Voluntary quantity surveying association the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) is formulating plans to accelerate not only its own but also the general construction industry’s understanding and increased use of sustainable construction techniques and materials in green building, says ASAQS member Danie Hoffman.
Hoffman, who is also the programme leader of quantity surveying at the University of Pretoria (UP) Department of Construction Economics, tells Engineering News that the concept of green building had a relatively slow start in South Africa since inception in 2008, but has shown exponential growth in the past five years, as more green buildings are being constructed around major city centres in South Africa.
This progress will hopefully also begin to affect green buildings in rural areas as the concept continues to develop and becomes more widespread and understood, he says, adding that the development of green buildings in rural areas has been marginalised, owing to a lack of resources and knowledge.
Hoffman notes that one of the greatest challenges currently facing green building in general is fear of the unknown – in this case, costing. Green building techniques are often perceived as expensive and challenging to execute. This may often be the case with the initial capital expenditure required to construct a green building; however, this is not the case in terms of the full life-cycle costs of buildings, he says.
Life-cycle costs encompass all the financial implications of a building, from concept to end-of-life, including the costs of construction, materials, design and engineering, water and electricity, heating and cooling and maintenance and repair costs, as well as the eventual cost of disposal or residual value.
Hoffman says the role of quantity surveyors as cost consultants in the built environment is important, as they have the information needed to persuade an influential audience – the decision-makers.
“Quantity surveyors have great potential to do good,” he says, referring to their ability to promote sustainable construction and the use of sustainable construction materials as design alternatives.
However, he states it is a shared responsibility between quantity surveyors and the entire supply chain; there has to be buy-in of the sustainability concept from the entire supply chain – from developers to designers and builders to users – for it to be more fully exploited to effect change in the long term.
“As consultants, quantity surveyors are very important links in the supply chain, as they are involved from the initial design stage to the conclusion of construction processes . . . assisting with specifying construction materials, preparing and reporting on budgets and controlling costs,” says Hoffman.
To assist in understanding and interpreting the cost of green building, Hoffman tells Engineering News that the ASAQS, in conjunction with the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) and UP, has started a study of all office buildings registered with Green Star South Africa (about 55 buildings) that were certified by GBCSA between 2008 and December 2014.
The data captured will be formalised and presented to industry to shed more light on the cost implications of using sustainable construction designs and materials. The study is aimed at persuading property developers, investors, professionals in the built environment and construction companies to consider opting for green building methods, as the return on investment in the long term may prove to be significant.
Meanwhile, Hoffman also notes the important role of educational institutions and organisations, such as GBCSA, in promoting the cause of a sustainable construction industry by informing the market of the availability of sustainable materials and technologies, best practice in use and benefits thereof.
In this regard, he says repetitive exposure through media and industry word-of-mouth is required to embed the message that sustainable construction should be practised to ensure that buildings of the future contribute to a sustainable environment.
Following the Leader
Hoffman notes there are a limited number of leaders or major role-players in the construction industry, and that these major companies are continuously aware of what their competitors are doing, especially regarding new techniques.
Since the inception of GBCSA in 2008, to the present, the manner in which companies have responded to the new challenge and opportunity of green building is often reflected in companies’ visions, corporate culture and strategies. “Where they see themselves in the future is often mirrored in the way in which they adopted green building,” he says.
According to Hoffman, there are often three categories of industry role-players. The first category comprises the leaders of industry, who take risks and lead the way. The next category of role-player will also take risks, but these risks are based on past experience of the industry leaders. This category is typically two or three years behind the industry leaders in terms of risk appetite and willingness to explore new ideas and techniques.
The role-players who are least likely to take any risks and prefer to use proven old techniques to produce a very specific result comprise the third category. Typically, these companies are resistant to change such as green building techniques and continue to pursue nonsustainable construction methods, he says.
“The industry leaders assume a natural responsibility to forge ahead and pioneer new ideas and techniques for a more sustainable future,” concludes Hoffman.