South Africa's First Green Star Museum Is A Haven For Book Lovers

South Africa boasts one of the greatest and greenest libraries in the world. Since 1972, the country has collected English literary writings from local authors, and it has grown into a cultural institution with many green features.


May 24 2019, Updated 4:09 a.m. ET

A massive library in South Africa has become the country’s highest-rated Green Star building in the public and education sector. It’s located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape and known as the National English Literary Museum (NELM). The building has recently accomplished its goals of limiting energy, recycling water, and creating local job opportunities in the area.

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Hailed as a literary treasure, the NELM was completed last June. It totaled 145 million South American Rand, or just a shade above $11,159,000 USD. The entire property stretches out to nearly 116,380 square feet, but it includes a treasure trove of amenities such as exhibits, theaters, and an outdoor stage.

The National English Literary Museum was designed by Intsika Architects, who has been responsible for recent projects such as the Kevali Residential Estate and Landrover Showroom. The company became a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) back in 2013, which was when the museum was first designed.

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This particular organization uses the Green Star South Africa rating system and awards certifications by four, five, or six stars. The NELM was able to receive a five-star certification, the first building in the public and education category, and the first in the Eastern Cape province among all categories. Construction began in February 2014 and was completed 28 months later. It created over 200 job opportunities in the area.

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How is this amazing building so eco-friendly? One major feature is their ability to stifle water usage. All of it is heavily monitored throughout the building and any rain that falls on the roof is harvested. That precipitation is converted into water for growing plants and plumbing. Other green aspects of the building include using recycled rubber, bamboo, and carpets for the floor, along with many other recycled materials throughout the building.

In order to reach the five-star designation, the building houses carefully chosen equipment that uses as little energy as possible. Both heating and air conditioning systems work with each other, according to a feature on the NELM by Property Wheel. Specifically, it is a Variable Refrigerant Volume system that can recover heat, and it has the ability to cool and heat separate parts of the building at the same time.

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To make the area even bigger, the property isn’t fenced off and creates a park environment for visitors. For those that travel long distances, they’re able to use shower facilities and storage compartments to have a worry-free experience in the area. The Property Wheel report also explains how there’s never a bad view as, “80 percent of the occupied areas have views to the exterior.”

Initially, the museum started as a collection of documents created by South African authors back in 1972. One unique aspect is that all writings are in the English language, just one of the 11 official languages in the nation. According to the Republic of South Africa website, a wide range of genres were covered, such as “novels, short stories, plays, essays, poetry, theatre, television and film scripts, autobiography, travel, letters, memoirs and diaries.” It turned into a cultural institution in 1980.


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