenge posed by the urban environment is that of extremes in terms of flow rate, temperature and nutrient fluctuations.

In contrast to the natural environment where a large rain storm leads to the dilution of pollutants, these storms often lead to a concentration of pollutants from the urban environment into the urban rivers. For this reason, the quality of urban stormwater is often compared to that of sewage in terms of suspended solids, metals and/or biological oxygen demand.

A recent survey of metropolitan canals revealed that, despite the absence of other indicator organisms, diatoms were present on all sites but one. In reality, some of the lowest diatom index scores recorded in South African waters were from these waters and, despite this, the diatom indices were still able to distinguish different levels of bad water quality. Diatoms are, therefore, an ideal bio-indicator for monitoring the state of urban water resources.

Potchefstroom study proves value of diatoms
Another recent study of an urban canal in Potchefstroom has shown that diatom communities are able to respond to subtle changes in water quality within a harsh and unpredictable urban environment (high water temperatures, high concentrations of dissolved oxygen, high pollutant levels and fluctuating pH between 6 and 10) and that diatom indices derived from the community composition reflect these changes to a high degree. Diatom indices showed strong correlations to the measured heavy-metal concentrations, which were also reflected in distortion of the diatom cell walls. The changes in diatom communities and diatom index values also clearly indicated the influence of a polluted urban tributary on the Mooi River – to a much higher degree than shown by concurrent physio-chemical measurements on these sites.

The inherent advantages of using bio-indicators are clear but, more importantly, the use of diatoms to monitor urban environments has numerous advantages above other bio-monitoring techniques and even physio-chemical measurements. The inclusive nature with which these organisms reflect water quality, combined with the relatively inexpensive cost of analysis and ease of sampling, places this group of organisms in a favourable position to become the bio-indicators of choice in urban and other environments.
— GP Kriel is an environmental consultant at Environmental Impact Management Services.

For more information on the River Health Programme, visit


A future not wasted
After a visit to IFAT 2008 in Munich, Germany, Urban Green File unpacks wastemanagement trends of the future.

Early in May 2008, Urban Green File had the privilege of spending some time in Munich, Germany – a city that boasts some remarkable contemporary architecture, and leading environmental and urban design. It is noticeable how pedestrian- and cycling-friendly this city is. Widespread tree planting and visible recycling, through separate waste bins for different waste streams, add to Munich’s environmental quality.

However the purpose of Urban Green File’s visit was not to marvel at the city’s planning and design but to visit IFAT 2008 – the world’s largest environmental technology, water, waste and recycling exhibition. Boasting more than 2 500 exhibitors filling all the indoor halls (18 in total) plus some outdoor exhibition space at the impressive Messe Munchen, the show is a must-visit for anyone who wants to stay abreast of environmental technology and industry trends. Only staged every three years, the next show is scheduled for 2011 and Urban Green File readers would be well-advised to pencil the event into their future diaries.
*            Visible trends at IFAT 2008 of interest to the South African marketplace included
*            underground waste-storage bins;
*            mobile shredding equipment for recycling and composting applications;
*            vacuum sewerage technologies;
*            generation of electricity and heat from biomass – specifically from waste projects rather than food crops; and
*            small-scale plants for the treatment of wastewater.

Underground waste storage introduced to South Africa
Urban Green File first reported on the trend towards underground waste storage in its December 2006 print edition after visiting the Entsorga exhibition in Cologne, Germany. The advantages of these systems are obvious: more waste can be stored over a longer period and this means less collection cycles for a municipality.

The downstream benefits include fewer emissions from waste trucks, lower fuel costs and less labour requirements as well as a significantly cleaner urban environment.

At IFAT 2008, Otto displayed various underground waste-bin solutions. As Urban Green File was writing from Munich, it was not possible to reach Rob Lerena of Otto Waste Systems in South Africa for comment. However municipalities and private property developers, as well as facilities managers, would be well advised to look at Otto’s underground waste bins as an option. In addition to the waste bins, Otto also displayed a very attractive range of street furniture: Urban Plus Otto Public Furnishings.

Meanwhile H&G displayed another range of underground waste-storage bins. Indeed visually appealing and practical, Urban Green File is of the opinion that these products would be welcomed by South African cities. However, at this stage, H&G is not represented in South Africa.

In addition, Urban Green File has been told by Mervin Cherrington of Landfill Equipment that he is close to securing the rights for another underground waste-bin brand and he hopes to introduce this range to the South African market in coming months.

