Nardo Snyman

13 November 2018 | Duration: 00:44:32


Nardo Snyman is a Sustainability Specialist with Growthpoint Properties. Though based at Growthpoint’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Nardo played a leading role in helping the company’s various commercial, retail and industrial properties in the Western Cape to become resilient to the impending water crisis during 2017-18. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pretoria.

Key points

  • Growthpoint’s initial focus in sustainability and green buildings was on certification; gradually it became clear that there are additional risk mitigation benefits
  • Developed water consumption benchmarking algorithm for commercial buildings that is publicly available on the Green Buildings website
  • Growthpoint installed two to three days of backup water supply storage on site in their buildings in the Western Cape as pre-emptive measure for the event of throttling or intermittent water supply under a Day Zero scenario or the run-up to it
  • Scary conversation to be had if you map out what could have happened under Day Zero
  • It does not make sense to be flushing toilets with drinking water, but retro-fitting for greywater use in toilets is often very difficult; in the past greywater reticulation would mostly be cost-engineered out of a new development; now split reticulation is the norm in their new developments
  • Focus is shifting from the cost of water of around R25 per 1,000 litres to the cost of not having water: taking account of the impact on business of running out of water radically changes the payback on water projects, which are increasingly seen as insurance policies against water-related risks
  • Expecting more and more of SA’s large cities to become water constrained; focus therefore on pre-emptive measures
  • Advice he would give to property owners and occupants starting out on water efficiency drive: measure and monitor to manage; begin with the low-hanging fruit; use grey water for irrigation; go for cheap solutions such as aerators under taps; expensive measures not always necessary
  • Growthpoint reduced the water consumption in its buildings in the Western Cape by 54% over 18 month-period
  • Plumbers are the unsung heroes: would not have been able to achieve this reduction without them



Growthpoint, the largest listed real estate company in SA, is focused on adopting world best practices in sustainability and green buildings; the company’s green building journey started 2013/14; started with a focus on decreasing electricity consumption; initial focus on certification – not initially a well established link between risk mitigation and green buildings; gradually it became clear that there are additional risk mitigation benefits to going the green route; developed energy and water consumption benchmarking algorithm that’s publicly available on Green Buildings website; importance of measuring to manage; algorithm enables them to identify underperforming buildings; irrigation main water consumer in their properties, typically around 30% on a standard commercial property; started seeing underlying trends of where there was water mismanagement; then Western Cape water crisis erupted; the duration of the drought started ringing alarm bells; “at a point people started becoming concerned, and we thought OK well, you know, City of Cape Town, what are you guys doing in terms of this drought, you know? Are we going to be OK? And there was this inherent radio silence coming from the City and coming from everyone that was involved with bulk water supply at that point in time”; task team established April 2017 within Growthpoint to establish what would be done in the event of severe crisis; at that point water consumption in their Western Cape buildings had already been decreased over the past year (early 2016 to early 2017) by about 20% to 25%, just through efficiencies and metering: “it’s astonishing what sort of efficiency drives one can get by actually metering your consumption”


Growthpoint property portfolio profile


Started with understanding of landlord’s responsibility regarding provision of water; focus on air conditioning and toilets; radical ideas considered; realised they needed a buffer in buildings; predicted that there would be two to three day shortages within certain nodes in the event of throttling or intermittent water supply; call was made, over and beyond the efficiency drive, to ensure that their buildings had two days’ worth of backup storage supply on site of potable water; started switching off single-flush toilets (only dual-flush); switched off all taps and put in hand sanitisers; smart meters in all buildings; all irrigation stopped; comprehensive building audit in Western Cape; knew what had to be done to put in place backup supply; backup water tanks give you the opportunity to inject alternatively sourced water into your buildings; phase 1: efficiency; phase 2: installation of two days’ worth of backup storage on site; phase 3: provision of alternatively sourced water; on-the-ground knowledge of building managers, facility managers, plumbers, electricians and civil engineers was vital; boreholes and sump water are the options for alternative sourcing; sump water in The District in Woodstock was cleaned to drinkable quality; CoCT regulations initially did not allow for injection of this water into the building as CoCT has sole mandate on provision of drinking water to citizens; as a result Growthpoint was not allowed to sell this water to tenants, so did not make sense to invest in filtration systems; successfully lobbied government to be allowed to sell this water to tenants, to take building off grid; reverse osmosis plant in place in building, takes 140,000 litres a day out of the basement; building only uses about 25,000 a day; The District became a supply node that could potentially supply other Growthpoint buildings, but for health and safety reasons the CoCT prefers them not to do so except under Day Zero type scenario; “in theory it all sounds good and well, I think if Day Zero really was to kick in the anarchy that would be on the streets would be a little more difficult, but the plan was there”


