South Africa has more than a handful of green buildings under its belt, but the Mutual Tower in neighboring Namibia designed by Leon Barnard Architects is the country's first green skyscraper - and Inhabitat managed to get permission to check it out first hand. Officially inaugurated in 2009, the 21 story building has had its fair share of drama, including a small fire, but it has recuperated beautifully and the financial services company Old Mutual is constantly seeking new ways to tweak its efficiency, even though it already consumes 60% less energy than comparable office buildings in Windhoek.
Mutual Tower was included in a recent benchmarking study into the energy efficiency of buildings in Namibia, as part of the UNDP funded NEEP project (Namibian Energy Efficiency Programme), according to a recent press release by the company’s marketing department. Emcon Consulting Group completed the study for the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Institute (REEEI) of the Polytechnic of Namibia. It found, among other things, that energy efficient lighting, water-based evaporative cooling, VRV heat recovery systems, and solar-powered water heaters for the gym have slashed energy consumption.
Much of Namibia is comprised of desert and water is not easy to come by. And what groundwater does exist is often saline and unfit for human consumption. As a result, the designers decided to pump this into the building and use it for plumbing and landscaping, thereby minimizing its reliance on the municipal water supply. Finally, speed-controlled ventilation fans are programmed to detect the level of carbon dioxide emissions such as in the basement. During peak hours, the oscillation speed increases to clear out harmful toxins but slows down during less active periods.
We ran into Terra Firma Solutions on our way out of the building. This consulting firm is helping Old Mutual further increase the building’s efficiency. The company has big plans for this project, details of which they aren’t ready to release just yet, but watch this space and we’ll keep you updated!