SA Home Loan’s R15million new head office on Durban’s up-market La Lucia Ridge is that rarest of office buildings, a structure that combines a striking contemporary design with sweeping ocean and city views, while stall managing to be low impact, both visually and environmentally.

The development has also proved a boon for local artists, crafters and photographers, with many of their colourful works representing South Africa’s rich cultural heritage adorning offices and meeting rooms.

Perhaps the most eye catching example is the giant beaded map of South Africa that forms the backdrop to the water feature that greets staff and visitors alike as they enter the reception area. Women from the Hillcrest Aids Centre crafted it in exquisite detail.

And thanks to a host of clever “green building” features incorporated into the design, it’s also among the most environmentally friendly, offering the company significant savings on its energy bills.

The two-storey, open-plan building has a south facing orientation, which vastly reduces heat gain. Maximum use is made of natural light with floor to ceiling windows on the south and north facades. High performance glazing on 80 percent of the windows helps reduce glare and cuts down on radiant heat. External sun control on key exposed windows on the north, east and west facades help prevent heat load.

A highly energy efficient chilled water air-conditioning system has been installed and the basement is entirely naturally ventilated with no mechanical assistance required.

A high-tech building management system optimizes power usage and equipment control, with motion sensors automatically switching lights on and off in zones outside core office hours, depending on activity. No escalators and few lifts are required due to the low rise design.

Rainwater is harvested and stored in tanks, and used to irrigate the landscaped gardens which comprise almost entirely indigenous plants.

The development was managed by J.T. Ross, with design by Dean Jay Architects in association with Paul Nel Architects, with space planning and interiors by Paul Nel Architects.

It was completed on time last year and occupation took place over several days in December. As planned, there was virtually no down time, thanks to most of the move taking place over a weekend.