MAN-MADE PHOTOSYNTHESIS The solar trees have continued to efficiently generate energy since October 2020
Aligned to Liberty Two Degrees (L2D)Good Spaces building block, which aims to minimise the impact on the natural environment while creating spaces that are agile, adaptable and aligned to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as well as L2D’s 2030 Net Zero carbon target, L2D’s Eastgate Shopping Centre has introduced three solar trees to the centre’s rooftop Piazza.
The solar trees serve to provide a source of renewable solar energy to the centre and increase the public’s awareness of alternative and responsible energy sources – while providing an architecturally enriched identity. The solar trees are self-reliant, harnessing energy from the sun to illuminate at night. With a bespoke installation of lights, the trees also contribute to feature lighting in the Piazza, while operating off the grid.
The solar trees therefore come ‘alive’ in the evenings on their own accord for about five to six hours. The installation of the solar trees at the centre will contribute towards minimising the centre’s impact on the natural environment as well as L2D’s Net Zero target.
“We aim to accelerate our positive impact on the natural environment and remain bold in driving our net zero commitments. The solar trees at Eastgate are an exciting initiative as we aim to implement renewable energy projects throughout our portfolio, while creating sustained value for our stakeholders. This initiative also aims to inspire customers to adopt sustainability practices in their everyday lives for the benefit of the natural environment,” says L2D COO Jonathan Sinden.
With the aim of improving accessibility while easing congestion in the mall areas, L2D’s strategy to activate rooftop spaces offers further outdoor opportunities and enables customers to experience the mall differently while creating good, smart and interactive spaces for shoppers to interact.
The solar trees form part of a wider Piazza project which includes a journey through an artistic interpretation of sustainability, community and nature for the benefit of future generations. The centre is able to present patrons with a renewed ambiance, and overall experience when dining out, or simply strolling through the Piazza, adds Sinden.
This initiative is in partnership with architecture, interior and graphic design consultancy Batley Partners, who took on the function of conceptualising a vision that would be befitting of the physical space, while matching the overall ethos of the centre. Aligned with the ultimate goal of uplifting the atmosphere of the Piazza for the benefit of its patrons.
The aesthetics of the solar trees was dictated by thescale of the trees and their relationship to the shopping centre. Three is the smallest nuclear family unit in nature and with this, an ensemble comprising of a large ‘father’ tree which towers at 13.5 m in height and 14 m in diameter, a slightly smaller ‘mother’ tree, and the smallest being a ‘child’ tree, was conceptualised. This concept speaks to Eastgate’s philosophy of creating family-focused activities, thus forming relatable, community-driven and memorable experiences.
The trees consist of tubular hollow steel sections that have a 20-year lifespan requiring minor maintenance. The hollow steel sections mostly resemble tree ‘trunks’ and ‘branches’ and are extremely flexible, allowing for the necessary bendability, and convenient transporting and installation.
The solar trees have continued to efficiently generate energy since October 2020. The design, manufacturing and installation of the solar trees saw over 200 people contributing to the successful completion of this project. Contractor Anchor ENGinuity was responsible for bringing to life and constructing the solar trees.
“Anchor ENGinuity is exceptionally proud of this project. Having had many years of experience in the specialised steel field, the Eastgate Solar Tree project is definitely one of the most Iconic steel structures in South Africa. Integrating the steel component with electrical, solar and stainless-steel cladding, really creates a unique structure,” says Anchor ENGinuity founder and director Andrew Kirkland.