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Unisa wins award for green building

The winning way is the Unisan way and Facilities Management from the Department of University Estates went for gold when it won the Higher Education Facilities Management Association (HEFMA) renewable energy award at the 2018 conference held at the end of October at the University of Namibia.

The RR Maluleka Building rooftop solar farm with the new energy-efficient HVAC system for the building on the left.

HEFMA is a non-profit association with members from higher education institutions, primarily universities, in Southern Africa, generally functioning in the field of facilities management.

Also at the conference, Zodwa Mavhungu was voted in to serve on the HEFMA Executive Committee in the capacity of treasurer.

Dr Marcia Socikwa, Vice-Principal of Operations and Facilities, is very proud that HEFMA has honoured Facilities Management with this award. “This achievement,” she said, “reflects the hard work of all officials in the value chain in rolling out projects and initiatives aimed at reducing the university’s carbon footprint. Rest assured, the Facilities Management department is committed to sustainability and will continue to apply new energy efficient solutions and initiatives in the workplace,” she affirmed.

No more blackouts from load shedding

Unisa won the award for its Green Building programme, which is composed of various subsections, including energy efficiency, water efficiency, sustainable water management, and retrofitting of university buildings. In response to this programme, a 30kWp off-grid solar system project began at the RR Maluleka Building in November 2017 and completed in January 2018.

The solar system installed operates independently from the municipal power grid and excess power goes back into the grid. During the day, sunray power is used, while at night, the battery plant powers all equipment operating after hours. Should there be no sun for a while and the battery power runs down, the system switches back to municipality power, until the solar panels receives sufficient sunrays enough to allows the system to switch back to full solar power supply.

This also means that whenever municipal load shedding or power interruptions occur, this building is not affected.

The entire RR Maluleka Building is fitted with energy-efficient lighting and light-motion sensors at all strategic points and a more energy efficient system has replaced the old non-energy-efficient heating and ventilation air-conditioning systems. Heat pumps for the change rooms replaced geysers and energy efficient hydro-boils were installed in all the kitchens.

The total cost of the solar project was R1.5 million and the retrofitting of the new energy efficient equipment was R3.5 million. The projected payback period for the entire project is estimated at five years.

Zodwa Mavhungu is the new treasurer on the HEFMA Executive Committee.

Flow of information and opportunities

New HEFMA office-bearer Zodwa Mavhungu said that being a treasurer in the national executive allows her an opportunity to ensure Unisa gets value for the subscription it contributes, since the university will interact with different institution representatives who will be sharing knowledge and innovative ways of spending while maintaining the good value of university buildings. She believes that the previous non-representation of the university on the executive of HEFMA was detrimental to Unisa Facilities Management since the flow of information and opportunities from HEFMA to Unisa was restricted.

According to Mavhungu, HEFMA represents the interest of the facility management department of 27 universities in and outside South Africa and the purpose of its existence includes the following:

  • To develop and maintain high quality standards in the facilities management of the physical infrastructure of campuses for Higher Education
  • To promote professional ideals and standards that would assure the best academic environment; and to engage in such other related activities as may be desirable or required to fulfil the objectives of the organisation.
  • To provide the best professional service to Higher Education through constant education, information and resource creation.

Participation in the executive council will benefit Unisa in the following ways:

  • Enabling Unisa in reaching great heights in the Facilities Management body of knowledge through innovative ways of managing buildings and infrastructure therefore saving costs and enhancing property values
  • Unisa by getting first-hand information regarding opportunities in the Facilities Management field.
  • Exposing Unisa to the rich network of professionals in the Facilities Management field is also broadened.

*By Lesego Ravhudzulo

Publish date: 2018/11/28