Preparations for Day Zero; proposal of donating surplus District sump water to public scrapped due to realisation of security risks; “you would have people bashing down doors, you know, regardless of LSM, trying to access this water, if you have no water for your family at home and you hear about this building that has water, come hell or no water, you’ll break in there to get it; so that was kind of when it kind of sank home, saying regardless of how well we prepare, what really happens when the taps run dry? … people won’t be able to come to work, they’ll have to go stand in queues to get water, do you allow them to come to the office, or do they have to stay home with their families? I think it’s actually a scary conversation to be had if you actually map out what could potentially have happened and I think at a point we just realised that we can’t plan for that eventuality in terms of what the greater societal impact would be, but we thought we can just do the best within our ability to kind of map out what we could potentially do”


Engagements with clients / tenants around contingency planning for Day Zero; limitations imposed by space constraints in existing buildings: parking bays in basement have to be sacrificed for storage tanks; fine compromise between building practicality and building value on the one hand and water storage and resilience on the other – a constant trade-off


Ultimate aim in terms of green buildings is to be completely self-sufficient, ie off the grid in terms of electricity, water and waste; water fit for purpose is important: does not make sense to flush toilets with drinking water; retro-fitting for greywater use in toilets is often very difficult though; the risk in supplying drinking water to tenants is that someone might get sick; risk outweighed by risk of running out of water; risk mitigated by over-filtering; water then remineralised to very high quality; real-time water quality appliance developed to monitor water quality in building; mindset change: in the past greywater reticulation would mostly be cost-engineered out of a new development; now split reticulation is the norm in their new developments; having this infrastructure in place makes them quicker on their feet to react to droughts


Historically water is cheap in SA; no financial payback to water-saving projects; then people started realising what the actual cost is of the water running out: “so this ‘new cost of water’, not just the R25 a 1,000 litres but the cost of not having it there … and so now we knew this new cost of water, and what would actually happen if the taps run dry, and when you factor that into your returns and your financial models then all of a sudden the projects have paybacks of two or three years, you know, should the drought kick in; so now we know what we’re willing to spend in terms of an insurance policy to make sure that that doesn’t happen, and when you factor that in all of a sudden these projects become a lot more feasible”


Innovation and feasibility; technical options and financial constraints


Cape Town offered them the opportunity to innovate relatively rapidly and prune out ideas that work and don’t work; best practice and lessons learned in CT now being applied to their buildings elsewhere in SA; value of water filtering down to tenants; seeing water risks elsewhere in SA; “I think more and more and more of our first-world cities, or our bigger cities at least will become water constrained”; focus on pre-emptive measures to prevent mad panic rush they had in CT


Advice he would give to property owners and occupants starting out on water efficiency drive: measure and monitor to manage; online metering now cost-effective; they’ve gone from only being able to realise they had a water leak in six weeks’ time to being able to realise it in 24 hours; can respond a lot faster to leaks; then start reducing, beginning with low-hanging fruit; water fit for purpose; grey water for irrigation; or use plants attuned to rain cycles and that do not need irrigation, eliminating the need for the 30% of water normally allocated to irrigation; cheap aerators under taps; monitor and report back on savings to superiors – closing the loop makes it easier to ask for funding; expensive measures not always necessary; if you can reduce your consumption your backup capacity is bolstered as well; measure, manage and get the low-hanging fruit


Property owner / tenant relationship around water use, availability and risk; working with its tenants, Growthpoint has been able to reduce the water consumption in its buildings in the Western Cape by 54% over 18 month-period


Importance of artisans: electricians and plumbers were able to say what was feasible and what wasn’t; “I think in the greater city of Cape Town and the crisis and the response we’ve had thereto the plumbers are the unsung heroes in terms of actually achieving what we’ve been able to achieve … without them it wouldn’t have been possible, you know, our 54% reduction”


Water historically seen by municipalities as a major source of revenue; as a result reluctant to allow for the provision of alternatively sourced water as they see it as impacting their source of revenue; what they should reflect on is that the cost of upgrading infrastructure to meet demands of growing populations might outstrip the additional revenue they can collect; therefore by allowing alternatively sourced water, what they’re doing is freeing up capacity in their networks to provide water to other users that might need it


Personal professional experience during the crisis; example of saying yes to something and figuring out how to do it afterwards; similar strategies and thinking can be applied to future projects relating to water, energy – or business