Time Square Casino, Arena, and Hotel: 3-in-1 efficiency

By Ilana Koegelenberg, with inputs from Aurecon

Tackling three projects at once is no small feat, but thanks to the hard work of a hand-picked professional ‘dream team’, the Time Square Casino, Arena, and Hotel’s design came together beautifully, despite the tight deadlines.


The opening of The Maslow Time Square Hotel in April 2018 officially marked the end of the R4.6-billion development project that had begun in May 2015 already. The casino was the first phase of the property to open in April 2017, followed by the state-of-the-art Sun Arena in November 2017 as phase two. The third and final phase was the completion of the adjacent hotel: The Maslow Time Square. With only six months between each phase, there was no room for delay at any point.

Forming part of the new Menlyn Maine precinct in Pretoria East, Time Square offers guests a premium gaming experience with world-class casino facilities that span two exciting gaming floors. With over 2 000 slot machines and 60 casino tables, Time Square Casino in Pretoria is officially the largest casino in Gauteng (and the second largest in the country).

But Sun International wanted to build more than just a casino. They wanted to offer the full package. As such, the so-called new home of big entertainment in Gauteng — the Time Square Sun Arena — was constructed next door to the casino. Boasting one of the biggest music concert venues in Gauteng, the Sun Arena is a multipurpose venue for hire that can be adapted to accommodate 1 300 banquet guests, up to 1 800 delegates in a schoolroom format, and over 8 000 audience members in a theatre configuration.

The total HVAC contract was approximately R130-million and the budget was met.

The final phase, the Maslow Time Square Hotel, completed Sun International’s mini precinct, offering guests a multi-level hotel experience complete with innovative conferencing solutions and inspiring meeting venues. The 17-storey hotel features a variety of accommodation options for customers, from three-star value to five-star luxury, all housed under one roof.

Client brief

The brief was to design a world-class, energy-efficient complex of buildings within set time frames and budget. An energy centre was also to be constructed as part of the first phase of the construction programme.

The project included:

  • Casino: a 2 000-slot machine casino with 60 tables.
  • Hotel: 238-key hotel (17 storeys) comprising standard, luxury, and premium rooms as well as an 800-seater capacity conference centre.
  • Arena: 8 000-seater arena (10 000 person max. with standing space).

Seeing as though there is no Green Star rating tool available for casinos, the team followed Green Star initiatives but without going for an actual rating.

The team

The project team was all hand-picked by Sun International for their professional experience and reputation. That is how Aurecon, CKR, and WSP ended up handling various parts of the contract, despite all being multidisciplinary firms.

It was thanks to the professionalism and efficiency of the team and their ability to coordinate and quickly deal with issues, that the many pieces of this project came together in time.

The brief was to design a world-class, energy-efficient complex of buildings within set time frames and budget.

The project was very well managed, and the team met regularly, almost daily, making sure everyone was on the same page. The consultant team and contracting team worked together as one project team. The projects manager and the contracts manager were both very hands-on and involved throughout from day one.

It helped that the architects set up the A360 document control platform, which allowed everyone to share things like the Revit live models, speeding up the project as well.

On the HVAC side, the project was handled by Jaco Blignaut and Sebastian Hoyland of Aurecon (together with an internal team), with HVAC Installations as their main HVAC contractor. Blignaut has worked with Sun International before and is familiar with their requirements. Hoyland was the lead design engineer who also did all the Revit drawings and calculations, while Blignaut oversaw the project, and the site work was split between them. Another person at the office was at hand to help with the document control and admin side.

The client themselves knew what they wanted; they were very focused and they had a ‘let’s do it’ attitude, which ensured everything ran smoothly and on schedule. The team worked very hard and did what they needed to do to finish on time.

The Gauteng Gaming Board was very involved from the start, not only signing off on the initial design, but approving the floor plans and sitting in on all the project team meetings to make sure everything was up to their standard and in line with the casino license deliverables.

Basement HVAC design

The casino, hotel, and arena are all located above a three-level super-basement spanning the full width and depth of the developed area. The basement houses all reticulated services, which links the three buildings via vertical riser shafts.

The basement has 10 vertical fan chambers that exhaust in excess of 900 000ℓ/s of air during a full load condition. These fans have a combination of soft starter switches and variable frequency drives that are linked to delay timers to prevent a peak load spike in energy demand. The fans were staged and linked to CO sensors that activate more and more fans depending on the CO levels.

Casino and hotel HVAC design

An energy centre was built, first comprising the generators, transformers, and chiller yard to allow fast-tracking of the project. It was built parallel to the casino instead of having to wait until the entire building was done and then putting the chillers on the roof.

The casino and hotel are served by a four-pipe chilled and hot water system located at the development’s energy centre. It is in operation 24 hours a day. It comprises three 1 000kW cooling-only chillers with heat recovery modules and four 500kW heat pump chillers. A four-pipe system is not commonly used but the casino is a 24-hour-operational building, which made this a good option.

The casino has large, horizontal variable air volume (VAV) air handling units (AHUs) located on mezzanine levels that have a chilled and hot water coils for space cooling and heating. Each AHU has an economy cycle with CO2 monitoring and control.

The full fresh air AHUs that serve the smoking areas have a heat recovery module that is made up of multiple refrigerant pipes with a wet pack to recover energy that would be used to pre-treat incoming fresh air.

