Growthpoint Properties is attracting new business to Woodmead, Sandton, with its significant R290m investment programme that improves the public infrastructure as well as the JSE-listed real estate group’s strategic assets in the area.
International property company Growthpoint owns and operates some 250,000sqm of sought-after office and retail space in Woodmead with a combined value of more than R4 billion. Growthpoint’s quality Woodmead assets include the offices at Woodmead Office Park, Woodmead Estate, Pinewood Office Park and Country Club Estate, as well as the popular shopping centre, Woodmead Retail Park, which has an upmarket tenant mix of more than 75 stores and is anchored by top national brands Woolworths and Pick n Pay.
Further, Growthpoint has attracted more top businesses to the area. It will introduce blue-chips, the Altron group of companies and DRA Global to Woodmead in early 2021. Both have made long-term commitments to the node and will occupy a combined nearly 40,000sqm of office space.
Pivotal to attracting these leading businesses to Woodmead were the much-needed improvements in the public road infrastructure in the area. Growthpoint stepped in with the design, development, construction and funding of improvements to both the M1 Highway Woodmead Interchange as well as the intersection of Woodmead Drive and Woodlands Drive.
Rudolf Pienaar, Chief Development and Investment Officer at Growthpoint, comments, “We are proud of our recent successes in Woodmead, and confident about the future of this area. Growthpoint’s upgrade of the roads will create a positive experience for all those who use our properties, as well as everyone who lives, visits and works in the neighbourhood. We believe it adds significant value and appeal to the entire Woodmead area, and further elevates the node which is already among the best places in Gauteng to work and reside.”
Growthpoint has converted the M1 Highway’s Woodmead Interchange into a ‘diverging-diamond’ configuration, which improves traffic flows with fewer traffic signals. The Woodmead Drive and Woodlands Drive roadways have also been widened at their intersection and the traffic signals reconfigured.
The Woodmead traffic improvement project has been a four-year process for Growthpoint. It was completed at the end of October 2020, ready for the two major new businesses to open their new headquarters in the area in 2021.
After a robust proposal process, JSE-listed technology group Altron selected Growthpoint Properties to consolidate its operating companies, which are currently located across a vast and fragmented real estate portfolio, into a single strategic campus in Woodmead at The Woodlands.
This quality office park is a unique property featuring a wetland and animal reserve within a nature park. The Woodlands’ tranquil setting incorporates a lifestyle centre with a gym, creche, and Mugg & Bean. It comprises 32 buildings and is home to more than 100 businesses.
Growthpoint has modernised and customised Buildings 1 to 8 at The Woodlands to meet Altron’s needs. Its seamlessly linked eight buildings with a 360m walkway to create a connected campus for the group of companies. Within the overall synergy of the new ‘One Altron’ campus, each building reflects the unique identity of the business unit it houses. By consolidating and relocating Altron to its new premises of 28,500sqm of gross lettable area (GLA), Growthpoint has helped it achieve a 40% space saving, which also supports significant occupational and operational savings. One Altron comprises roughly 22% of the 125,000sqm The Woodlands.
In addition, the Growthpoint development team is also delivering an integrated internal fit-out solution for the campus’s buildings, which are tailored for Altron’s people and optimised for high performance. One Altron provides a modern, state-of-the-art campus that is a platform to foster growth, collaboration, creative thinking, visibility of leadership and the free flow of communication. It also meets the needs of employees with high-value lifestyle amenities.
Growthpoint is also introducing diversified global engineering, project delivery and operations management group DRA Global to Woodmead. For its South African head office, DRA Global chose Growthpoint to provide it with a modern facility that consolidates its business and employees, currently located across eight different buildings, under one roof. Growthpoint met the brief with optimised, efficient space that supports lower occupancy and operational costs.
DRA Global will occupy around 12,400sqm of GLA at The Woodlands. Its new corporate headquarters also benefit from an integrated turnkey fit-out by Growthpoint, which meets its future business requirements with agile working and high-performance workspaces.
Paul Kollenberg, Growthpoint’s Head of Asset Management: Office, points out, “Our traffic flow improvement project recognises that good road access is the lifeblood of this vibrant node and is already playing a key role in attracting top business to the area and retaining those that are already here. It ensures that our property assets remain attractive and competitive, and demonstrates our commitment to the enhancing the appeal and sustainability of Woodmead.”
