South Africa on the green brick road - CNBC Africa

South Africa on the green brick road


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Nedbank green building

“It is good news for South Africa. We've had a huge take up of commitment to green,” chief executive officer of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), Brian Wilkinson, told ABN Digital.

Green building, refers to the design and construction of environmentally responsible structures as a means to increase the building’s life cycle as well as reduce its carbon footprint.

Property developers, Wilkinson explained, are not only using the green building status as an alternative initiative but also as a unique selling point to reel investors in as well as tenants.

“Green buildings have traditionally been a preserve for the building owner or investor but we're moving into an environment where a tenant can also achieve recognition,” he said.

He explained that tenants now have the opportunity to install environmentally friendly systems into their work space such as energy efficient lighting as well as by using materials that will reduce their carbon emissions.

According to Wilkinson, the myth of green buildings costing more has also been busted in a new report released by the GBCSA, called Rands and Sense of Green Buildings.

“We did some work on [the report] in 2011 which sought to really articulate the business case and we came up with ten very significant financial benefits,” he explained.

Benefits include factors such as lower operating costs due to savings on energy and water, higher returns on assets, increased property values and lower premiums as the buildings are viewed as less risky.

Also, he added, the marketability of a green building is higher than that of a conventional building as it is more technologically advanced and allows the business owner to receive a green rating from the GBCSA.

For example, South Africa’s first green star building under the GBCSA is the head office of Nedbank in Sandton, Johannesburg. The building achieved a 4 star rating which signifies best practice in green building.

The main elements which contributed to Nedbank’s green rating were systems such as a full economy air conditioning system, energy efficient light fittings, black water treatment system as well as the implementation of a waste recycling system. This resulted in 30 per cent worth of energy saving compared to that of a conventional building.

 “The business case for green is actually pretty well entrenched. The barrier that was put up in the past of green buildings costing more, tends to be coming in less,” said Wilkinson.

While the market for green buildings in South Africa remained fairly small over the last six years as it mainly operated in the new building sector, Wilkinson pointed out that the upgrading of existing buildings has opened up an entirely new market. The public sector, for instance, has tapped into this new market.

Gavin Kode, project advisor to the head of provincial public works for the Western Cape, stated that the case for green buildings is on the rise within government. “Green building is no longer in the domain of the private sector, it has got to be undertaken by government,” said Kode.

He further explained that an extensive programme has been launched by the Department of Public Works which aims at attaining a 4-star green rating from the GBCSA for all new public buildings. 

“We've built our green economy strategy on four pillars: the build environment, saving electricity through energy efficient technology, own energy generation (solar), waste management and reusable water,” added Kode.

So far, he pointed out, the Western Cape has established a sector development agency called the Green Cape, which is an industry led initiative to support the development of renewable energy in the province.

“There are a number of projects being run by the Green Cape to build the Western Cape as the hub of a green economy of South Africa,” he said.

For instance, the Public Works Department have committed to installing photovoltaic solar energy on the rooftops of all health service buildings and schools through the province.

“There is a lot of work going on and a lot being achieved,” concluded Kode.

With large private and public sector players moving towards the path of sustainability, the market and demand for green buildings will continue to increase.