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Green building: SA, the leader of the pack

Environmentally-friendly buildings have morphed from being popular in greenie circles to becoming the norm for quality building standards.

Sustainable or green building was hardly a hearty topic that could get tongues wagging at boardrooms or social gatherings nine years ago.

Terms like “environmentally-sustainable buildings”, “rain harvesting” and “off-the-grid innovations” have been bandied about for years in greenie or hipster circles, but are now gaining more credibility in the built environment.

In fact, South Africa has fast adopted the green building movement– pushing the country to prominence when it comes to the standard for global sustainability practices.

A recently published World Green Building Trends 2016 report, compiled by construction group Dodge Data & Analytics, indicates that South Africa has emerged as a leader in green building. The country has the highest green building share, trumping countries such as the UK and the US, China, Singapore, Germany, and the historical green building market leader Australia (see graph below).  

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Source: World Green Building Trends 2016 report.

The report gauges the commitment to green building projects by surveying over 1 000 architects, engineers, contractors, owners and specialists/ consultants that are located in 69 countries.

The report, which was recognised by the World Green Building Council, notes that global green building continues to double every three years, and mentions South Africa as being a growth engine for sustainable building growth. About 61% of South African ­firms expect to have more than 60% of their projects certi­fied green by 2018 – well above the global average of 37%.

The country’s green building strides are arguably not surprising – as the number of certified buildings by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) has risen to 193 buildings from one certified building in 2009. South Africa’s green building movement initially took off in 2007, which coincided with the launch of the GBCSA.

Speaking at the Green Building Council South Africa Convention 2016 on Wednesday, CEO of the World Green Building Council Terri Wills says the research by Dodge Data & Analytics mentions that those participating in sustainable building are doing so because “it’s the right thing to do”.

“The survey asks a number of companies and countries around the world: why are they embracing the green building movement and why are they doing this? A lot of companies cited energy efficiency, saving money and saving water. But South Africa has the highest percentage of companies answering that it’s the right thing to do.

“We read about the business case of going green time and time again. But for the leaders of these countries to stand up and say it’s the right thing to do, that’s going to spread green building around the world,” says Wills.

Other reasons for adopting environmentally-sustainable building with aplomb is reduced water and energy consumption, demand by tenants and clients for green buildings, and protecting natural resources (see graph below).

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Source: World Green Building Trends 2016 report.

Cost of green buildings

There is still a belief that green buildings cost much more than conventional buildings. Earlier research has suggested that green buildings could cost between 20% to 50% more than conventional buildings.

A study by the GBCSA, Association of South African Quantity Surveyors and the University of Pretoria – that was released in July and uses cost data from a total of 54 green star certified office buildings in South Africa – shows that the average cost premium of building green compared with conventional is about 5% and can be as low as 1.1%.

Danie Hoffman, programme leader for quantity surveying at the University of Pretoria says there are more buildings that could be going green but are not.  “If you look at when the first green building was certified nearly ten years ago, it’s still a very young industry and there is still a lot of novelty value around the table,” says Hoffman.

Green homes

Although green building in the commercial property sector has taken off rapidly, the next phase of environmentally-sustainable buildings is earmarked for the housing market. The move to greening the housing market will be done using the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE), a rating tool by GBCSA launched in 2014 for new houses being designed and built.  

The GBCSA anticipates mostly large residential developments – which roll out free-standing homes, for certification, and less so apartment buildings and single homeowner builders. To achieve an EDGE rating, housing units must demonstrate a 20% minimum energy, water and embodied energy savings. Read more here.  

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Good day,

If you look at what my brother, Cyril Attwell, is doing at Murray and Roberts you can see that it can actually cost less to build better and stronger buildings using green technologies.

He uses waste product from power stations and smelters and then uses that with reduced or no quantities of cement to create stronger structures that actually costs significantly less to produce with regards to material costs.

As he consumes waste products and reduces his use of cement (which is not produced in an environmentally friendly manner at all) it is an incredible green project.

End of comments.

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