Emira is a leading JSE-listed REIT invested in a quality, balanced portfolio of office, retail, industrial and residential properties. It has 79 directly-held South African properties and diversified offshore with equity investments in 10 grocery-anchored open-air convenience shopping centres in the USA. It began exploring site-embedded energy production with a small 271kWp farm on the roof of Epsom Downs Shopping Centre in Bryanston in 2015, which generated power used at the property.
“Based on the lessons learned from this pilot project, we have now completed our eighth installation and increased total annual production of solar power to more than 9-million kWh,” confirms Justin Bowen, National Development Manager and Head of Sustainability for Emira.
The solar farms power Emira’s buildings in an environmentally responsible manner and further enable other businesses to play their part in reducing the strain on the national power grid. Each solar farm that comes online lessens reliance on Eskom and coal-fired power stations. In choosing premises that benefit from a solar energy supply, businesses reduce their operational carbon footprint by ensuring that part of their power use comes from clean, renewable energy.
Emira has increased its actual solar power production nearly eightfold in during its past two financial years alone. In July 2018, it was producing 736,671 kWh at three solar farms, and by June 2020 it was producing 5.7-million kWh from six installations.
The 5.7-million kWh produced by Emira’s farms in its recent 2020 financial year is equal to the carbon absorption capacity of 5,283 acres of forest. What does that mean? It is the same as removing 874 passenger vehicles from the road for one year or an average passenger vehicle driving 16,155,996 fewer kilometres. It can be likened to stopping 1,723,248 litres of petrol from being consumed or preventing 2,229 tons of coal being burnt. It saved enough energy to power 685 average homes. The energy saved could be used to charge 515,952,674 smartphones.
“Looking back on our renewable energy journey we have learnt a great deal, some big lessons and others small but no less important. For instance, we always install water taps close to photovoltaic (PV) panels for easy cleaning with less water consumption,” Bowen notes.
Significantly, Emira’s ongoing renewable energy drive hasn’t been derailed by the pandemic which, if anything has quickened the shift towards more resource-efficient, sustainable business in 2020. Its latest installations were completed at Market Square, Plettenburg Bay, and Springfield, Durban, during the lockdown. And, it is working on plans to install three more before mid-2021.
The REIT also has plans to extend the existing solar farm at Wonderpark Shopping Centre in Pretoria. This will increase the 1.2MWp system to over 3MWp, making it one of the largest roof-mounted PV systems in South Africa. Emira hopes to receive approval for this project from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) in the next few months.
With current legal and technical difficulties, it is not viable to supply electricity over-production to the national grid. Thus, PV power is most effective at properties that operate seven days a week, so that the entire production can be consumed on the property itself. The cost of batteries for solar power storage is still prohibitive. That said, technology is improving in capacity and reducing in cost as global giants like Tesla, BMW, Jaguar, and others invest millions of research and development dollars for battery technology to use in electric-powered vehicles.
“With the increasing price of Eskom power, we have reached a point where, even with wasted weekend energy production, the cost per kWh from PV generated panels still makes better financial sense. Importantly, it is clean. We foresee major solar farm rollouts increasing for years to come. It is agile and responsible compared with coal-powered stations that take decades and fortunes before they become operational,” points out Bowen.
Of course, without battery storage, solar power energy isn’t an adequate buffer against the power outages that South Africa experiences due to its unreliable electricity supply, which reached their highest level yet this year. According to the CSIR, the country experienced around 1,500 gigawatt-hours’ worth of total power outages as of 2 September 2020. By comparison, it experienced closer to 1 300 gigawatt-hours of outages between 2015 and 2019. The outages are set to continue, if not worsen, over the next 18 months, until at least March 2022.
To prevent disruption for tenants’ businesses, Emira provides backup generator power across 63% of all its gross lettable area. Nearly 74% of its office space, over 65% of its retail space and some 55% of industrial space is equipped with generation capacity. Most recently, Emira recently installed additional backup generators with a combined production of 2330kVA at Epsom Downs Office Park and Hyde Park Lane, at a cost R5,1 million.
