Africa’s “greenest hotel” is set for its grand opening next week, where it will show off its unique environmentally friendly features.
Just outside of Cape Town International Airport in South Africa is Hotel Verde, a showcase for some of the most environmentally conscious technological installations and constructional and operation practices in the world.
The owners of the hotel are Mario and Annemarie Delicio of Dematech, a company which provides technical support and procurement services to the beverage industry.
Passionate about the possibilities of sustainability and environmentally friendly practices in industry, the pair joined forces with others to push the envelope.
Mario Delicio said: ““We have a responsibility as a company, as an employer and as a visitor on this planet to live as sustainably as possible. This is the only way we can survive long-term and hand over to our children in a responsible manner.
Construction on Hotel Verde, which is a part of the recently launched BON Hotels group, began over a year ago just outside Cape Town International Airport, with a team of contractors and experts dedicated to finding the alternative.
“If you look at what can be done from a green angle you look at energy, water and waste reduction,” Delicio said.
“You then take each of these areas and work out how to implement alternatives, generating your own electricity for example. Then you need to explore the extent to which you can go.”
The team at Hotel Verde have used locally sourced suppliers, employed sustainable practices on the building site and have sought multiple ways in which they can generate their own electricity and reduce waste to almost zero.
“We have an advantage because we are starting from scratch. We could go from choosing recycled bricks and insulation, to installing a geothermal field, coupled to ground-source heat pumps. When you build new you can plan much more than if you retrofit an existing building.”
Andre Harms, Sustainability Manager and founder of Ecolution Consulting, is a trained mechanical engineer and the expertise behind some of the more technical aspects of the building. Having spent 15 months at the South African Research Centre in Antarctica, Harms knows what it is to value everyday resources and is applying this dedication to each facet of the project.
“We have the opportunity to change the status quo here,” said Harms.
“We have looked at different ways of doing everything, right from the word go.”
This includes the photovoltaic (solar) panels positioned to provide shade as well as power, these are mounted on the north façade of the building so as to not only generate electricity but create shading for the windows that get the most sun, according to Harms.
Another step is to dramatically reduce the amount of concrete required by utilising Cobiax void formers, recycled plastic balls placed strategically within the concrete slabs that are required for the various floors. They displace the concrete, saving approximately 1284 tonnes while maintaining the structural integrity.
Hotel Verde also boasts a sophisticated grey water recycling plant that will contribute towards a 37% reduction of potable water use.
Harms said: “We have run a network of pipes through the building in order to reticulate the grey water, collect it and supply it to the toilets.”
They will also be utilising a rainwater filtering and capture system to provide water for the car wash and irrigation. The elevators will run on a regenerative drive, which will allow for about 30 percent of the input energy to be recaptured and fed back into the building, and double-glazed windows with spectrally selective glass will filter out hot rays, so less heat enters the building reducing the need for air-conditioning.
In order to bypass the need for standard air-conditioning systems, traditionally one of the biggest energy consumers, Hotel Verde will utilise ground source heat pumps made by 100 holes drilled about 76 metres into the ground, where the temperature is a consistent 19 degrees Centigrade. Renowned German supplier AGO Energy will install a complex network of piping and equipment specifically designed for Hotel Verde that uses the earth as a heat source in winter and “heat sink” in summer, boosting efficiency and dramatically reducing operational costs.
Delicio said: “There is no other hotel in Africa that has gone to the extent that we are hoping to achieve.
“But going green is not just about the building, it’s about every aspect of the operation; zero waste to landfill for example. We might never reach that, but with the ideas we have in mind we will come pretty close.”
Open to the public in August 2013, the hotel plans to incentivise guests with credit notes and bar tabs for those who utilise towels more than once, for example, or don’t use the air-conditioning.
“It’s about getting customers involved and making them a part of the whole green thinking philosophy,” Delicio said.
The hotel opens to the public from August 27.