The brightly painted Hotel Verde aims to be both a landmark for visitors to Cape Town and a sustainability benchmark for other hospitality establishments in Africa
Opening in July, on Michigan Street just 500 metres from the Cape Town International Airport terminus, is the 145-room Hotel Verde, billed as ‘Africa’s greenest hotel’. It is the brainchild of Mario and Annemarie Delicio of Dematech, who are passionate about sustainability and have systematically transformed what was initially just a sensible business proposition into a showcase for some of the most advanced environmentally conscious technological installations, construction methods and operational practices in the world.
The hotel will be operated by the recently launched BON Hotels group, and has been built by a team of contractors and experts dedicated to finding the green alternatives for everything from building methods and materials to energy supply, water usage and waste disposal. It has also been registered for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system, an independent certification programme that provides guidelines for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings and awards certification to buildings that meet the LEED rating standards in the five major categories of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection and indoor environmental quality.
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 SA research centre in Antarctica, Harms knows what it is to value everyday resources and has applied this dedication to each facet of the project. ‘We realised we had an opportunity to change the status quo here,’ he notes, ‘and we have looked at different ways of doing everything, right from the word go.’ During construction, for example, the amount of concrete required was reduced by more than 500 cubic metres by utilising Cobiax void formers — recycled plastic balls placed within the floor slabs that displace concrete while maintaining structural integrity.
Hotel Verde also boasts a sophisticated grey-water recycling plant that will contribute towards a 37% reduction of potable water use. ‘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,’ Harms explains. In addition, a rainwater filtering and capture system will provide water for the car wash and irrigation.
As for energy conservation, the elevators will run on a regenerative drive, allowing some 30% 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 in summer so less heat enters the building, reducing the need for energy-consuming air conditioning. Meanwhile, solar panels have been cleverly positioned on the north facade of the building to create shade for the windows that get the most sun at the same time as they generate electricity.
To further reduce the need for air conditioning (and cut operational costs), Hotel Verde will make use of a heat-pump system that enables it to use the earth itself as a heat source in winter and a ‘heat sink’ in summer. About 100 holes were drilled some 76 metres into the ground — where the temperature is a consistent 19oC. The specialist piping and equipment for the system were supplied and installed by German company AGO Energy. ‘In short, there is currently no other hotel in Africa that has gone to the extent that we have,’ says Delicio. ‘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. ‘In addition, we want to get customers involved and make them a part of the whole green-thinking philosophy too.’ In line with this, hotel guests will be ‘incentivised’ with credit notes and bar tabs for using towels more than once, or not using the air conditioning.
Once a week they will also enjoy an ‘Earth hour’ during which all power will be turned off in the public areas and a candle-lit dinner of pizza from the wood-burning oven will be served. And for exercise and fresh-air enthusiasts, there will be a jogging trail winding down through the water-wise fynbos. And despite the fact that Hotel Verde is the first of its kind, the team that conceived it doesn’t want to keep its methods secret; in fact, participants want to share their convictions with anyone who’ll listen. ‘We might own the slogan “Africa’s greenest hotel” right now, but we actually hope we won’t for long,’ says Harms. ‘We want to show the continent what can be done — and challenge the hospitality and construction industries to do even better.’
For more information visit hotelverde.co.za