Saving water at Cape Town’s Hotel Verde

Submitted by: Brandon Abdinor, Friday, October 25, 2013

<p>A view of the Hotel Verde with a wetland in the foreground (Image Source: Adverb)</p>

A view of the Hotel Verde with a wetland in the foreground (Image Source: Adverb)

When the recently opened Hotel Verde, situated in the Cape Town International Airport precinct, was conceptualised and designed, water efficiency was one of the fundamental guiding principles observed.  Now that the hotel is operational it is estimated to use 37% less water than a business as usual operation.

As a result of the success of these water saving interventions Hotel Verde scooped this year’s Eco-Logic Award for Water Conservation, sponsored by Rand Water. Hosted by The Enviropaedia in conjunction with SABC3, the Eco-Logic Awards seek to recognise leadership in ecologically sound and sustainable activities and undertakings.   

The water saving strategies

The hotel’s integrated grey-water recycling system is the largest single contributor to its savings. Water from baths and showers is piped into a grey water recycling plant where it is filtered and sterilised for re-use in the hotel’s flushing toilets.

Another significant water saving intervention is a 40,000 litre tank in the basement of the hotel.  The hotel captures rainwater and stores it in the tank.   The tank water is used for irrigation, car-washing and cleaning of paved areas. This captured water is filtered to keep unwanted debris from polluting the water and clogging up pipes and fittings. An elegant enhancement to this intervention is the additional capture of sub-soil drainage water. The basement is partially below the water table, and the water that would have seeped into the basement is instead captured in the tank for use.

The stainless steel rainwater collection tank in the hotel’s basement (Image Source: Adverb)

As far as landscaping and vegetation is concerned, “water-wise” and indigenous plants have been used to both minimise the need for additional watering and to promote biodiversity. Water-wise refers to hardy plants that require little additional watering due to being endemic to drier areas such as the Western Cape. When it does become necessary to water the gardens, drip irrigation is used to minimise loss through evaporation and run-off.

In addition to these three major interventions the Hotel has implemented a number of smaller measures which all add up to help achieve the savings. Low flow fittings on taps and showerheads aerate the water, significantly cutting down the volume of water dispensed. Waterless urinals and dual flush toilet cisterns use less water and reduce the load on the municipal sewerage system. The laundry section uses Miele washing machines which capture the (mostly clean) water from the final rinse cycle and utilise it for the pre-wash cycle of the next load.

Green design and technology goes a long way to ensure sustainability, but user behaviour is also an essential aspect of going green. Hotel Verde not only encourages its guests to participate in saving energy and water. It goes a step further by actively rewarding guests who re-use their towels and avoid air-conditioning with vouchers. 


According to the lead sustainability consultants for the project, Ecolution, a major reason for the success of Hotel Verde’s efforts is the fact that sustainability imperatives were designed into the project from scratch, enabling greener construction and operation activities than if sustainability was merely an afterthought.

Although Hotel Verde’s achievements were made easier by the fact that the facility was built from scratch with sustainability in mind, it must be said that all manners of retrofitting can be effectively employed for existing buildings. Aspiring green building owners can employ nearly all of the interventions written about here, it is a matter of overcoming any inherent pre-existing limitations with intelligent design and the right intentions.

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Brandon Abdinor