Latest: FynBloem receives CSR award for Socially Responsible Development! Read more here.
Cape Town based architects, KUBE recently completed a first-of-its-kind Protea packing export facility in the Riviersonderend valley. The client, a South African and Danish partnership have been exporting Proteas to the United Kingdom and Europe for a number of years under the Fynbloem brand. Previously the product was transported via airfreight but now, in an endeavour to reduce the carbon footprint and cost, our client was looking at sea freight as an alternative – an entirely new concept for this type of product, resulting in a new set of challenges.
In addition to the above, the client principally supplies Marks & Spencer in the United Kingdom. M&S are applying increasing pressure on their suppliers to “do the right thing” and have called this their “Plan A” initiative which was launched in January 2007 and is aimed at combating climate change, reducing waste, using raw materials and trading ethically. (You can read more about this here. Villiera Wines just outside Stellenbosch, have already implemented this philosophy and are the first in South Africa to be certified Plan A compliant. It was truly inspiring when visiting this estate to see what can be achieved by following the criteria set.
The packing facility, which is to act as the face of the brand, by celebrating the sustainable principals used in its construction, consists of two main components:
A warehouse facility wherein the packing process takes place will be developed in 2 separate phases of approximately 3000m2 each. In addition, phase one will also accommodate a smaller public component which will house offices, meeting rooms and exhibition/display facilities of approximately 300m2. Should demand necessitate, the possibility of a third warehouse phase would be added in the future.
The administrative component which forms the public interface has been positioned on the north elevation in order to shield the northern face of the warehouse from sun as well as screening the warehouse itself from the public. Cooling costs inside the warehouse, where a constant temperature of 10C˚ is crucial, can be cut down significantly in this manner.
The challenges inherent in this project involve the strict regulation of temperatures throughout the packaging process and complying with the M&S Plan A principles. In addition to widely recognised sustainable materials and construction practices to be used in this project, the following will assist in achieving Plan A compliance:
Water reticulation: As the Facility is situated in a water scarce region, water is the area’s most precious resource and, water stewardship receives the highest priority.
Approximately 3000m2 of roof space in phases one and two will act as rainwater harvesters, feeding water to box gutters between the various building components. These gutters would, in turn, discharge into rainwater tanks. The water would be fed back into the building under gravitational pressure. Conceptually these waterways will be mirrored inside the actual warehouse where the water used in the process as well as for cleaning purposes will be channeled towards the main waterway, which runs perpendicular to the main circulation corridor. This waterway will transport all the water to the dam where a reed bed filtration process will be used to purify the water, after which the water will be fed back into the farm or re-used in the pack shed.
Inside the pack house transpiration will be restricted due to effective cooling, meaning that flowers will only need to drink once instead of twice.
The roof structure which sits over the main circulation corridor will house the photo-voltaic panels which will be used to convert solar energy to electricity for use by the facility and, once fully implemented, would be able to supply excess electricity to the national grid.
Cutting the Carbon Footprint
1. Air vs. Sea
The Pack house is designed for the export of flowers by sea, which is less environmentally damaging than airfreight
80 % of the fynbos used is obtained from the surrounding mountains, thereby reducing the transportation of raw materials to the pack house and the emission of CO2.
The new pack house will facilitate an end- to-end production system, reduscing the transport of flowers and raw materials (which includes waste) to Cape Town for processing and packing.
Approximate CO2 saving per trip to the UK:
20 tons by sea = 1,5tons CO2 *
vs. 20tons by air = 123,9tons CO2 *
= A total of 98 % less CO2!! *
Refrigeration, which forms a large part of the electricity consumption will be cut down in the following ways:
- Equipment is specifically selected and designed to reduce the overall energy consumption and to minimize the ammonia charge. Anhydrous ammonia (R717) as a refrigerant is a natural gas, and has no negative environmental impact;
- A customized maintenance program will prevent wastage of electrical power;
- Cooling time will be reduced by installing the most advanced vacuum cooler.
Anhydrous ammonia(R717) as refrigerant is a natural gas, having no negative environmental impact.
Approximate CO2 saving:
Based on an electrical engineers calculations, the ammonia systems uses 1590kwh less per day due to ammonia’s better c.o.p (coefficient of performance – refrigeration produced from electrical power used) This is the equivalent of 1,5 tons CO2 saved per day!! *
3. Natural Resources
Alien Vegetation: The client has been in the process of clearing the farm of Black Wattle, Port Jackson and Gum, all of which are invasive tree species which constitutes a serious threat to our indigenous vegetation and water courses. The timber recycled from this process will be used for the manufacture of some of the elements of the design such as the movable screens which would sit on the north elevation and will be used for passive solar control, thereby reducing the need for regular air-conditioning inside the office component.Plant waste generated by the pack house will be mulched and used for compost.