South Africans at IFAT
Although not a single South African company exhibited at IFAT, a fair number of South African visitors were spotted at the show. Apart from Cherrington, Alan Willcocks of Interwaste looked for new technologies to take his waste-contracting business to new heights. Also in attendance was Johan van der Merwe of TFM Industries. Apart from Doppstadt, TFM is also the South African representative of Dennis Eagle’s range of bodies made for waste vehicles. Dennis Eagle has become part of the Ros Roca group; opening up possibilities for other products to enter the South African marketplace. Deryk Flynn, GM: export at Dennis Eagle in Warwick, UK, talked to Urban Green File at IFAT. He spoke highly of TFM Industries’s reputation – so much so that TFM is a licensed manufacturer of Dennis Eagle products in South Africa. “It is a good and reliable partner we can trust to maintain a presence for Dennis Eagle in the international market,” said Flynn. Many IFAT exhibitors listed international agents, subsidiaries and partners on their exhibition stands and, thus, a significant number of South African companies had a presence albeit indirectly.

Some Urban Green File met included:
*            Phoenix Contact (water and waste industry) with a full office in South Africa.
*            Weidenmann (turf care and groundmaintenance machines) represented by Smith Turf Equipment in South Africa.
*            AnoxKaldnes (a Veolia Water company) represented in South Africa by Keyplan.
*            Roediger Vacuum (specialising in vacuum sewerage technology) represented by Denorco in South Africa and Orbit Pumps in Botswana. Johnston (waste trucks) represented by Transtech in South Africa.
*            AGRU (linings) represented by Astore in South Africa.

Mobile shredders galore
A wide array of mobile shredders was on display at IFAT. This is in line with the European trend for pre-treatment and recycling of waste. Waste is no longer landfilled unless it has first been pretreated. For this reason, most recyclable waste is separated from the waste stream, shredded and re-used.

Shredders have applications in the landscaping field where plant and food waste can be composted but also widely used in applications like recycling of tyres. On show at IFAT were many brands, including Doppstadt (represented by TFM Industries in South Africa), Haas, Hammel (part of Terex Fuchs), Komptech and Willibald, to name a few.

At the TANA stand, Urban Green File met Mervin Cherrington of the South African waste-equipment company, Landfill Equipment. Cherrington is well-known for representing the TANA range of waste-compacting equipment/rollers used on landfill sites. Landfill Equipment hopes to introduce the new TANAShark mobile shredder to the South African market. If Cherrington secures an order for this machine, delegates at Wastecon in Durban will be able to view the TANAShark. It is a slow-speed shredder suited to trees, plant material, such as branches, and even tyres. The design of the machine was prompted by the EU directive that all waste must be pretreated before landfill. “This, of course, is not yet the case in South Africa where many materials, including building rubble, end up on landfills; making shredding impossible,” Cherrington told Urban Green File. “However companies that handle specific waste streams, such as tyres, cardboard or compost, would benefit from a TANAShark machine,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile HAMMEL RecyclingTechnik told Urban Green File it has sold its first machine into South Africa with arrival scheduled for September 2008.

Biomass an energygeneration option?
Noticeable at IFAT 2008 was the focus on biomass as a source of energy. Almost an entire hall was dedicated to companies in this field. According to Bavarian State Minister of the Environment, Public Health & Consumer Protection, Dr Otmar Bernhard, in the state of Bavaria, Germany, the use of biomass as a primary energy source increased by 40% between 1998 and 2004. Apparently 5,2% of primary energy consumption in Bavaria is generated from biomass. With South Africa’s shortage of generating capacity, a figure of 5% that can be generated from an alternative source should not go unnoticed.

In Germany, the world food crisis has not gone unnoticed and there is widespread awareness of the fact that biofuel, generated from food crops, is falling out of favour. However, at IFAT, great emphasis was placed on the generation of electricity from waste materials – a win-win as it also reduces the volumes of waste and, therefore, saves on valuable landfill space – not to mention the climate-protection benefits of reducing emissions.

According to Bernhard, biomass should be considered as an option where electricity and heating is required as “biomass can be used up to three times more efficiently and is significantly more cost-effective – with considerable higher energy- and, therefore, climate-protection potential – than in present-day production of biofuels”.

It must be noted, though, that in most biogas plants, the utilisation of heat is inadequate although more than half the energy produced is in the form of heat, claims Bernhard.

Household waste should be separated for energy generation
In line with the focus on biomass as an energy-generation option, the organisers of IFAT 2008 suggested the use of ordinary household waste for electricity generation.

“Organic waste and food remains that people put in a bin designated for this purpose are ideal for use in fermentation processes to produce biogas,” an IFAT media statement claimed. “At the moment, in Germany, a large portion of the 8,4-million t (2006) of organic waste collected separately from households is still being composted but the debate on climate change, high energy prices, German government funding through the Renewable Energy

Sources Act and advances in biogas technology are raising interest in fermenting this waste.” Apparently biogas can also be generated from unsorted general household waste through a process of mechanical-biological treatment (MBT). The MBT system would sort waste, initially mechanically via sifting and segregation processes, into different streams according to material type. In this way, the biological portion can be either composted or fermented to biogas. According to the IFAT organiser, there are 48 MBT systems operating in Germany of which eight are producing biogas.

