Retail Rising

TRM, Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest mall

Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest mall aims to stand out in a growing market.

The growth of shopping malls in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is gaining momentum, with the city now hosting the biggest retail complex in Sub-Saharan Africa since the Two Rivers Mall (TRM) was commissioned in early 2017. This increased opportunities for vertical- transportation (VT) companies, especially those able to manufacture and supply systems that conserve energy and rely more on technology- based platforms for optimum performance.

In terms of existing floor space, Nairobi has the largest retail market in the Sub-Saharan region. Luanda in Angola, Lagos in Nigeria, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Maputo in Mozambique are the other capitals with the largest shopping centers in the region.[1] Ashmi Shah, Kenya retail portfolio manager with Nairobi-based real-estate agency and property consultancy Knight Frank, observed in a report: “The developers of Nairobi’s modern malls are building new city hubs where people can live, work, shop and play, all on the same site in locations near key transport links.”[1]

Owners and managers of emerging shopping complexes in Africa are not only providing full shopping experiences by bringing international and local retail chains under one roof, they are providing ease of access by introducing new technology such as innovative car-park systems.

New technology is also geared toward achieving greater energy efficiency. TRM is going one step further by striving to achieve international green credentials for some of its energy- and water-saving initiatives, including optimizing air-conditioning and central-heat- recovery systems, and implementing motion- sensor lighting.

TRM’s energy-conservation efforts extend to its VT systems. Mall management chose to install modern elevators, escalators and moving walks from KONE, with separate systems for passengers and freight. “The KONE brand of elevators/escalators were picked as the most preferable VT solution for TRM because of their good reputation in the market,” TRM management and Athena Properties said in a joint statement.

KONE installed, operates and maintains 29 elevators, 18 escalators and four moving walks at the mall, which sits on 11 acres with 67,000 m2 of gross lettable area to accommodate 200 stores in the upscale Runda/Ruaka area. The install-operate-maintain contract with KONE is expected to keep the mall profitable and help it attract a loyal clientele.

TRM management and Athenas said the KONE MonoSpace® elevators use gearless DC permanent-magnet motors with variable-voltage, variable-frequency (VVVF) KONE V3F16ES drives. KONE said the machine-room-less (MRL) elevator system was the first MRL on the market, and was considered affordable. KONE says the system’s elevator drive was a “purpose-designed VVVF for an MRL elevator system but has since been superseded by the KONE V3F16L.”

KONE adds that the MonoSpace can get a “new lease on life” by using refurbished drives from NDC Elevator Drives:

“Having no machine room not only saves space, but can reduce electricity consumption by up to 70%, making it an attractive solution for low- to mid-rise buildings in the region of 20 floors.”

Of more interest to environmental and green-building enthusiasts are TRM’s moving walks, which the shopping complex’s managers say are well suited to reducing environmental impact and supporting the mall’s green credentials. “The autowalks have motion sensors, which means they only move when someone sets foot on them,” TRM and Athenas said.

The units’ sensors enable them to assume idle or sleep mode and turn off ventilation, lights, music and videos when not in use. This greatly reduces energy consumption, according to the mall.

In some of the VT systems at TRM, elevators’ stop-command operations have been batched, prompting them to stop electronically at preselected floors. This reduces the number of stops, and even elevators, the building requires to move shoppers and visitors, further saving energy.

Technology also enhances the VT systems’ safety features, which are checked by regulatory bodies including the National Environmental Management Authority, National Construction Authority and Energy Regulatory Commission of Kenya to ensure compliance with approved standards. TRM and Athenas stated of the systems’ safety features:

“For example, in case of a fire in the building, [the elevators] automatically go to the last floor and open. The escalators also have an emergency-stop button. TRM has endeavored to meet national and international legal and regulatory standards on VT in buildings by undergoing regular inspections.”

Analysts predict a surge in construction of shopping malls despite concerns of slow uptake of international standards for some of these buildings. Peter Welborn, head of Africa at Knight Frank, states:

“Even though retail construction activity has accelerated, nearly all the region’s major cities remain hugely undersupplied by global standards. Shopping-center development is set to continue apace, and it will play a major role in shaping the future landscapes of Sub-Saharan African cities.”

This development also promises to present further opportunities for the VT industry.

[1] Knight Frank. “Africa Report 2017; A Definitive Property Market Research Report on Africa.”

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Elevator World | October 2018 Cover