Economic pinch puts spotlight on green building

21st September 2020 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

South Africa’s construction industry continues to suffer the effects of the national lockdown, a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unexpected delays and disruptions have resulted in increasing construction costs, which have had a knock-on effect for both developers and end-users, says student accommodation group STAG Africa.

World Green Building Week, which runs from September 21 to 25, encourages construction industry professionals to consider adopting a green approach to keep expenses down and build a better, more sustainable future.

“To make construction more affordable, developers need to look at every line item involved in their construction and ask how they can reduce capital and operating costs,” says student accommodation group STAG African director Sean Kenealy.

“By implementing green building practices, developers can reduce building time by 40%, which has the effect of dramatically reducing other associated costs, in some cases by up to 13%.”

Using Innovative Building Technology (IBT) for the construction of student residences across the country, STAG African has reduced heating and cooling costs by almost 70%, the company said in a statement issued on September 21.

IBT is a green alternative to brick-and-mortar buildings and makes use of lightweight steel structures that are prefabricated off-site. This method reduces construction waste from 25% to less than 0.1% of building bulk.

The steel framing itself is 83% recycled and the overall result is a carbon-neutral building process that costs less than traditional brick-and-mortar buildings.

“The first – and easiest – step to achieve both affordability and sustainability, is through energy-efficient design. Solar panels, grey water systems and energy-saving light-emitting-diode bulbs can help to reduce operational costs and impact, but these are most effective when paired with construction that is innately green − from using recycled materials, to optimal building orientation and natural ventilation,” says Kenealy.

However, the World Green Building Council says the benefits of green building extend beyond economics and the environment, and that the improved internal environment quality from increased ventilation, temperature and lighting control, the use of natural light, and the absence of toxic materials result in the improved health, comfort and wellbeing of building occupants.

In a post-Covid world, these factors cannot be overlooked, the council emphasises, with Kenealy encouraging the industry to take hold of “an unprecedented opportunity” to drive a green recovery led by sustainability and green solutions.