SolarWorld is lighting up Intaka Island’s Environmental Education Centre, as World Design Capital Cape Town 2014 project #WDC338, with a state of the art solar installation that showcases the environment, sustainable living and green technologies in an eco-energy classroom in South Africa.
Says Gregor Küpper, Managing Director of SolarWorld Africa, this solar-powered project combines urban development and nature conservation to provide innovative and sustainable solutions that maximise long term educational opportunities for the City.
Set amidst the 16Ha wetland and bird sanctuary, the Intaka Island eco-centre is situated within Century City, approximately 7km from Cape Town’s CBD, just north of the N1 Highway.
The world-class spatial design of the multipurpose facility incorporates the physical building set within a conservation area to provide an educational activity centre, function venue, reception area, office space, ablution and kitchen facilities and outdoor sustainable living classroom – according to international green building standards.
Says Gregor: “The eco-centre’s energy efficiency is enhanced by the use of new polystyrene and concrete construction, natural light and ventilation and LED lighting along with SolarWorld’s photovoltaic panels and bank of batteries.”
The construction costs of this modern, energy conscious, enviro-friendly green educational building was enabled by a donation of funds, building materials and professional time from environmentally conscious corporates and individuals.
Says Chris Blackshaw, Chief Executive Officer of the Century City Property Owners Association and a trustee of the Intaka Island Environmental Trust: “This magnificent feat was achieved through a multi-tier collaboration between many stakeholders, donating goods, skills, time and funds, which further reflects the ethos of design thinking which drives World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. We value the contribution of SolarWorld and SMA in this collaborative partnership.”
The professional team also included WSP Group Africa, DHK Architects, Strong Consulting, Wegner & Carew Electrical Engineering, In To-To Solutions, Lights by Linea, Big Ben Construction and RPG Bridging Finance.
Intaka – which means bird in Xhosa, is a unique example of nature conservation and property development co-existing in harmony and for mutual benefit. Apart from the sprawling wetlands, abundance of rare and more common birds; and exquisite flora, Intaka Island is a space of balance within the city reflecting the coming together of nature, man and technology in harmony.
The environmental design component of the project secures water purification through the 7.5km canal which pumps water into the wetland and, through gravity flow, makes its way through different ponds of the wetland.
Since opening of the Educational Eco- centre to visitors in 2010, numbers have grown from just under 8000 visitors a year to 25000 in 2013. The centre is hosting a range of exciting educational, community and corporate events with visitors ranging from pensioners and school groups to corporate training functions and birthday parties.
A team of 9 staff have been employed to run the Eco-Centre and its related programmes and activities. The team comprises an Eco-Centre Co-coordinator, a receptionist, three field rangers, a cleaner, two boat skippers and a rope hand.
Through the project, jobs have been created and people empowered and upskilled in sustainable development initiatives. For example, two of the three field rangers were previously security guards responsible for monitoring the entrance to the Intaka Island Nature Reserve. They displayed an interest in the environment and were offered employment as field rangers. They have successfully completed a number of training courses which has qualified them as guides and empowered them to conduct tours of the Eco-Centre and Intaka Island, as well as to run all the primary school educational programmes which includes bird and plant identification, water quality experiments, energy self sufficiency and natural resource recycling demonstrations, etc.
Two general labourers have also undergone training and obtained their boat skippers licenses to operate the centre’s two launch boats which take visitors on a tour of the 8km of canals around Intaka Island. They also provide commentary during the boat rides, sharing relevant information pertaining to both the surrounding natural and urban environments. A third labourer has been employed as a rope hand on the boats and will be undergoing training for his skippers license during the course of the year.
Facilities on offer include:
A 2km self-guided trail along footpaths linking 9 stations, each offering a different insight into the bird, water life, flora and fauna that is encompassed in Intaka Island.
Guided trail: Experienced field rangers are available to conduct tours across the 9 stations, providing added information about the inhabitants, plant life, bird identification, breeding habits, etc.
Bird watching: over 120 species of birds are spotted on Intaka Island – two designated bird hides have been constructed at key areas.
Photography: With Intaka Island’s central proximity and large diversity of plant, insect and bird life, it has become a firm favorite with wild-life photographers.
Century City Ferry: Tranquil ferry rides are offered on the Grand Canal and around Intaka Island to enjoy the fresh air and breath-taking views of Century City.
Boating: Canoeists, rowers and dragon boat paddlers are welcome to use the 8km of protected navigable canals – however, no motorised boats allowed.