South Africans more conscious of greener ways of living

16th June 2017 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

South Africans more conscious of greener ways of living

INITIAL FOCUS The rating system developed by the Green Building Council of South Africa was initially only focused on new buildings

With South Africans being more aware of greener ways of living, multidisciplinary engineering consultancy WSP regional director and sustainability consultant Alison Groves says this has led to green building becoming integral in the design and construction of buildings.

“In light of the information released by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), one can see that in 2008 – the first year of green building implementation – GBCSA stated that there was one green building rated in South Africa. In 2009, there were four, with eight being rated in 2010. By 2011, there were 15. The industry is doubling exponentially every year and as the GBCSA introduces more rating tools, the uptake for green buildings is sky rocketing.”

Green rating systems provide measures that can be used in the design, construction and management of a building to make it more sustainable. The Green Star rating, which was developed by the Australian Green Building Council, is a hybrid of established rating systems Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, better known as LEED, and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, better known as BREEAM. The rating system was further adapted to align to South African standards and contexts, making it more applicable for our country, she adds.

The uptake of green building can also be seen throughout Africa in the past four years, she points out, where the GBCSA continues to play an active role to assist in establishing green building councils (GBCs) north of South Africa’s borders.

Through these efforts, to date, Groves explains that GBCs have been established in Namibia, Zambia, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana. Additionally, six buildings have been accredited under the Green Star ratings credentials, including three in Namibia, one in Rwanda, one in Kenya and one in Ghana.

Groves says the rating system developed by the GBCSA was initially only focused on new buildings.

“Initially property developers that took up the challenge did so because it was the right thing to do, but they were also encouraged by the energy crisis of 2008 which brought home the fact that natural resources are limited. Green buildings present an opportunity to bring resilience to businesses in times of constraint.”

However, the GBCSA realised that there was a growing demand by property owners and tenants of existing buildings to have their spaces Green Star rated, regardless of the fact that they were not in Green Star rated buildings. This led to the GBCSA’s creating the Existing Building Performance Tool, which is designed to evaluate sustainable installations and operating measures in any building.

The Existing Buildings Performance rating, is valid for three years to ensure that a building is continually well operated and maintained. Processes, such as energy and water monitoring, management policies and plans are required to achieve the rating, Groves explains.

“This tool covers the same environmental categories addressed in the Green Star SA new building tools, but the focus is on the efficient operations and management of existing buildings to improve and maintain optimal performance. “This tool is very beneficial for landlords who have vast portfolios of buildings on which they are doing constant improvements,” she explains.

“This means that a landlord could measure his building and get a score, and then implement upgrades and remeasure the building in terms of this green rating. “There’s nothing nicer than increasing your score, but it also shows your investors that the money they’ve invested in the upgrades is well spent, as well as the building stock getting better efficiency, performance and credibility,” she enthuses.

Further, the GBCSA released the Interiors Tool, which is more focused on the environmental attributes of interior fit-outs, and rewards initiatives that fall predominantly within the control of the tenant.

These fit-outs, Groves explains, comprise efficient lights and less harmful materials – which means that there are less to no emissions to the environment.

“Tenants and investors are becoming more attentive to the quality of the indoor environment for the people who use the building. These rating systems allow for more funding to improve the efficiency of buildings, thereby reducing the carbon emissions resulting from the building industry,” concludes Groves.