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FirstRand’s new green regional HQs in Umhlanga

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FirstRand’s new green regional HQs in Umhlanga

18 Jun 2015

Umhlanga is home to yet another striking new building, FirstRand Bank’s regional head office inKwaZulu-Natal. The first phase of the Acacia House office development is valued at R430 million and houses First National Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Wesbank and asset management arm, Ashburton.

The first phase of the Acacia House office development is valued at R430 million and houses First National Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Wesbank and asset management arm, Ashburton.

Officially opened on 3 June 2015, in a ceremony of much fanfare with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in attendance, the new building is now home to 800 FNB staff members from 15 business units previously based in six different locations.

In his keynote address at the launch, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal, Michael Mabuyakhulu, commended FirstRand’s commitment to invest in the city’s sustainable economic development and said the city is confident that the “architecturally appealing building” will “enhance the beauty” of this fast-growing Umhlanga precinct.

A 4-star green rated building, Acacia House follows best practice in terms of sustainability, visual impact, public space, climatic control, easy access, security and social responsibility. The building took 18 months to complete, with sod turning in July 2013 and first occupation on 2 December 2014. The total building area comprises 44 661sqm, providing 16 000sqm of office space. 

Designed by architects Bentel Associates International with WBHO as principal contractor, the ‘monumental style’ building occupies prime position at the highest and most visible point in Umhlanga, with views on one side that stretch to Durban and beyond and of Umhlanga Rocks to the left, with the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean laid out before it.

A vibrant mix of cafes and restaurants will occupy the ground floor of the building, aimed at revitalising the street life, along with an FNB flash branch that opened in December, where customers can easily pop in and make deposits or transact. An expansive piazza runs along the entire sea-facing front of the building creating much public open space.

A 4-star green rated building, Acacia House follows best practice in terms of sustainability, visual impact, public space, climatic control, easy access, security and social responsibility.

Acacia House makes a striking statement on the ridge with light reflecting off the ’Kalahari Spring’ stone clad exterior that blends well with its coastal setting. It has five floors, with an executive level on the fifth floor and the design has carefully maximised the views from all aspects, with a reception area on each level that has floor-to-ceiling glass and looks out onto the ocean.

FirstRand’s CEO, Sizwe Nxasana said at the opening that with KwaZulu-Natal being SA’s second-largest economy, it is well-positioned in the agricultural resource-intensive manufacturing, tourism and accommodation sectors and the building is “testimony to being a socially responsible corporate”. He said it supports sustainability of the environment, economy and provides a “pleasing and appropriate work environment for employees”.

Nxasana said it will support provincial development in the area, like the Dube Tradeport, providing an efficient service to customers in a good location. He noted they came in just below budget on phase one with a total investment of R480 million and a second phase planned to be built below and in front of the existing building.

He said the building recognises the needs of employees, allowing them to “work as individuals but also in groups to improve productivity and efficiency”. There are 20 scrum areas and 51 meeting rooms including four in the “King Shaka Welcome Centre” on the ground floor, for meeting with customers, all named after Zulu kings.

Each floor has a staff “restroom” area on either end of the building where employees can sit and have coffee or take a lunch break. White noise is filtered out to ensure a more comfortable work environment encouraging better concentration and productivity.

There are four parking levels and 728 bays, with 5% allocated to fuel-efficient or electric cars, 5% to scooters, motorbikes and mopeds and provision to allow for easier access for those with physical disabilities. Facilities for cyclists cater for up to 3% of the building’s occupants.

During the project 70% of demolition and construction waste was recycled and reused. The building stores 120 000 litres of potable water, providing a 3-day backup supply with 5 days’ of reserve electricity supply to cater for power outages.

Other green features include waste heat from air-conditioning being used to heat water, light sensors and the building shuts down at the end of the day.

“You can’t miss it as you drive past - it commands attention,” said Preggie Pillay, FNB Regional Chairman for KZN. “Durban has scenic beauty, sea, sunshine, warm weather, hot food and warm people.”

Architect Gordon van der Heever described Acacia House as a “timeless model of monumental status”. It is intended to be "future proof" and will cater for FirstRand’s needs for years to come providing a “clear and legible” address.

Besides being a key addition to the emerging financial precinct, it is also intended to generate economic stimulus and provide a significant, sustainable and attractive addition to Durban’sdramatic skyline from an urban, architectural and visual point of view. – Julia Hinton

Author: Julia Hinton - Editor Property 24

Submitted 23 Jun 15 / Views 2776