Mobile network operator, Vodacom yesterday 24 January 2012, unveiled the completed Vodafone Site Solutions Innovation Centre, the first ever 6-star Green Star SA rated building in South Africa, at its head office in Midrand.
The Green Building Council of South Africa rating validates the centre as the greenest building in Africa.
Speaking at the official launch of the building, Vodacom CEO, Pieter Uys highlighted the opportunity for companies to use their own sector technology and expertise to find solutions to meet critical social, environmental and governance challenges.
The Centre is a carbon neutral building that will house a team of 12 experts who will look at technological ways to reduce the company's carbon footprint across the globe as well as reduce the cost of rolling out and maintaining cellular networks.
The concept started with an idea to create a centre to speed up the development of Vodafone's sustainability goals to meet the group's target of reducing global CO2 emissions by 50% by 2020, and to achieve a 20% carbon intensity reduction target for emerging markets by March 2015.
Vodafone chose to create this Innovation Centre in South Africa because it is, in many respects, both an emerging and developed economy. This particular location would help the group achieve its targets in a more consolidated and focused manner.
"Our objectives really address two core strategic deliverables; one being our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and the other to reduce operational costs while increasing enterprise value across the company. We firmly believe that the Vodafone Site Solutions Innovation Centre will drive the delivery of these objectives, not only for Vodacom in South Africa, but also for the broader global group," says Uys.
What makes this building so environmentally ahead of the curve are the following elements:
Recycling: Wherever possible, demolition material from the site has been reused or recycled.
Structure of building: The project reduced the amount of concrete used in the foundations and sub structure by 34%.
Energy efficiency: Usage of the Solyndra photovoltaic panels reduced the wind load, absolute weight and ultimately the total amount of wood and structural material required for the roof.
Water efficiency: Efficient water fixtures and fittings have been installed resulting in significant savings in water consumption.
Indoor environmental quality: The mechanical air conditioning, heating and ventilation system is designed to deliver 2 500 litres/second of fresh air to the office during normal operations, and 1 250 litres/second of fresh air in heating mode.
Emissions: The chiller uses Lithium Bromide as the refrigerant which has both a zero Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) and a zero Greenhouse Warming Potential. All thermal insulants have an Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) of zero.
As a proof point of its commitment to developing sustainable technology that remains at the forefront of the mobile industry, Vodafone and its local partner Vodacom, have already started making some significant inroads.
In November last year, they developed an environmentally focused hybrid cell tower that uses a combination of solar, wind and fuel cell technology. This cell tower was used to connect delegates at COP17 in Durban late last year.
A community power programme was also launched that showed how mobile operators can bridge the energy divide in communities without power, by oversupplying base stations in that area with renewable energy which can be diverted to critical points within the community.
The community power initiative could become a game changer for rural areas that have no access to power. As power is being supplied to the community high school, it also increases the quality of education in an area.
Both projects are a good example of how a sustainable approach can reduce both environmental impact and operational costs while increasing the tangible and intangible value of a company.