Industrial park powered by biogas
Urban Green File learned at IFAT that the Hochst Industrial Park in Frankfurt am Main will boast a 15-million euro biogas-to-electricity plant. Again South African industry should take note as with a shortage of energy in general, rising electricity prices and international demand for products produced with cleaner energy than coal-fired power, biogas should certainly be considered as an option. The Hochst Industrial Park will consume 310 000 t of industrial sludge per year and this will be supplemented by 90 000 t of food waste, waste from abattoirs, used oils and fats, and residues from the pharmaceutical industry – 4 MW of electricity and 2 MW of heat will be generated, providing the 90 chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies in the park with an environment-friendly disposal solution for their organic waste, as well as electricity supply.

Not many biogas specialists in South Africa
What was clear at IFAT 2008 is the significant trend towards electricity generation from biomass. Many European, specifically German, companies exhibited their technologies and services in this field but with much development in this field happening in Germany, most of these companies are focused on that region only. Urban Green File believes it will take a decade or so for these companies to branch out and establish truly global footprints. However this should not deter South African companies from considering biogas as an electricity generation option – it is in line with co-generation principles promoted in the mining industry and could be an opportunity for Independent Power Producers if the cost of Eskom’s, mostly coal-fired, power increases as expected. Companies that participated in IFAT 2008, specialising in the field of biomass-to-electricity, included:
*            Pro2 (offering container-type, landfill gas plants globally)
*            AE&E Group (Austrian Energy & Environment Group active globally)
*            Enbasys Biotech Energy (based in Austria)
*            MT-Energie (offices in Europe, USA and Southeast Asia)
*            Nehlsen (based in Germany with three international locations)
*            e.on (based in Germany)
*            Ros Roca (worldwide, including Spain, Portugal, Germany and Brazil)

Vacuum sewerage an alternative for SA?
Conventional gravity sewer systems require vast amounts of water to operate and most often clean drinking water is flushed away with sewage. In South Africa, where water is a scarce resource, vacuum sewerage systems could provide a sustainable alternative. At IFAT 2008, Urban Green File spoke to Dr Volker Zang, MD, and Lars Spath, director: business unit: vacuum sewerage, of Roediger Vacuum, the company behind the RoeVac system. Apparently Roediger’s Botswana agent, Orbit Pumps, has already installed such a system in Botswana and the South African agent, Denorco, in a Cape Town township. They claim it is the ideal technology for areas where space is at a premium and where it is impossible to dig deep trenches. “Vacuum sewer systems require substantially smaller pipes than traditional sewers,” Spath stated. “Steep slopes are not required; making shallow installation possible. They are self-cleaning and do not need water for pipe flushing.

They are, therefore, more economical and superior to conventional systems from an ecological perspective.” Meanwhile Willem Goosen of Flovac in the Netherlands told Urban Green File that vacuum sewerage promises a “green” future. “Vacuum sewer systems have been accepted in more than 40 countries as a low-cost, environment-friendly method of transferring wastewater away from houses to treatment plants,” he said. Flovac does not yet have a presence in South Africa but would be interested in looking at local project opportunities. The company, though, already operates in at least 18 countries worldwide.

Small-scale wastewater plants in demand
Another significant trend at IFAT 2008 was the refitting of small-scale wastewater plants and septic tanks. New environmental technologies are making it possible to treat wastewater through small-scale plants – even in ecologically-sensitive areas. Dr Bernhard says about 100 000 small-scale wastewater plants have been refitted in Bavaria since 2003. He is of the opinion German industry can look forward to good export prospects in terms of this technology. South Africa, in turn, can look forward to newer and more ecologically appropriate, small-scale wastewater technologies in the near future.



Appropriate treatment
Not just another monument to Mandela, Lilliesleaf is a calming influence on the landscape.

The historic site in Rivonia, Johannesburg, where Nelson Mandela lived at the time of his arrest is the location of the Lilliesleaf visitor and resource centres. The buildings – designed by Mashabane Rose Architects (MRA) – and landscape – designed by Green Inc – are in complete harmony.

The simplicity of the design treatment shows respect for the significance of the site while it creates a distinct sense of place. The project was spearheaded by Nicholas Wolpe, CEO of the Lilliesleaf Trust.

The farm was converted into a public museum through the restoration of the manor house and adapting the structures of the outbuildings as far as possible. A new visitor centre was added and this structure sits gently in the landscape; blending old, new and the environment.

