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The R 170 million Hotel near Cape Town International Airport, which opens its doors in August, targets two internationally acclaimed certifications for green building and operations.  This is a clear indication of the purposeful approach that sees the inclusion of cutting edge technology and practices in what is touted as Africa’s Greenest Hotel.  

Hotel Verde transcends traditional airport hotels: it’s affordable, luxurious and environmentally conscious.
Bookings are prioritised according to rooms’ descending energy efficiency. All rooms feature low VOC materials, while room key cards activate and cut power on entering or exiting. Landscaping includes the establishment of a wetland with a retention pond, indigenous plantings and a 280m jogging trail. With ambitions to achieve both LEED Gold and Heritage Platinum ratings, Hotel Verde has made its intentions clear from the start.

Guy Stehlik, CEO of managing company BON Hotels, says the group relishes the challenge of implementing green practices in every facet of the hotel’s operation to complement and realise the building’s innovative sustainable design. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, who believes “the green economy is a way to generate growth and create jobs while ensuring sustainability”, has awarded the project flagship status under the 110% Green Campaign in recognition of its contribution towards sustainability in the Western Cape tourism and construction industries.

Mario and Annemarie Delicio, owners and developers of the trail-blazing hotel, named it “verde”, which means “green” in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Project manager and sustainability consultant André Harms of Ecolution, who served as Hotel Verde’s sustainability and technical representative, fully understands the value of everyday resources after managing off-the-grid science outpost SANAE IV in Antarctica for more than a year. Harms, a mechanical engineer, displayed similar dedication  to each facet of the project. From the start, he applied research-intensive selection criteria to partners, suppliers and products for the project. “With the opportunity to change the status quo, we looked at different ways of doing everything right from the word go,” he says.

A culmination of Mario Delicio’s life experiences led to him deciding on Hotel Verde’s innovative design: as a shareholder in a small hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia he had gained hospitality experience in an emerging market; as a travelling businessman he had learnt what this type of guest really wanted; and having grown up in Germany he knew the value of recycling and rewarding people for making sustainable choices. The result transcends traditional airport hotels and offers guests affordable, luxury accommodation that incorporates environmentally conscious technology, design and operations to an extent only achievable in a new build. While Harms says building new allows for more planning, Delicio says the return on investment is much higher than retrofitting an existing building. Delicio was unable to obtain assistance from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) following overcapitalisation of hotels in the wake of the FIFA World Cup 2010. Yet he forged ahead, with assistance from FNB. “We owe it to our environment and future generations,” he explains, adding that combining green building with sustainable operations will make Hotel Verde a role model.

Delicio pursued a green certification through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an internationally recognised green building certification system developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), because there is no rating tool available for hotels in South Africa. Jutta Berns-Mumbi, managing director of Ecocentric, the only consultancy in South Africa with a dedicated LEED service, says: “We guide, inform and verify a project’s green building requirements, from concept to certification.” Hotel Verde is applying for LEED Gold certification for new constructions (LEED NC 2009 – the version in use when the project was launched) and hopes to achieving this rating soon after it opens. Data will be collected for a year before a submission will be made for LEED Gold for existing buildings (LEED EB 2009). To realise this dream, the design team incorporated various sustainable innovations, from capturing rainwater and subsoil drainage to recycling grey water, filtering and bottling municipal water for consumption onsite and reducing waste to almost zero. Hotel Verde will help generate its own electricity, suck up carbon and pump oxygen back into the atmosphere.
44% of all LEED registered buildings in 2011 were outside the United States, demonstrating the system’s adaptability to varying weather conditions, construction types and operations. LEED is a rating system with a maximum of 110 available points. One can pursue points in any category with several prerequisites being mandatory. Depending how many interventions are implemented and to what degree, more points are achieved.
Certified 40-49 points Silver 50-59 points Gold 60-79 points Platinum 80 points and above
EAc1 Optimise Energy Performance: Design & Construction is an important credit in LEED, as reflected in the number of points available. According to Chilufya Lombe, energy modelling consultant from Solid Green Consulting, “up to 19 points [out of 60-79 for Gold certification] are at stake. It also reflects the great importance LEED places on reducing energy use and forestalling climate change.” LEED consultant Jutta Berns-Mumbi from Ecocentric expands on this view: “While EAc1 can yield the highest number of points in a single credit, it is the sum of the total that makes this project green. The most energy efficient project would not achieve even basic entry level certification without scoring in the water, site, materials and indoor environmental quality categories as well.”

