Schneider Electric’s “Rainbow Hive” South African headquarters is home to 200 of its local employees. The offices were designed with energy-efficiency at the forefront and aim to attract young professionals. In this article, I explore how renewable energy and energy-efficient building management were used to make it as energy-efficient and as financially feasible as possible.
Located in Waterfall City, Gauteng, the company occupies 4265 m² of the 14 869 m² lettable area in the Allandale building, designed by Aevitas Architects, developed by Atterbury and owned by Attacq.
The office interiors certainly set a new tone in workspace design. The building as a whole comprises three basement levels of parking and four office levels above ground. The design makes use of grand staircases to take up the substantial slope across the site. The result is that the building appears to “merge” with its site. A prominent feature of the Allandale building is the large, open atrium in the centre of the building which offers an airy outdoors sensation thanks to the great glass roof above.
Described as the company’s “green and cool” headquarters, the office was created and designed in line with Schneider Electric’s “Cool Sites” global standards. It offers employees a fun but functional, dynamic work space enabling better collaboration and engagement, boosting productivity.
Interiors for Change (i4c) was the interior design company that completed the space planning, design and project management. Innovation was key in creating the interior, using Schneider Electric’s latest technology in the building; local artists’ work to support the proudly South African initiative; reclaimed objects and materials aligned with the brief and budget.
The rooftop is fitted with 486 fixed tilt (10°) solar photovoltaic panels that can generate up to 315 W each and collectively generate on average 60% of the company’s energy consumption in the building, a total installed capacity of 153 kWp (kilowatt peak). In summer, the building consumes 250 kW a day, 150 kW of which comes from the solar panels. The panels are connected to five Schneider Electric Conext CL 25 kVA 3-phase string inverters on the rooftop, which are designed for efficiency and flexibility. The inverters have an electrolyte-free design with rigorous reliability test procedures to improve long-term reliability.
The engine room
The engine room is the central room that is home to the major electrical components including generators, circuit breakers, UPSs, controllers and power factor correction units (capacitor banks). The engine room also has a TV screen that displays the current generation and consumption statistics throughout the building, to provide the facility managers and landlord with continuous energy monitoring and control.
All of the products inside the engine room come from Schneider Electric, except for the two 1000 l diesel generators which act as the landlord’s ultimate back-up power system for the building, should grid power and Schneider Electric’s own solar power not be available.
Throughout the building, the switchgear, its casing and panels, trunking and the cabling are all Schneider Electric. The capacitor banks are the company’s Varlogic, which continuously measure the reactive power of the installation and control connection and disconnection of capacitor steps to obtain the required power factor. Transformers experience electricity losses and the Varlogic capacitor banks keep the losses to around 2% to get maximum output from the solar PV panels.
The electricity system also uses a Schneider Electric RM6 circuit breaker and its own APC MGE Galaxy 300 UPSs that provide back-up electricity to the entire network of computer power-points throughout the office.
Security camera system
Schneider Electric used its own Pelco video surveillance technology to monitor the visual security of its premises. This includes a cluster of four Pelco Digital Century video monitoring systems to handle all of the video coming from the cameras. Twenty Pelco Optera 360° panorama cameras are located inside and outside the premises, as well as 66 fixed Sarix Professional cameras also from Pelco.
Ventilation and air-conditioning
Blue Hemisphere Airconditioning supplied the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). They installed a Daikin VRV IV which is designed for buildings of this size. The system uses energy efficiently as it cuts consumption, costs and therefore a building’s carbon footprint. Heat lost in air conditioning and cooling is transferred to hot water or to areas of the building that require heating to reduce energy consumption. The VRV system allows each zone to be set to the preferred temperature and allows the building management system to manage its efficiency.
Building management system
The building management system (BMS) covers the lighting system, power distribution and networks, a centralised IT system, recycling and automated electronics and projector systems. The entire BMS was designed and installed by Greenwave Automation.
Lighting control and energy management are achieved with the Schneider Electric Clipsal C-Bus system, a micro-processor controlled wiring system. It allows building managers and integrators to configure an area as required. Occupancy sensors are installed in every zone and meeting room to switch lights on and off automatically as people enter and leave the room or area.
The C-Bus system has input panels in each zone to allow easy adjustment of heating and cooling, and controlling the audio output and other electronic functions in the room. The C-Bus sends programmable messages to the network in response to real-world actions or events such as the flick of a switch, or touchscreen inputs performed by users on the Clipsal panels.
There are also wall- and floor-mounted EVlink electric vehicle charging stations dotted around the property. The charging stations use Mode 3, used to establish permanent communication between the electric vehicle and the charging infrastructure. It permits maximum protection and, unlike the domestic socket, no current is injected unless all the protective conditions are met. Mode 3 is also used to adjust the amount of energy allocated to each vehicle in real-time according to external parameters such as the number of vehicles being charged simultaneously; the maximum current the charging station can supply, and the instantaneous installation consumption.
How green is it?
According to the property owner, Attacq, the building will be the first in Waterfall City to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Silver accreditation rating. Owing to the energy-efficient systems provided by Schneider Electric itself and by employing planet-friendly products such as energy-efficient light bulbs, the building uses 30% less energy than a traditional office. Other “green” features include recycling systems, low flow fittings and drip irrigation systems to reduce water consumption by 30%.
Interior design themes inside the new Schneider Electric offices include historic landmarks as meeting room names, such as “Vilakazi Street” and “Maboneng”. Each of the four “sections” has its own meeting room theme – one is a shipping container split into two informal meeting rooms, each with its own Feng Shui, another has a hollowed-out caravan as a meeting room with plastic chairs to make it feel authentic, a third one has Victorian-style reds and purples with shiny leather and plastic furniture, and grand chandeliers that give off a stately presence. The fourth area has a games room vibrant enough to attract anyone’s inner child.
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