Maintaining the HVAC of Cape Town’s most prestigious office tower

There are few, if any, more prestigious commercial office structures on the African continent than the AnchorPortside development on the Cape Town foreshore.

It is the tallest building in the Mother City – 142m with 20 floors of AAA grade office space covering 39,200m2 and its glass façade makes it instantly recognisable.

Commissioned in 2007 by then owners, Old Mutual and First Rand, it was decided to make the building not only prestigious for its tenants but to also achieve a five star certification for energy efficiency from the Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA).

As the greatest proportion of energy costs an any commercial building is consumed by the HVAC systems, special attention was paid by the design consultants to include all state of the art energy saving systems, components and equipment and integrate the whole into the BMS, which also looks after security, lighting, water consumption telemetry and monitoring functions.

Portside was commissioned in 2014 and following the expiry of equipment and systems retention and guarantee periods, the joint owners then sought to place an HVAC maintenance contract with a company that could handle perhaps the most sophisticated systems yet installed on the continent.

Enter SFI whose experience with most of the leading commercial property owners and developers made them front runners for this prominent landmark.

SFI entrusted Ettienne du Toit to lead the Portside project – an HVAC specialist with 30 years’ experience in systems design and maintenance – heading a six man team.

“Although less than 18 months old when we took over the maintenance project, not all the equipment and components were in good order so we began with our usual audit procedure logging every piece of equipment and determining its maintenance regime” said Ettienne.

“The equipment log is vast and the level of sophistication built into the systems ensures and HVAC system that can run as efficiently as possible. But with more controls comes a greater degree of supervision and maintenance to ensure that the system works as its designers intended.

“As might be expected in a building of this size the HVAC inventory is huge – 3 Water cooled chillers, 3 Open circuit cooling towers, 35 CHW Air handling units, 82 Fans, 36 Split units and VRF systems, 5 Fan coil units, 12 Pumps and 2 200 individually controlled diffusers, each with its own motor.

“In addition there are more than 60 variable speed drives and every component in the system is monitored for operation and energy efficiency. Our inventory covers 62 different line items that require to be checked, monitored, maintained and status reports compiled and submitted on a monthly basis to the FNB BMS Team.

“It’s essential that we stay up-to-date with the BMS Team’s activities and we form part of their contingent when training courses are offered by OEM’s or GBCSA.

“Health and safety (H&S) is a priority with so many people around – although currently about 60% occupied, Portside will house more than 5000 employees when tenancy is fully subscribed. SFI is scored by the BMS Team on all aspect of H&S under its control and I am pleased to say we have not been found wanting, achieving virtually 100% success” said Ettienne.

Even in a high tech building like Portside there is still room for improvement and Ettienne has introduced two important features – a log book for refrigeration gas usage which complies to ISO-14001 certification and an electrical lockout system, more commonly found in mines, to ensure that there can be no accidental activation of a power supply whilst equipment is being worked on.

“We are currently investigating potential water saving measures on the system’s cooling towers and hope to have a workable solution soon.

“We live and breathe this building on a daily basis and are recognised by the BMS Team as a vital to its activities. It’s all about team work – within our own team and being an essential part of the FNB BMS Team that keeps Portside up and running” concluded Ettienne.