Bank Better, Live Better

8 ways our new head office is good for the environment

Every single aspect of the new Capitec building was considered to ensure that it is sustainable and eco-friendly.

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When it came to designing the new 21 500 m² Capitec head office building, being good for the environment was non-negotiable.

“We spent a lot of time with the line managers in each department to understand what they needed from the new building,” says Ernst Wolfaardt, special projects engineer, ops – property and leasing at Capitec. They quickly realised everyone had a common goal: to have a better office environment with access to shared services, for example, areas to have private conversations without having to leave the building.

“It was also clear that our key objective was to create a building that would create a more cohesive team,” explains Wolfaardt, “by allowing all the bank’s departments to collaborate freely and have more insight into what other departments are working on.”

As the new building was being built from scratch, it was essential that the construction process and final result would be environmentally friendly. As far as possible, the design used green materials and technology, and Capitec adopted eco-friendly alternatives wherever possible. This includes the following.

Reduced paper use

“We’ve been moving towards becoming completely paperless for some time,” says Wolfaardt. “As a result, the new building has limited storage space on site for traditional paper filing systems. We encourage all staff to store documents digitally.” All confidential documents that are no longer needed are shredded before the paper is collected for recycling.”

Energy efficiency

The large overhead skylights in the central atrium consist of performance glazing that allows more natural sunlight into the building. “Low-emissivity glass minimises heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer, which improves the thermal performance of the building,” says Wolfaardt. “On top of that, all the windows are double-glazed to reduce glare.”

Innovative blinds

“Despite using low-emissivity glass, we still had to contend with the South African summer sun. No matter how the building was positioned, the sun would shine directly in through the windows at some point in the day,” says Wolfaardt. “To counteract this, we installed highly reflective, low transparency blinds in all areas that would get direct sunlight.” The blinds use solar power to close automatically when the sun becomes too bright.

Air-conditioning

“We used a cooling system that produces ice during the night when power is generally cheaper than during the day,” explains Wolfaardt. “The ice is stored in insulated containers and used during the day to supplement the cooling requirements of the building, which helps reduce our power requirements.” The cooling system uses a refrigerant with zero ozone depletion potential.

Water-saving measures

“We made sure that all bathroom fittings use the latest technology to limit water usage,” explains Wolfaardt. “We also use grey water, rainwater stored in tanks and borehole water to reduce our load on the municipal water system.”

Lighting

“LED lights were installed throughout the building, which reduces both our power consumption and environmental impact,” says Wolfaardt. As a large part of the building is open plan, motion sensors switch lights on and off as needed.

Façade optimisation

The whole façade of the building is white, because it’s a reflective colour and aids in cooling and reducing its energy requirements. In addition, the finish that was selected does not have to be repainted annually, which reduces the volatile organic compounds it would use in its lifetime.

Naturally ventilated

The entire basement of the main building and parkade were designed with openings to allow for natural ventilation and do away with mechanical fans.

1 building, 1 team

In 2020, 4 years after the plan was first put in motion, the new Capitec head office was completed. It took 338 work days and more than 1.5 million man-hours to build the world-class working space. The new building can accommodate more than 1 900 employees and has 56 meeting rooms equipped with the latest technology. Its name iKhaya means ‘home’ in isiXhosa.

“Our vision was always to improve collaboration between teams,” says Danie van den Berg, head of cash management (then head of properties) at Capitec. “Previously, we were housed in 14 separate buildings, which, unfortunately, created 14 separate cultures.”

The whole idea of having one building evolved around efficiency and collaboration between departments. This was not possible when the bank was spread out in more than a dozen buildings in Techno Park.

“We found that many departments never spoke to one another, and space was always a problem. We didn’t have enough spaces for collaboration and it was often a challenge to find an empty boardroom on short notice,” says Pieter Bosse, office manager ops – property and leasing.

As a result, the new office was built on three plots of land at Techno Park. “We considered various configurations for the new building and weighed up the value of having one building or two or three. Eventually we decided on one building and a parkade,” says Bosse.

The new head office also had to foster a company culture of collaboration, innovation and creativity. “After reviewing numerous proposals, we made the decision to go with dhk Architects,” explains Paul du Toit, manager: vehicle finance (then legal manager for properties) at Capitec. “Their vision for what we needed was spot on.”

For this reason, dhk Architects optimised the internal flow and departmental interaction in their designs. The impressive three-storey building wraps around itself to create a ‘doughnut’ shape with a central triple volume atrium. Internally, open-plan floors loop around the atrium to connect the various departments and create opportunities for chance meetings to further spark collaboration.

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