Sandton City’s dedicated environmental initiative pays off in water savings

Sandton City has cut its water use by 16% since 2015 thanks to a dedicated environmental initiative.

Over the past two years the centre has saved 44.5 million litres of water, which is enough water for 5,933 households to use a month and it would fill nearly 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“While Sandton City is known for its devotion to everything stylish, it is as passionate about good corporate citizenship as it is about good style,” says Preston Gaddy, general manager of the Sandton Precinct for JHI Retail.

Sandton City is owned by Liberty Two Degrees, Liberty Group Limited, Pareto Limited, and managed by JHI Retail, and its focus on both water and energy efficiency aligns perfectly with the sustainable values of its owners. In the case of JSE-listed REIT Liberty Two Degrees, its commitment to environmental sustainability is expressed across its entire portfolio with resource efficiency and eco-friendly innovations.

Determined to lighten its well-shod environmental footprint, in 2015 Sandton City began a painstaking process of counting every single drop of water it used – well before Gauteng’s water restrictions were imposed then lifted, or Cape Town was in water crisis – because it is the right thing to do. This is no simple task.

Sandton City was built and expanded in multiple phases over more than 40 years, making its water, drainage and sewer systems intricate. Also, it runs on a mix of municipal water and borehole for irrigation.

The scale of the successful project is clear when considering that Sandton City has a large central air-conditioning plant and its cooling tower system is one of the largest of its kind in South Africa. Also, water is used throughout the large super-regional mall in many different ways—air conditioning, fire sprinklers, in restaurants, hairdressers and more.

Sandton City’s utilities management team left no stone unturned to reduce the amount of water used in all aspects of the centre’s running. The team is made up of people with a passion for the environment, an admirable committed to resource efficiency and excellent technical skills.

Its water saving process began to hit full-steam last year when Sandton City conducted an in-depth audit on its water consumption and targeted ways to reduce all its water losses.

Taking action on its findings, it applied the changes that would have the biggest immediate impacts.

Gaddy reveals: “While our customers may see some evidence of water-saving initiatives, such as the dual-flush toilets and sensor taps in some of the cloakrooms, there is much more happening behind the scenes.”

Sandton City improved its cooling tower’s treatment mechanisms, fine-tuned the workings of its domestic water tanks, split its domestic tanks from its fire tanks and stopped waste when draining its sprinklers systems. It placed an alarm on its fire water system that alerts the mall when water begins flowing through it, helping to stop leaks as soon as they start. The mall also attached water meters throughout the thousands of metres of water pipes running through the building, to keep a constant check on the amount of water used.

Disciplined daily checks have been invaluable in Sandton City’s water-saving process. Water consumption is measured daily and compared against the mall’s growing record of consumption patterns. This helps to identify increases in water use beyond normal ranges. Factors such as the day of the week, time of year and the weather, which all influence how busy the mall is and how much water is used, are considered.

Gaddy notes change always begins within, and in its quest to champion the environment, that is exactly what Sandton City did.

“We have shifted mindsets with training and have created a valuable understanding of the ways in which water can be saved, and how it is wasted. In this way, everyone involved is empowered to make a difference.”

While Sandton City’s dedicated utilities team are driving the initiative, everyone who is part of the mall is contributing to the project’s success in their own way.

Each night, as part of their patrols, security guards check for running toilets and dripping taps. They report any concerns and immediate action is taken.

The team at Sandton City also shares its expertise with the tenants in its shops, restaurants and offices. In this way, the mall has even bigger positive impacts on saving water.

“Optimising water savings is essential to protect this precious resource in a water-scarce country like South Africa, and is also an excellent business decision,” says Gaddy. “Helping tenants with their water efficiency, which often also results in cost efficiencies, adds to the excellent proposition that Sandton City represents.”

Even with its achievement of cutting its water consumption by a whopping 16%, the Sandton City team is not yet satisfied. In fact, it is determined to do even more to reduce water use and has set itself ambitious goals for water savings in future. The introduction of new electronic water meters will analyse daily consumption patterns and play a big role in achieving bigger savings.

It is applying the same care to saving other resources, including electricity. Sandton City has decreased its electricity consumption by 27%/m2 over the past 12 years. In the last year alone, it cut power use by nearly 7.21% at Sandton City and 8.39% Nelson Mandela Square.

It is also tapping into the power of exponential positive impacts by collaborating with its tenants.

“We provide tenants with target energy levels in line with their type of business and challenge them to reduce their own electricity consumption accordingly. We can do better together,” says Gaddy.

Again, Sandton City has come a long way on its energy-saving journey, there is still some way to go.

“We need to do more and we will. We are committed to being kind to our planet and its scarce resources,” says Gaddy.