Backup electricity via diesel generators is expensive – both its installation and operation. Also, most generators aren’t designed to run for the long periods that South African businesses need them, resulting in costly wear and tear. “While none of this is ideal, in this weak economy companies cannot afford lost productivity. We understand this and strive to provide supportive environments for tenants across all our properties. Until the electricity grid stabilises, Emira is stepping in to enable tenants to operate their businesses and help create jobs and grow the economy. Enabling productive business spaces is positive for both our tenants and ourselves, as their businesses are more likely to remain in one of our properties,” says Bowen.
All this highlights the importance of sustainability in business. “Sustainability is engrained in the Emira ethos, which includes reducing our carbon footprint and being a good global corporate citizen. We are mindful that the way in which we do business can help our tenants to do better business,” notes Bowen. “Reducing global climate change and limiting the extent of global warming to the 1.5-degree Celsius level is going to take a global effort, and Emira is proud to play our part and help our tenants, clients and shoppers do their part for the benefit of future generations.”
Growthpoint Properties’ development of the new Bakers Transport warehousing, distribution and office facility in Cato Ridge, KwaZulu-Natal, scooped two coveted category awards and a commendation at the recent Unica Steel Awards 2020.
The project won the Factory and Warehouse category and the Safintra South Africa Metal Cladding category and it earned a commendation for the Architectural category.
“Collaboration is crucial for development excellence and our Trading & Development Team worked closely with Bakers Transport and an excellent professional team, including Ries Shaw Architects. The development and project management of Bakers Transport Cato Ridge is among our biggest industrial sector achievements. We are pleased and humbled that its architectural excellence has been recognised by the South African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC),” says Rudolf Pienaar, Growthpoint’s Chief Development and Investment Officer.
Growthpoint creates space to thrive with innovative and sustainable property solutions, and its development for leading logistics company Bakers Transport delivered a modern distribution and storage warehouse of 25,700sqm with an office and administration building of 3,000sqm.
“This was a turnkey warehouse and office development, which consolidated several distribution centres into a single centre. Growthpoint led the development’s quality, programme and financial management, with Bakers Transport being a close partner in the development process. This resulted in an impressive facility that is contemporary, highly functional and efficient but also aesthetically pleasing,” explains Pienaar.
“Of course, it helped that Growthpoint has a well-established relationship with Bakers Transport. We previously partnered to develop its tailor-made facility in Samrand, so our team already had a good understanding of their business needs and operational priorities,” adds Leon Labuschagne, Growthpoint’s Head of Industrial Development.
The new Bakers Transport facility is on a triangular, sloping site alongside the N3 Highway. The warehouse with its undercover, saw-tooth dock is positioned for excellent vehicle access and circulation. It is on the most elevated part of the site, with extensive highway visibility. The building’s vibrant colour and sleek and striking angular features stand out on the horizon. The office block is closer to the highway alongside a beautiful pond that creates a natural barrier between the busy national road and provides a pleasing view for staff.
Despite the vast difference in scale between the warehouse and office block, the development’s buildings are designed to create a harmonious group. The detailed design, which uses 204 tons of steel cladding, exudes the sleek, effortless linear quality associated with steel buildings.
As one of the first major developments in the Cato Ridge area, the Bakers Transport buildings have become a landmark. Being first to undertake a major project in an upcoming prime industrial node posed several challenges when developing the premium facility, specifically water infrastructure. The world-class development team introduced several innovative strategies to manage this. The site’s pond doesn’t only add to its aesthetics, but performs essential functions; it supports the site’s stormwater management and harvests and filters greywater.
The building also takes a unique approach to mitigating the build-up of warehouse wind pressure because of the strong winds that prevail in the area. Its design includes a mechanical system of extractor fans and roller shutters, all triggered by wind sensors.
A fine-tuned combination of low-energy lighting and natural light ensures the warehouse is energy efficient. Louvres, screens, deep eaves and solar performance glazing help to moderate internal temperatures and further reduce its energy consumption.
Labuschagne notes the materials used in the development played a key role in its functionality and financial feasibility. “A design that heroes steel allows extensive off-site fabrication and fast on-site erection and installation. Large roof spans permit high volume spaces with fewer internal columns. Structurally efficient, lightweight construction enables cost-effective structures.”
Growthpoint, South Africa’s largest primary JSE-listed REIT, is invested in real estate and communities across Africa, Australia, the UK and Eastern Europe. It is also 50% co-owner of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, where the new swing bridge which recently replaced its previous simple long-serving swing bridge was declared the overall winner of the 38th Steel Awards in 2020.