Written by: Brian Wilkinson
The key motivator of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) and the green building initiative is the fight against global warming, climate change and the effects that each of these are having on our planet. It is evident that to address the global priorities of climate change and scarcity of natural resources the environmental impact of buildings requires urgent improvement. We aim to address this by ‘inspiring better buildings’ – it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.
Climate Change became very real for me last year when my daughter was in the Philippines and Typhoon Haiyan hit. Almost 12 million people were affected, one million were displaced and 4,500 people were unfortunately killed. I am fortunate that my daughter was unharmed and she is safely back home, but for me that was the time I realised the significance of the work we do.
Buildings consume 40 percent of the world’s end-use energy consumption, generate 40 percent of its solid waste and consume 12 percent of its fresh water during construction and on-going operation. Buildings ‘going green’ provides an opportunity to significantly reduce these amounts at a relatively low marginal cost. Green construction methods can reduce energy consumption by almost 50 percent, compared to non-green buildings.
Our partners, associates and Green Star certified projects are already reaping the rewards of their green investments through lower operating costs, higher returns on their assets, minimised churn and increased productivity – all while doing their bit for the environment.
The green building initiative also addresses many of the pressing issues facing local authorities in our country today, such as electricity supply shortages, water shortages, the lack of solid waste disposal sites, transportation and socio-economic issues. Green building is on the agenda of many boardroom tables in the property sector, but we are increasingly seeing governmental change given the existing need and potential positive outcomes.
The support has been widespread but of most significance is the take up of Green Star SA by Government bodies and big businesses from banks and property developers. The Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, for example, in 2012 announced the aim to turn the province into the green economic hub in the country. To date, there has been significant investment in this cause and further sustainable job creation. Green building in Johannesburg has also received a boost with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listing its first green bond. The R1.46 billion ($140 million) bond issued by the City of Johannesburg, will be used to fund green initiatives and demonstrates commendable green leadership.
Green buildings have been proven to make sound economic sense. Results in the USA, Australia and now South Africa, clearly show that there is no significant difference between the cost of green buildings compared to conventional buildings and that green buildings show the potential to achieve better investment returns and higher valuations.
Since 2007, the GBCSA has led and continues to lead the transformation of the industry to ensure all buildings are designed, built and operated in an environmentally responsible way. The GBCSA has concentrated its influence in the South African commercial property sector, with this reach translating into the partnerships with over 1,000 member companies; the education of over 5,000 people and the induction of close to 900 Green Star SA Accredited Professionals. Early this year, the council celebrated an important milestone having certified 50 Green Star rated buildings and projects.
We are also looking forward to the marked increase in certifications with the release of the existing building performance tool and the interiors tool, both currently in pilot phase with Version 1 due for release in October this year.
We could not have achieved the success we have to date without the support of some very big players in the sector, which have paved the way for change. We need to collaborate and face these challenges together – when it comes to climate change the sum of the parts is always greater than the individual.