The operational requirement that the entire warehouse be on one level (both phases), dictates that a large section of the building be cut into the existing slope on the site. The shale rock salvaged during the excavation process will be used in part for the construction of the building thereby tying it comfortably into the landscape which it inhabits, with the additional advantage of significantly lessening the visual impact of the building by nestling it into the landscape.
The use of sand and stones from the farm for the construction of the packing facility will also significantly cut down the CO2 emissions.
Approximate CO2 saving:
1. Driving 150 km further for 120 loads of sand:
= 340kg CO2 per trip, or 41tons total *
2. Driving 100 km further for 15 loads of stone:
= 219kg CO2 per trip, or 3,3tons total. *
= A grand total of 44,3 tons!! *
Measures implemented towards reducing electricity usage include:
- Cooling at Night;
- Under-floor Insulation reduces the ingress of heat thereby reducing the cooling requirement;
- Installation of the most electrically efficient vacuum cooler;
- A lighting design study was conducted to ensure sufficient light at all times;
- The introduction of solar domes allows for the ingress of natural light thereby reducing the need for artificial lighting;
- Adjustable lighting levels enables manual regulation of electricity consumption;
- P5 light will be used for energy efficiency.
An electrical engineer has been employed to ensure the most efficient electrical system, which will be a huge saving. As there is no standard pack house against which to measure it is not possible to calculate the saving.
5. Thermally Activated Building System (TABS)
TABS (Thermally Activated Building System) is the technique by which the concrete structure of a building is used for heating and cooling of spaces. Cooling through absorption of energy from the space, or heating by the release of stored energy into the space. The building’s concrete structure is thermally activated by pumping water through pipes embedded in the structure. Hot water circulates through the concrete structure resulting in heating of the space whereas cold water cools down the interior.
The thermal inertia of the concrete mass utilized also allows for “off peak” heating/cooling with advantageous electricity tariffs which has significant commercial impact. In Germany 3 out of every 10 new buildings designs incorporate this strategy from concept level. In South Africa the FynBloem Protea Packing Facility is one of only 6 commercial scale projects to have employed this system.
During winter FynBloem uses the heat generated by the refrigeration equipment of the cold store for heating the water which flows through the 540m2 floor and roof slab of the office component, thereby heating the space with virtually no help from Eskom. In summer when cooling of the occupied building space is required the refrigeration plant cools the water which circulates through the building’s concrete structure.
Due to the large exposed surface areas used when heating/cooling with TABS, the resultant cooling water temperatures are higher than conventional system requirements and the required heating water temperatures are also lower than with conventional systems, hence the terminology “low temperature heating and high temperature cooling” is commonly referred to when using TABS. This feature considerably improves refrigeration cycle efficiency (COP) and also aligns with passive system concepts of which the heat recovery concept in this particular project is a fitting example.
Free convection between the room air and heated/cooled concrete surface also means that no forced convection is required, eliminating the use of fans. The lowered temperatures of the wall, ceiling and floor surface in close proximity to occupants also allows for higher room temperatures in summer, not affecting occupant thermal comfort negatively, which reduces the Nett energy transfer requirement to and from the building space. TABS is predominantly a surface based climate conditioning system as opposed to Air Conditioning which is predominantly an air based conditioning system, thus the concept of natural ventilation perfectly combines with the greater TABS concept, enabling windows to be opened for fresh air ventilation as required by the building occupants.
*Numbers are approximate
Sustaining the family
AEC Cafe Sustainable Design Awards Submission
During September 2011 the FynBloem Protea Packing Facility was included in the shortlist for AEC Cafe’s Sustainable Design Awards. We had to put together a short presentation for information purposes.
The site was handed over to Hare & Liddell on the 21st of October 2010. The following images were taken during construction.
We thought that this would also be a good time to introduce the project team:
Project Management and Refrigeration: GEA Project Solutions
Architect: KUBE architecture
Structural Engineer: Sutherland
Electrical Engineer: Sutherland
Quantity Surveyor: Talani
Interior Design: Lu’Nique
Practical Completion Images
These images were taken at the site meeting on the 19th of July 2012, just after practical completion was achieved.
More to follow….