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Liberty installs Singapore-style solar trees at Eastgate Shopping Centre

Self-reliant solar trees to provide ‘architecturally enriched identity’, while increasing awareness of responsible energy sources.
The innovative new 'solar trees' at Eastgate Shopping Centre in Johannesburg. Image Supplied

Eastgate Shopping Centre – which is jointly owned by property counter Liberty Two Degrees (L2D) and insurance giant Liberty Group – has just installed giant made-man ‘solar trees’ on its rooftop piazza along the lines of the iconic solar trees at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay tourist attraction.

The aim of the solar trees is to minimise the impact of the mall on the natural environment, to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as well as L2D’s 2030 Net Zero carbon target.

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L2D says that the solar trees will provide a source of renewable solar energy to the centre and increase the public’s awareness of alternative and responsible energy sources, while providing an architecturally enriched identity.

“We aim to accelerate our positive impact on the natural environment and remain bold in driving our net zero commitments,” said Jonathan Sinden, chief operations officer at L2D.

“The solar trees at Eastgate are an exciting initiative as we aim to implement renewable energy projects throughout our portfolio, while creating sustained value for our stakeholders. This initiative also aims to inspire customers to adopt sustainability practices in their everyday lives for the benefit of the natural environment”.

The energy-conserving and self-reliant solar trees will come ‘alive’ in the evenings of their own accord for approximately five to six hours. With a bespoke installation of lights, the trees also contribute to lighting the piazza.

Piazza project

With the aim of improving accessibility while easing congestion in the mall areas, L2D’ strategy to activate rooftop spaces offers further outdoor opportunities and enables customers to experience the mall differently, while creating ‘good, smart and interactive spaces’ for shoppers to interact with.

“The solar trees form part of a wider piazza project which includes a journey through an artistic interpretation of sustainability, community and nature for the benefit of future generations. The centre is able to present patrons with a renewed ambiance, and overall experience when dining out, or simply strolling through the piazza.

“The state-of-the-art solar trees further enhance the piazza’s offering to patrons and tenants alike, creating a sculptural, functional and sustainable environment, while entrenching our commitment to our patrons by providing them with iconic shopping experiences,” Sinden added.

The design

The group adds that this initiative is in partnership with architects Batley Partners, which took on the function of conceptualising a vision that would be befitting of the physical space, while matching the overall ethos of the centre with the goal of uplifting the atmosphere of the piazza for the benefit of its patrons.

“The aesthetics of the solar trees was dictated by the scale of the trees and their relationship to the shopping centre,” L2D noted.

“Three is the smallest nuclear family unit in nature and with this, an ensemble comprising of a large ‘father’ tree which towers at 13.5 metres in height and 14 metres in diameter, a slightly smaller ‘mother’ tree, and the smallest being a ‘child’ tree, was conceptualised. This concept speaks to Eastgate’s philosophy of creating family-focused activities, thus forming relatable, community driven and memorable experiences.”

Edmund Batley from Batley Partners said, “It became remarkable how our design team had to continually adjust the trees’ components to resemble the geometry in nature and search for new types and ensembles of material to represent leaves and canopies in order to achieve a series of harmonious, sculptured architectural elements.”

According to the group, the trees consist of tubular hollow steel sections that have a 20-year lifespan requiring minor maintenance. The hollow steel sections mostly resemble tree trunks and branches which are flexible, allowing for the necessary bendability, and convenient transport and installation.

The solar trees have efficiently generated energy since October 2020 and their solar panels are set to operate for 10 years.

“Having had many years of experience in the specialised steel field, the Eastgate Solar Tree project is definitely one of the most Iconic steel structures in South Africa. Integrating the steel component with electrical, solar and stainless-steel cladding, really creates a very special and unique world class structure,” said Andrew Kirkland from Anchor ENGinuity, the contractor responsible for bringing to life and constructing the solar trees.

Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.

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Nothing wrong with using solar energy but this strikes me as a gimmick. Why not plant actual trees in that area and put solar panels on the roof? That way you get the best of both worlds.

Nothing will stop the demise of these monolithic retail facilities. They are hideous and lack convenience and appeal, solar trees notwithstanding.

If the city fathers ever want to ‘democratize’ the issuance of retail rights, they need to stop granting wholesale rights to these listed property groups.

Why not show the Singapore ones? Because the are nothing alike. The Singapore ones are HUGE (50 m high) and covered in plants. These are a little sad like glorified street lights.

End of comments.

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