All back-of-house modular areas are served by vertical VAV AHUs so that each office has its own individual control. These offices have VAV plate diffusers, whereas the double volume casino areas have variable core fixed vane swirl diffusers.

The hotel bedrooms all have two-pipe fan coil units with electrical resistance heaters to take care of its HVAC needs. There are four-pipe pre-treating fresh air AHUs located on the hotel roof, with ducted fresh air running into each of the rooms.

All front-of-house and back-of-house areas are served by four-pipe VAV AHUs.

Arena HVAC design

The Arena has its own dedicated HVAC plant, as it has very specific operating hours. This venue can seat more than 8 000 people and with the centre seats removed, it can accommodate approximately 10 000 people. This meant that the HVAC units serving this part of the project needed to be full fresh air units.

The main bowl of the arena has its system split from all other areas. The bowl is fed from a hybrid two-stage evaporative cooling packaged unit that includes a DX coil. This allows for major energy savings as the arena would get ‘free cooling’ during many of the operating hours, especially since most shows are in the evenings, outside of maximum design conditions. They had to go for the hybrid solution, as two-stage evaporative cooling on its own would not suffice on the hotter days in Pretoria.

The DX coil was sized for heating mode, making it more than 2 000kW in capacity. Extract fans are evenly located around the arena, serving as both exhaust fans and smoke extraction fans.

The noise rating that needed to be met within the arena bowl was 40(dB)A. This meant that there was a need to have large rectangular sound attenuators in the acoustically treated ducts as well as many internally lined duct bends to prevent noise breakout and noise ingress into the bowl. Variable frequency drives were also added to all the HVAC units as well as fans to further treat the noise levels.

All other areas around the bowl are served by an independent chilled and hot water system. This chiller yard comprises three 150kW chillers. Two of these 150kW chillers are heat pump chillers while the other is a cooling-only chiller.

One of the 150kW chillers has ice-making capability and is linked to a 60m3 ice storage tank with Crystopia balls located in a basement vertical shaft. This chiller can build ice during the day before a show and the chilled water system would then draw cooling from the tank for the AHUs serving the densely populated circulation passages. It was sized for 3 000kWh of cooling to accommodate a maximum of three shows a day.

All circulation passages and adjacent food and beverage counters are served by four-pipe horizontal full fresh air AHUs with VAV control.

The complete HVAC system is controlled via an HVAC building management system (BMS) that is independent from the main BMS controlling other services.

A change of plans

The arena was originally designed on top of the casino roof and the hotel was originally only going to be a 100-key in size.

But to prevent a delay in the opening of the casino, the client moved the arena to its own piece of land adjacent to the hotel’s position. The Time Square gambling license was moved from another operational casino, as all the licenses in the country had been previously issued and new licenses were not being issued. This meant that opening the casino on time was critical and not negotiable.

After further investigation, the hotel increased to 238 keys and the basement was extended to the new land bought for the arena.


The main challenge was managing the extremely rapid construction programme and ensuring that the team worked together to resolve any issues as soon as they arose.

The management of noise in acoustically sensitive areas was also a challenge, as the recommendations made by the acoustic consultant had to be strictly followed and tested. It wasn't just about the noise of the plant not affecting the show; the noise breakout of the building also had to be considered since it is close to a residential area. It was important that when a show was on, noise from the building wouldn’t disturb the surrounding neighbourhood. To achieve this, a lot of time and effort was spent testing the noise levels by a professional acoustic consultant.

Ensuring the HVAC contractor always had all the information needed to proceed was imperative and to prevent delays, snagging was done continuously during construction to prevent long quality control lists once areas had been handed over.

Energy efficiency

An HVAC system is always a major contributor towards energy consumption and demand for most buildings. Aurecon designed this building to ensure the most ergonomic and economic systems would be incorporated.

Products were selected based on availability, industry reputation, energy-saving initiatives, maintainability, after-sales service, local representation, good track record, and reputation.

The following sustainable, energy-efficient aspects are worth highlighting:

  • An air-cooled system was selected as the most appropriate for the major plant.
  • All AHUs have an economy cycle with CO2 sensors.
  • All AHUs have variable frequency drives to save on fan energy.
  • Fans were selected for maximum efficiency.
  • Full fresh air AHUs have a heat recovery module for the pre-treatment of fresh air.
  • Inverter DX units were installed in electrical plant rooms.
  • Ice storage for the arena FOH and BOH areas was added to accommodate irregular and high peak load demand.
  • Low-friction ducting and piping was designed.

A job well done

Ultimately, everything came together and the client was extremely happy with the installation.

The total HVAC contract was approximately R130-million and the budget was met.

Time Square in numbers

Total air terminals used: 3 736
Approximate total m2 of ducting: 41 700m2
Total duct accessories: 2 017
Total flex ducts: 2 144
Total mechanical equipment items: 1 151
Total chilled water piping length: 14 110m

List of professionals


Sun International


Sun International

Architect / Designer 


Project manager  


Consulting engineers





Wet services

Aurecon | Green Planet (Hotel)



Quantity surveyors



Principal contractor



HVAC Installations

Wet services

WBHO | Modern Plumbing


Edison Power

Product suppliers







DX Splits / VRF




Other air terminals


BMS / Control

Atbro – Johnsons Control





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