Alexander Forbes takes up residence in its green home

Alexander Forbes, one of South Africa’s largest and oldest diversified financial services businesses, in October moved its 2 200 Johannesburg staff into a new eight storey, R840-million, 36 950 m² head office at 115 West Street, Sandton. 

Since 115 West is one of Sandton’s, and indeed South Africa’s, most innovative buildings, the move neatly echoed Alexander Forbes’ recent, equally ground breaking, rebranding. 

Accredited with a 4-Star Green Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa, 115 West is both energy and resource-efficient and environmentally responsible – incorporating design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of development on the environment and the buildings’ users.

The 52 trees removed to create 115 West were replaced with 151 new trees, integrated into the design and work spaces of the building. Echoing the green theme, the atrium is designed as a forest-like canopy with South Africa’s most sophisticated retractable sunscreen systems intelligently linked to wind and solar sensors. These, combined with state of the art double glazing, control, conserve, store and focus light, energy and heat so efficiently that 115 West literally saves hundreds of kilowatt hours each day.  

Furthermore, a state of the art grey water system draws waste water from all showers, while a rain water filter harvests water to wash the toilets and irrigate the gardens, trees and ‘living walls’ that create the open, sun-filtered natural interior of 115 West.  

On the theme of retaining all that is sacred to the business, 115 West Street is also all about people, transparency, sharing, delivery and service. “It’s an environment that physically embodies our SERVE model, or the way we do business” says Edward Kieswetter, Group Chief Executive. 

“In fact, the SERVE graphic is being used in all the pause areas, consistently reinforcing Alexander Forbes’ corporate values. In this way simplicity, experience, relationships, value of trust and enriching lives is literally built into the walls of our building – just as integrally as they are built into 

everything we do.”  

Reinforcing Alexander Forbes’ commitment to transparency, glazing delivers natural light to the heart of the building through individually designed skylights. Transparency is also complimented in the architecture by simplicity and sharing, as the building works to bring people together naturally, using state of the art design and technology to move and mix both people and information efficiently and effectively. 

A centralised circulation and service core ensures that the building maximises efficiency and ease of movement across four bridges on each floor. The lifts, with V3F drive and micro-processor fuzzy-logic, control people traffic and needs according to position and number of calls registered. 

Moreover, separate support units allow parts of the building to ‘move’ independently coping with both short and long term seismic movements, “reflecting almost perfectly our commitment to flexibility, independence and innovation,” adds Kieswetter. 

Furthermore, Alexander Forbes’ commitment to its higher purpose, enhancing the quality of life and providing peace of mind to all we deal with, is reflected in how, “115 West accommodates and treats people – employees, clients and visitors,” added Kieswetter. 

A key objective in the design of Alexander Forbes’ new headquarters was the health and wellbeing of staff since this is critical in delivering the businesses promise to clients. 

As such, users of the building have access to an elegant dining space, finished with calm and restful stone counter tops and bamboo panelling, forming a neutral base for vibrant dining.

 A day crèche provides a fun and interactive indoor environment for children with vinyl decals and magnetic wall papers surrounding classrooms and playroom, providing stimulation and interest for children. 

A 200-seat auditorium provides space, in house, for even large gatherings and conferences, maximising convenience and reducing staff travel and carbon footprint. The same motivation was behind the inclusion of a world class, fully staffed gym accessible to all staff, in house. 

Also, with 115 West located directly across the road for the Sandton Gautrain station, building users will have the option of using energy and pollution efficient public transport instead of motor vehicles when possible. 

“Our staff will enjoy a more natural and healthy environment, with increased circulation of fresh air, reduced heat loads, numerous pause and other plant-filled break-out areas, combined with state of the art work stations and the latest information and building technology,” said Kieswetter.

Most importantly, however, “The move, like our recent rebranding, is an expression of confidence in ourselves and the future of our country and continent – as well as a practical commitment to helping staff reach their potential while supporting social transformation and environmental responsibility,” said Kieswetter.

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