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Melrose Arch sets standards for sustainability

As South Africa migrates to an off-grid economy, one mixed-use district is leading the way with its sustainability prowess.

Melrose Arch has a thriving waste separation facility, underground cooling plant, gardens and a rooftop solar system, providing hotels, businesses and homes with an unparalleled experience.

Plastic and other waste is placed in separate bags. Photo: Asanda Matlhare

After blasting and bulk earthworks began in 1998, Melrose Arch opened with a limited luxury facility, with phase 1 consisting of just 11 buildings in 2001. It was built on a super-basement that connects all parts of the district and is still the only one of this kind in the country. Parking cars in the basement reduces traffic congestion and helps reduce air pollution above ground. Therefore, walking at street level is safe and enjoyable.

Melrose Operations Director Reiner Henschel led a tour April 12, demonstrating the district’s sustainable process in action and explaining Melrose’s future commitment.

A Melrose Arch employee in the waste management department sweeps. Photo: Asanda Matlhare

These are the areas where Melrose Arch makes environmentally friendly decisions:

Eco center, Waste separation plant

  • Melrose Arch’s waste separation facility, which operates 24/7, separates paper, cardboard, metals, plastics and glass and sends them for recycling. In the approximately 30 restaurants, cafes and bars on the property’s premises, food waste is separated at source in the restaurant kitchens.
  • Food waste recycling works by implementing efficient waste separation methods and dedication, allowing any restaurant to divert food waste from traditional waste streams. By separating food waste at the source, restaurants help ensure thorough recycling and processing, turning waste into valuable raw materials such as compost.
  • As of February 2024, 88% of the 92,578 tons of waste collected across the district was recycled. A total of 77,303.58 m³ of CO2, 712,447.19 liters of water and 312,494.50 kWh of energy were saved. Furthermore, the ecocenter creates employment and increases community participation in climate-relevant mitigation and adaptation measures.

Melrose Arch cooling plant

  • Providing an efficient indoor environment and comfort, especially in the offices and commercial buildings, has been a priority since the beginning of the development of Melrose Arch.
  • The district has its own underground cooling installation of 1,471 m², which operates 24/7. This remarkable facility includes 8 chillers with a capacity of 2722.94 kW, 12 cooling towers and 5 building water pumps.
  • The installation is managed by a building management system and is energy efficient. The cooling is produced centrally and distributes cold water to each building via a closed distribution network. This center is environmentally friendly and economically savvy and helps regulate temperatures in buildings throughout the district.
  • The machinery and equipment of the refrigeration plant have a rated power of 4,324.74 kW, but for safety reasons they never operate at full capacity. The kVA demand for the installation during the summer months is set at 8.5 kVA, which means that the installation regulates itself depending on demand, but will be limited to 8.5 kVA. The average monthly kWh consumption for the plant is 494,914.08 kWh.

Complicated solar system

  • The Melrose Arch precinct’s rooftop solar system is intricately housed across 16 different roof surfaces, and any building under the precinct’s joint venture agreement that can house solar panels does so.
  • The grid-connected system currently has 7,811 solar panels and multiple inverters, which generate approximately 3.2 MW of clean energy annually. During load relief, the grid-connected system can be integrated with multiple generators.
  • Some commercial operators on site, such as the Johannesburg Marriott Hotel and Melrose Arch, operate their solar systems, providing further sustainability. “We are committed to a target of 30% renewable energy across all our properties by 2025, and to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Area Vice President: Sub-Saharan Africa, Marriot International, Richard Collins.
  • Melrose Arch is exploring expanding its current solar capacity and looking to increase its clean energy supply by a further 3MW per year. Melrose Arch is also investigating a solution for a battery plant, connected to the electricity grid, powered by the solar power plant. It will provide the district with up to 4 hours of standby energy in case of outages.
Melrose Operations Director Reiner Henschel points to the water tanks. Photo: Asanda Matlhare

Water backup

  • Melrose Arch has two sources of underground water. The water is filtered and cleaned via the water purification plant before it is converted into drinking water.
  • This water is routed to Melrose Arch’s standby tanks, which are in place to allow the district to continue to enjoy the water when there are interruptions in the local supply.
  • This system keeps the district’s gardens green all year round and ensures less water is wasted.
  • Last year alone, the district saved 3,500,000 liters of water this way. In addition, Melrose Arch and the precinct have a water backup system with sufficient supply to keep operations flowing at any time for up to 72 hours.

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