Hotel Verde is an insulated, airtight envelope with thermal mass and carefully controlled solar access. Ultra-efficient ground-source heat pumps — the heart of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system — use the earth as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer to boost energy efficiency whilst dramatically reducing operational costs. The geothermal installation entails 100 boreholes sunk approximately 70 m deep, connecting to 14.5 km of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes coupled together to collectively form a geothermal field. Rather than cooling or heating air sucked from the atmosphere, the pumps draw on a groundwater supply that maintains a year-round temperature of approximately 19.4oC. The heat pumps transfer heat from one closed system to another, heating the one while cooling the other. By circulating hot and cold water through the geothermal field, the need for standard air-conditioning, one of the biggest energy consumers, is bypassed and a saving of at least 25% is anticipated. For maximum yield — with a capacity of 52.8 kW and an anticipated average production of 78 000 kWh/yr — 154 Tenesol 240 Wp PV panels are installed on the north-facing roof section and 66 on the northern facade. Three Huebner-Giessen 3 kW vertical axis wind turbines are installed on masts in the parking area. In addition, approximately 30% of the input electrical energy for the lifts is recovered through regenerative drive technology — power is generated from the kinetic, potential and gravitational energy when breaking or travelling an empty cabin down or full cabin up. Harms says they estimate the HVAC system to be at least 55-65% more energy efficient than that of a conventional system. Renewable energy makes up about 14% of the hotel’s total energy needs at full capacity. “We will always first use every kW/ti we produce and then draw from the grid.”

R 20 million (12 % of the overall construction budget) was needed to make Hotel Verde an efficient, sustainable operation. The geothermal field installation and HVAC consumed almost half the budget and the renewable energy component contributed to approximately 12.5 % of the green budget allocation. Incorporating these elements was costly yet sets a benchmark for the future, but a lack of government incentive and foresight was frustrating. Eskom offers no rebates if you build green from the start and no allowances are made to regain some investment in selling power back to the grid, as is done overseas. “It’s like you get penalised for doing the right thing,” Delicio says.

One significant sustainable measure in Hotel Verde’s drive for dematerialisation of the construction was the inclusion of Cobiax void spheres — 100% recycled polyethylene balls placed strategically within concrete slabs to displace the concrete. They significantly reduced the amount of concrete required and saved 535 m’ or 1 284 tons at Hotel Verde while maintaining the building’s structural integrity. The 35% lighter slabs optimised construction time, reduced building elements and reinforcement (40% fewer columns) whilst lowering CO2 emissions by about 112 tons (± 126 000 kg).

The Heritage Environmental Management Company provides independent certification on a management system that will support the efficient design aspects of the building, based on internationally recognised sustainability and responsible business standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 20121. The programme evaluates the way in which a company operates. Heritage has developed an innovative weighted scoring system for each of its criteria, ensuring a balanced approach to the four pillars of sustainability — economic, social, environmental and cultural. Every member of the Heritage network undergoes an onsite review at least once a year and is awarded one of three levels of recognition according to their performance, sustainability and responsible business; platinum 94%, gold 75%, and silver 50%.

1. Three vertical axis wind turbines of 3 kW are installed on masts in the parking area.
2. PV panels are fitted to the rooftop and northern facade, where they also act as shading for the windows.
3. Regenerative drive technology recovers 30% of the input energy of the lifts.
4. The geothermal installation entails 100 boreholes connecting to 14.5 km of pipes. The pumps draw on groundwater at an average 19.4 -C to save about 25% of energy needed for heating and cooling air.

An operational materials management plan was developed jointly by Envirosense and Jeffrey & Green to help procurement make the best sustainable buying decisions and find the most sustainable services and suppliers. But guest participation is deemed imperative too in achieving and maintaining a good Heritage rating. To encourage this, the hotel will have an incentivised in-house currency, the “Verdino”.
Guests can exchange points earned for Verdinos by taking part in information sessions or exploring sustainability display screens, selecting electronic instead of printed invoices, using the power generating gym equipment and re-using towels and linen. One Verdino equals R 10, redeemable against accommodation, meals, drinks or novelty purchases in the hotel. During a weekly “earth hour” food will be cooked with gas or in the wood fired oven and apart from minimal safety-required lights, all power in the hotel will shut down and only candles will be used. “Going green is not just about the building but about every aspect of the operation,” says Delicio. “No other hotel in Africa has gone to this magnitude.”

Harms says the project is about educating, inspiring and challenging the industry as a whole, and while the jury is still out on the final certification, Berns-Mumbi is optimistic: “This project is extremely well-balanced and targets points in all categories, so it is achieving considerable results… The Hotel Verde team have been able to influence design direction and construction practices to achieve an ultimately very deep green building and is preparing an excellent case for a very sound number of points that may just achieve the project Gold certification.” Delicio hopes Hotel Verde will bring about a change in the way people view hotel stays and travelling but concedes the project was considerably tougher than anticipated: “To get through this extraordinary journey, honestly, you have to be a bit crazy and extremely passionate.”