The contemporary buildings have been designed with clean lines, open light spaces and materials that echo the outbuildings.

The new forms are quite different from the manor house but resonate strongly with the old outbuildings.

Craig McClenaghan of MRA expresses his wish to Urban Green File: “I hope the people who remember the place as it was 40 or 50 years ago will feel the quietness of the architecture, which is born out of a deep and profound respect.”

Urban Green File finds the simplistic but appropriate architectural and landscape treatment inspirational. The historical events and their consequences reverberate through the buildings; quietened and calmed by the tranquil outdoor spaces.

— In-depth articles on Lilliesleaf appeared in the March 2008 edition of Architechnology and the May 2008 edition of JFM Business, Retail & Leisure Facilities – both sister magazines of Urban Green File.



Buffer strips still in place!
More than a decade after the end of apartheid, South African towns still keep their buffer strips intact!

For Urban Green File, it remains mind-boggling that little has been done by South African municipalities to bridge the buffer strips that marked towns in the apartheid era. Large tracts of land were left undeveloped to provide buffers between neighbourhoods zoned for different races.

Astoundingly, though, newly-formed municipalities in a democratic South Africa have done little to address this travesty. Many buffer strips remain as undeveloped, unsafe no-man’s land. Affordable housing projects are still often developed on the outskirts of traditional townships; reinforcing the segregated living patterns of apartheid while maintaining unsustainable city patterns with the poor living furthest away from work opportunities.

Driving through South Africa’s many countryside towns, one always finds a township (with new schools and RDP housing galore), then a piece of empty land and then the traditional “white” town. In cities, it may be less obvious but, until today, buffer strips exist throughout our metropolitan areas.

It is time for South Africans to exploit the benefits of developing this land; of establishing new links that could make our cities easier to navigate and result in significant savings when it comes to unnecessary transport costs.

It is time to bridge the buffer strip!



Public participation of value?

Is public participation, as part of environmental impact assessments, effective? Only if there is an organized participation strategy.

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) have been part of South African environmental law since the enactment of the EIA regulations under the Environmental Conservation Act of 1998 – amended and streamlined since the new EIA regulations were introduced in 2006 under the National Environmental Management Act; now undergoing further amendments. Public participation, and the public’s right to information by interested and affected parties (IAPs), is a fundamental cornerstone of participatory environmental democracies around the world. However, an allegation frequently levelled at the EIA process is that it is merely a rubber-stamping exercise carried out by the applicant’s consultant and given credence by the regulators. If the allegation is correct, then participation by the IAPs (particularly those representing public interests, such as NGOs and environmental action groups) is completely ineffective.

Furthermore, the applicants, often large corporations with considerable resources, merely ride roughshod over the IAPs’ rights and objections, as well as legitimate participation in the EIA process.

While it is easy to understand why public interest groups may feel this way towards EIAs, it is submitted that this is not the case either factually or as interpreted by our courts – as evidenced by judgments like Director: Mineral Development Gauteng Region and Another v Save the Vaal Environment and Others and, more recently, Earthlife Africa (Cape Town) v Director General: Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism and Another.

In the former case, the court confirmed the basic principle of audi alteram partem, stating all parties must be given the right to a fair hearing during public participation on matters relating to decisions taken by the authorities.

In the more recent Earthlife Africa case, the court again confirmed the importance of public participation and stated all information in the public domain and in possession of the authorities must be distributed to the public in order for the public to participate meaningfully in the process.

These two cases, as well as some others, lend support to the contention that public participation is not a mere rubberstamping process. In fact, it is a meaningful part of the EIA and failure by applicants and their environmental consultants to adequately engage with the public is seen in serious light by the courts. Indeed it can be a fatal flaw in an EIA process.

If this is the case, then one must examine the question: Why do public interest groups find it so difficult to participate meaningfully in the EIA process?

The nature of the process is such that the environmental consultants are experts at running the process as efficiently as possible. In their own words, they are “process specialists”.

The quality of information supplied to IAPs and the level of participation with IAPs vary. At some public participation meetings, the level of interaction is excellent while, in other instances, it is very basic.

What can IAPs do to ensure they do participate meaningfully and any queries or objections are taken seriously? Part of the answer may lie in having an organized participation strategy.

This includes set objectives and the right people with the requisite skills on one’s side. The applicant’s environmental consultants will often have almost unlimited access to information and legal resources. However IAPs can counter this by using the information given to them by the applicant’s environmental consultants. Where, however, this information is lacking, the process often needs to be bolstered by including process experts on the IAP’s side. This could be in the form of a legal expert and an environmental consultant.
— Article by Adam Gunn, director at Routledge Modise in association with Eversheds.