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Sustainability initiatives bearing fruit at Emira’s Wonderpark centre

Vegetable garden and nursery at the Wonderpark shopping centre

Photo by Creamer Media's Tasneem Bulbulia

Water harvesting and treatment at Wonderpark shopping centre

Photo by Creamer Media's Tasneem Bulbulia

23rd May 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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Diversified real estate investment trust (Reit) Emira Properties has implemented several community, social and environmental projects at its regional Wonderpark shopping centre property in Karenpark, Pretoria, and these are providing several benefits for the company, customers and surrounding community.

Wonderpark is Emira’s largest retail asset, with 90 000 m2 of retail space, and the single level shopping centre boasts about 180 stores, cafes and restaurants.

The centre saw 9.1-million yearly visits in 2022. Notably, the average dwell time at the centre is 100 minutes, which Emira says shows that it is an appealing destination for visitors.

The centre is also easily accessible to the surrounding community, with ease of access from Heinrich road and major upgrades to the surrounding roads. Also, close to 50% of shoppers surveyed cited the location as the biggest appeal of the mall.

Notably, Covid-19 also did not have considerable impact on the centre’s performance, owing to its location benefits and integration in the node, Emira COO Ulana van Biljon told Engineering News on a tour of the facility this month.

SOLAR POWER

Wonderpark is also the site of Emira’s largest solar power plant.

The construction of solar panels on the roof of the centre was completed in three phases. This entailed 3 644 panels in Phase 1, which got under way in 2019. Phase 2 included the installation of 2 963 panels and Phase 3, 2 938 panels.

This equates to 9 545 panels installed on the roof of the centre, with the single-storey building and large, free available space lending itself to this.

The total peak power of the plant is 4.4 MW (all three phases combined). Currently, it produces about 150 000 kWh a month on average. 

The plant provides about 30% of the centre’s total power use.

The plant ensures Emira is less reliant on State-owned utility Eskom for power, thereby reducing costs. It also provides environmental benefits through no emissions, Van Biljon explained.

Emira is also exploring the potential of installing battery backup in the centre, with analysis of this well under way, Van Biljon noted.

WATER HARVESTING

Wonderpark also has a water harvesting system, with two boreholes and roof water collection pumping to two 205 000 kℓ water tanks, totalling 410 000 kℓ. This water then goes through a filter and purification system.

Water quality is monitored daily to ensure compliance with regulations. Moreover, the quality of the water and the absence of water-borne diseases are tested biannually.

The water quality is maintained by an automated dosing system. If any irregularities are detected, the system automatically shuts down.

Owing to this system, Wonderpark is usually completely independent of the council for water consumption, and only supplements this on rare occasions when demand exceeds supply.

Moreover, the centre has also implemented an early warning system to detect water leaks expeditiously.

NURTURING CHANGE

Wonderpark also boasts its own nursery and vegetable garden.

Further to growing its own vegetables and harvesting these when ready, the centre also donates this produce to local nonprofit organisations within its direct catchment area.

Moreover, its compost is produced in-house. The cuttings and dead plant materials are placed in a composting structure to become compost.

Emira is also aiming to increase the amount of spekboom in its collection, with these used both inside the centre and in the gardens.

Wonderpark nursery grows spekbooms from cuttings, which are distributed to the Emira portfolio locations and shopping centres as required. Emira’s goal is to cultivate another 4 000 spekbooms by the end of November.

Van Biljon lauded the benefits of this plant, which assists in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and is also edible.

In terms of recycling, Wonderpark recycles 10.2 t of cardboard monthly, as well as 400 kg of plastic and 250 kg of paper.

The recycling operations are being expanded through the planned construction of a recycling sorting plant aimed at making recycling more efficient.

Van Biljon added that Emira made a conscious decision last year to reduce waste to landfill by 40% over five years. It has started with this already at Wonderpark and will have an integrated waste system housed at the centre for the greater area.  

Emira is also pursuing new initiatives, with it currently having two healthy beehives on site at the centre. It is aiming to bolster this with another before the end of the year. Notably, 35 kg of honey has already been harvested during Wonderpark’s first harvest.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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