(New Construction version released in 2009) as per LEED NC 2009

  • Optimise energy performance Energy efficiency interventions Energy-saving induction stoves, energy-efficient appliances and fridges used in hotel kitchen
  • Room key cards activate and cut power (with the exception of plugs for charging and the bar fridge upon entering or exiting)
  • Carbon monoxide sensors (switch basement ventilation system on only when required)
  • Occupancy sensor
  • Daylight harvesting indirect sunlight for lighting, especially for corridors, lobby and other general areas
  • Mini bar fridges — with energy savings of approximately 27 000 kWh pa
  • Task lighting
  • Energy efficiency rated equipment and products
  • Exterior lighting motion sensors (dims to 50% when no motion)
  • Day night sensors
  • Room prioritisation for booking out sequence descending energy efficiency in proportion to orientation and envelope specifications
  • Power generating gym equipment a beneficial practical learning tool to demonstrate effort needed to generate a certain amount of electricity
  • Double glazed windows optimal acoustic and thermal insulation, spectrally selective glass with a slight green tint to filter heat radiation whilst minimising the impact on visible light
  • Enhanced refrigerant management
    • BMS
    • Intelligent building monitoring system analyses trends and alerts maintenance of any systems consumption creeping it also has limited control to switch some loads
    • Intelligent control switching unoccupied zones off
  • Geothermal header
  • Ground source heat pumps – Variable speed drives (VSD) on pumps
  • Regenerative drive technology on lifts

On-site renewable energy

  • Photovoltaics 154
  • Tenesol 240Wp PV panels on the north-facing roof section 66
  • Tenesol 240Wp PV on the northern facade
  • Wind turbines
  • 3 Huebner-Giessen 3kW vertical axis wind turbines
  • Enhanced commissioning
  • Enhanced refrigerant management


  • Demonstrate quantifiable environmental benefit
  • Innovative approach not covered by existing LEED credit
  • Concept applicable to other projects and better than standard practices
  • Exemplary or innovative performance LEED
  • Accredited Professional a LEED accredited professional on the project team


  • Water efficient landscaping
  • Innovative wastewater technologies
    • 40 000 L underground stainless steel tank (store and filter water before used for irrigation, car wash and cleaning purposes)
    • WISY rainwater filter (for filtering out debris with capacity to handle rain precipitation of up to 200 mm/hr)
    • Borehole water (only when rainwater and sub-soil drainage water is insufficient)
    • A 9 000 L grey-water recycling system collect and filter drain water from showers and bathtubs (municipal water usage reduction approximately 1.5 million L p/a)
    • Sub-soil drainage water – the ground water table is about 2 m below ground level and a series of catchment pipes installed below and around the basement will divert, prepare and pump constantly seeping water into the storage tank WEc3 Water use reduction Water-saving taps, shower heads and toilets Drip irrigation system Miele washing machines (virtually clean water from final rinse cycle recaptured and re-used for pre- wash of the next load) Energy Star-rated dishwashers Only nine rooms with bathtubs Waterless-system urinals in public toilets Dual-flush toilets


Construction waste management

  • Gabion walls filled with clean building rubble
  • Other waste separated on site and diverted from landfill MRc3

Materials reuse

  • Re-used bricks
  • Re-used insulation material MRc4

Recycled content

  • Insulation – Isotherm (from recycled plastic PET bottles)
  • Carpet underlay – Belgotex Green (from post-industrial waste 100% recycled fibres and/or yarns) and Van Dyck Eco Lay (from 100% recycled rubber)
  • Cobiax spheres – from 100% recycled polyethylene MRc5

Regional materials

  • Bricks – cement and clay
  • Sand, cement and concrete (Readymix 25135MPa)
  • Steel reinforcement
  • Insulation MRc6
    Rapidly renewable materials
  • Carpets – Nouwens wool range


  • Alternative transportation – Public transportation access
  • Alternative transportation – Bicycle storage and changing rooms
  • Alternative transportation – Low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles
    • 100% electric shuttles
    • Electric car hire for guests’ local travel requirements
  • Alternative transportation – Parking capacity
  • Site development — protect or restore habitat – Indigenous fynbos, Wetlands,  Indigenous trees
  • Site development—maximise open space 
    • Green roof local flora planted on the flat concrete structure over the reception and lobby area provide prolific birdlife and insect habitation
    • Retention pond SSc7.1 Heat island effect—non-roof
    • Roof overhangs, pergolas, louvered canopies
    • northern facade PV panels, angled at optimal angle provide shade for the windows below
    • Tensile tent Porte-cochere supported by the masts of the 3 wind turbines installed in the parking area provides shade for the main entrance
  • Heat island effect—roof High solar reflectance index coated roof Green roof
  • Increased ventilation – Living wall to purify internal air in busy public spaces (bar, restaurant, waiting lounge)
  • Low-emitting materials—adhesives and sealants low-VOC adhesives and sealants
  • Low-emitting materials—paints and coatings low-VOC paint
  • Controllability of systems—lighting Room key cards activate and cut power (with the exception of plugs for charging and the bar fridge upon entering or exiting) Occupancy sensor & Task lighting
  • Controllability of systems—thermal comfort Thermostats in spaces,  Access to openable windows
  • Thermal comfort—design HVAC Daylight and views – daylight Skylight for natural lighting
  • Light interior colours to maximise increase light penetration Double glazed windows

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