GPW: Master Builders Association Durban, Westville

December 26, 2011 at 10:58 pm Project of the Week: 11/07/11
Master Builders Association  Durban, Westville
Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa
947 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2010
Owner: Master Builders Association
Location: Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa
Building Type: Multi-Use
Type: Extensive, Test/Research
System: Single Source Provider
Size: 947 sq. ft.
Slope: 1%
Access: Accessible, By Appoinment

Project Description & Details

Built in 1982 as a commercial building, the Master Builders Centre in Durban houses a large permanent exhibition and offices. Due to its age, certain finishes were becoming old and unsightly. The exhibition space had also lost popularity and could not compete with internet merchandising as well as the explosion of lifestyle and building accessory stores in the past decade. It was decided to introduce certain new features which aligned with the objective of the Association being a physical space for building community among members and construction industry role players.

The greenroof comprises mainly indigenous plants which are planted in a manner that mimics how they grow naturally. This ensures that they utilize minimal water, are able to propagate by themselves, and are less susceptible to outbreaks of pests and harsh climatic conditions. The roof podium area was planted with two separate systems designed by Green Roof Designs, one half using recyclable HDPE greenroof modules and the other half using treated softwood timber boxes. Native plants that occur within a 90 km radius of the building were used including: Agapanthus praecox, Crassula multicava, Stapelia gigantea, Aloe maculata, Crassula ovata, Delosperma lineare, Cotyledon orbiculata, Crassula pellucida, and Cyanotis speciosa.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Designer: Clive Greenstone, Green Roof Designs
Modular Greenroof Systems: Green Roof Designs
Main Contractor: LVE Construction
Architect: Bruce Clark Associate Architects

Additional Info

The  Master Builders Association (MBA) KwaZulu-Natal is an employer body representing members in the building and construction industry and “exists to represent the interests of members, as well as to provide them with specialist support services to assist them in the successful running of their businesses.  The membership comprises some 600 enterprises involved in the building industry and related activities in the province of KwaZulu Natal.  The organisation has been in existence for 108 years and is recognised and respected by a wide range of role players in the building industry and beyond,” (Master Builders Association  Durban, Westville).

The headquarters of the Master Builders Association building is located in Westville, a suburb of Durban. After close to thirty years, certain of the the head office’s finishes were becoming old and unsightly.  The exhibition space had also lost popularity and could not compete with internet merchandising as well as the explosion of lifestyle and building accessory stores in the past decade.  As a result, the exhibition center was no longer delivering sufficient value to tenants.

“We decided on the renovation because we were no longer getting the best use out of the facility. We wanted to ensure that the building and its use aligned with our objective of providing a networking and information sharing hub for members, industry stakeholders and the public. We also wanted to reduce our ecological footprint by becoming more energy and water efficient. ~ Executive Director, Brandon Abdinor

Members say the result is a cutting-edge structure that now generates lots of traffic. “The building itself is a shining example of a greening project. Air conditioning and lighting has been modified to make more efficient use of natural ventilation and lighting. The Perspex dome atop the heat-trapped atrium was fitted with whirlies expelling hot air and drawing in cool.

“Solar photovoltaic panels (PVs) are sandwiched between some of the glass panels that make up an extremely large portion of the building. Nearly 200 batteries store the power and inverters are creating usable voltage.

“Two six metre high wind turbines have been installed on the roof to assist the PVs. The system generates power for computers, essential lighting and other devices linked within the building’s electrical grid.


“Rainwater harvesting is achieved with six water tanks capable of storing 30 000 litres which provide water for the lavatory cisterns and during periods of no rainfall for the roof garden,” (Durban West Press Release).

The interior spaces are now not only green, but beautiful and very  accommodating:

“Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal offers a range of professional, easy-to-reserve and cost-effective conference facilities, guaranteed to meet your business requirements.” ~  MBA Durban, Westville

Due to the climate and site conditions, the greenroof had it challenges.  Durban, South Africa experiences a sub-tropical climate with high temperatures and high levels of humidity.  Clive Greenstone of Green Roof Designs, the greenroof designer and installation contractor, has been interested in greenroofs for several years, researching appropriate plants and systems applicable to weather conditions in South Africa.  (You can read the profile of his company’s first design, the  EThekwini Municipality Green Roof Pilot Project from 2008 and learn more in detail from his October, 2009 Guest Feature Article on by the same name.)

Clive chose the plants carefully and used two different modular systems created by his company, Green Roof Designs.  The growing medium used was a blend of 40% organic (fine screeded pine bark) and 60% inorganic (Vermicuilte/ Perlite/ crushed brick and decomposed granite); lastly, a slow release fertilizer was infused into the greenroof growing medium.  The green drums located at the end of the roof are the grey water harvesters:

Because the greenroof is situated adjacent to a large glass wall, it reflects sunlight onto the living roof habitat, resulting in very hot conditions.  As a consequence of the high temperature created by this  microclimate, only plants extremely resistant to drought and high temperatures, such as succulents, were used.

The  recyclable HDPE greenroof modules:

The treated softwood timber boxes follow the  HDPE greenroof modules:

Views of both greenroof modular systems used from both sides:

Learn more about Green Roof Designs and some of their other greenroof projects in South Africa here.

Did we miss something?  We’d love to hear from you!  Click  here to see more information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See how you can submit yours here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.