Growthpoint leads the way in energy efficiency


In 2013 Growthpoint Properties undertook a massive improvement in the energy efficiency of its buildings, retrofitting 195 properties with a combined footprint of close to 1 million square metres.

By any measure the retrofit was a major undertaking. The company however only installed LED lighting selectively because, according to its Head of Sustainability & Utilities, Werner van Antwerpen, he and his colleagues judged that the LED technology available at the time was not mature enough. Instead, Growthpoint predominantly favoured T-5 electronic ballast lighting, which gave the company reasonable energy cost savings.

Now, in 2015, Growthpoint has just retrofitted the basement parking lot at its Sandton head office with LED lighting. It is a measure of how fast energy efficiency solutions are developing that, in under two years, Growthpoint – one of South Africa’s leaders in sustainable property – has become such an enthusiastic adopter of LED technology.

Van Antwerpen explains that the basement retrofit at Growthpoint’s The Place property on Sandton Drive entailed changing all 2 x 58W open channel light fittings to 41W LED lights and installing innovative motion detection technology.

Using radio frequency (RF) technology in the communication between lights, the system switches lights on and off as required, delivering lighting where and when needed. The basement lighting used to operate 24/7, but now lights are on for an average of just 5.7 hours out of 24 - and lighting levels are better than they used to be.

In the middle of the night and over weekends when the building is typically deserted, the lights automatically switch off. But a Growthpoint staffer or tenant who works late to meet an urgent deadline doesn’t have to walk through a dark basement to his or her car – the lights come on as soon as they step into the basement lift lobby. For security reasons, some lights are permanently on.

The net result of the LED basement retrofit is a staggering 93% electricity saving with, according to Van Antwerpen, the R1 million investment set to pay for itself within 26 months.

Now Growthpoint is planning to convert other properties to the combination of LED lighting and motion sensors that has worked so successfully at The Place. Van Antwerpen predicts that payback periods will, in some cases, be even lower – as little as 24 months or less.

Growthpoint’s experience with LED lighting illustrates just how dynamic the energy efficiency space has become. “Technology is maturing at a fantastic rate; it’s becoming more robust, more affordable and more cost-effective all the time,” Van Antwerpen says. And, he adds, you don’t have to be a sustainability expert like himself to be part of this exciting space.

“Our experience has been that electricity costs for a typical large commercial tenant in Johannesburg have risen from an average of R8.06/m2 in 2007 to R35.56/m2 today – and they’re going up all the time,” says Van Antwerpen.

“In the past energy costs used to represent a negligible proportion of the overall cost of renting office accommodation, but today they’re a very material part of the total cost of renting – and that applies regardless of the size or type of building.

The point is that today you don’t have to be an energy professional to find out how to save on your energy bills; there are tools and expert advice available that don’t have to cost a cent.”

To encourage the owners of all types and sizes of commercial buildings to embrace sustainability, the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) released a free downloadable tool (available online at, which lets anyone benchmark the energy – and water – performance of a particular property.

Sponsored by Growthpoint and Eskom, the Energy Water Performance (EWP) tool is designed to easily produce an accurate picture of how a building performs in terms of energy and water use, the all-important starting point for any building energy efficiency project.

With more than 500 commercial, retail and industrial properties worth over R100 billion in asset value, Growthpoint is the biggest property company listed on the JSE and has the largest portfolio of properties rated by the GBCSA - 23 including the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Landlords are sometimes reluctant to spend on energy efficiency drives because, as Van Antwerpen points out, “the benefits all go to the tenant”. So, Growthpoint has come up with a novel addendum to its contracts, in terms of which it splits the savings achieved 50/50 with the tenant.

This 50% saving assists in the funding of further energy efficient projects.

With electricity prices going up all the time a building’s green credentials can be a powerful sales and marketing tool. “Say a tenant pays R100/m2 net rent, energy (typically, electricity) can easily add another third to the cost so would-be tenants are increasingly attracted to buildings with lower energy profiles.

While Growthpoint embarks on another wide-ranging energy efficiency drive at its commercial buildings, Van Antwerpen is keeping a close eye on the latest technology developments. He predicts that the power storage industry is moving at a pace similar to that of the LED sector. “Battery storage could soon be a major competitor for backup generators.”

But the energy efficient lighting story, he reckons, is still also developing rapidly. “Pretty soon you’re going to see lights that talk to each other, that come equipped with four functions: a thermometer, a smoke detector, a motion sensor and an RFID [radio frequency identification] tag.

“The expectation is that lights like that are just 12 to 18 months away. They’ll be extremely energy efficient and, with the RFID functionality, will be able to pick up product identification, like the barcode on the soft drink or bottle of water you bring into a meeting – information that companies will be willing to pay for to find out how and where their products are being consumed, which means that the lights will be virtually paid for. I don’t know that we’re going to let that kind of information- gathering happen in our buildings but it does give you an idea of what’s out there on the lighting front – and what’s coming soon to an office near you.”

More and more companies like Growthpoint are joining South Africa’s energy efficiency drive. For those wanting to join this exciting drive but who perhaps don’t have the expertise and knowledge in- house that a Growthpoint possesses, help is at hand.

Eskom's national Advisory Service offers information on manufacturers and suppliers of energy efficient lighting technologies. The team can also advise businesses on:

  •  Reducing energy usage;
  • Doing walk-through energy assessments to identify energy usage patterns, energy needs, areas of energy wastage and energy saving opportunities;
  • Improving the energy efficiency of operations and electrical systems and processes;  
  •  Prioritising maintenance as an important contributor to reducing energy usage; and
  •  Finding SANAS approved energy savings Measurement & Verification Authorities.

Advisors also provide information on funding opportunities for energy efficiency projects.

Call 08600 37566, leave your name and number and an Eskom Energy Advisor will contact you.

Alternatively, ask for a specific advisor to contact you.

Visit for more information.

Photo caption: Growthpoint Head of Sustainability & Utilities, Werner van Antwerpen