Advice and Opinion

Compelling reasons why biodiversity enhances property values, says Pam Golding Properties

As a proudly-South African company, the Pam Golding Property group is taking the initiative in driving awareness in the real estate sector of the important responsibility which all role players have in regard to biodiversity in the urban environment and, in so doing, enhancing the value of property.

“The fact is our economic and social development depends significantly on the state of the country’s biodiversity, also referred to as natural capital, and this, in turn, is increasingly becoming integral to how people perceive value in specific properties. With this in mind, we believe it is our collective responsibility to conserve, maintain and improve our key biodiversity assets,” says Dr Andrew Golding, CE of the Pam Golding Property group.

“Furthermore, with rapidly rising energy costs as well as ongoing increases in the cost of our precious commodity – water, homeowners and home buyers are becoming more and more aware of the need to reduce these costs as well as help conserve the country’s natural resources.

“As a result, we see the start of a growing drive among a cross-section of those involved in the housing sector, from developers and architects to individuals building their own homes or ‘greening’ their existing homes with energy and water saving features, to incorporate a range of such features in homes,” says Dr Golding.

Real estate sector has important role to play

The National Biodiversity and Business Network (NBBN), of which the Pam Golding Property group is a founding partner, is therefore working with various companies to assist them in driving innovations and leadership to change the way biodiversity is perceived and to develop a collective accountability for its protection.

Comments Dr Marie Parramon-Gurney, representative of the Secretariat of the NBBN, who is also head of conservation and business at the Endangered Wildlife Trust and vice chair of the Environmental Law Association: “In this context, in collaboration with the Pam Golding Property group, we are trying to lead a shift in the way the real estate sector perceives its role in relation to biodiversity management and conservation. The sector can play a massive leadership role in the way biodiversity is valued and incorporated in property development, design and management. Right now an opportunity exists for this sector to enhance South Africa and potentially Africa’s natural capital at all stages of an asset’s lifecycle – from site location, site planning, design and construction to operation and maintenance.”

Useful biodiversity guide for home owners

Pam Golding Properties is also working with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the NBBN in developing a biodiversity guide for new home owners to assist them in increasing the biodiversity value of their properties.

Comments Anthony Stroebel, group marketing director for the Pam Golding Property group: “As home owners, especially in an urban environment, we often forget the importance of nature and of our role to protect it. We also often ignore the potential added value that biodiversity can add to our property, including economic value. With this guide, Pam Golding Properties and the EWT hope to support home owners in understanding their potential role in preserving and enhancing the biodiversity value of their property, ultimately adding value to their asset and to the natural capital of the country. The guide will provide practical, hands-on advice to home owners on how to identify, manage and enhance biodiversity on their properties as well as tips on becoming more sustainable and responsible home owners within the context of our environment.”

It is evident that such a guide will prove highly useful for home owners and the real estate sector at large. As Carol Reynolds, Pam Golding Properties area principal in Durban, Durban North and La Lucia points out, at present, while an energy efficient home is certainly an attractive feature for prospective purchasers, it is difficult to quantify the return on investment for the homeowner.

“Clearly the most practical advantage is simply that since monthly utility costs are reduced, this will assist any prospective buyers from an affordability perspective. On the whole, a ‘green’ home is certainly desirable and energy efficiency is a positive feature that will enhance the value of a property, but what really matters most is the positive impact that these homes have on the environment. Often with property, value is determined via a combination of factors, and it is difficult to isolate each of these and determine the individual impact that each feature has on the value as a whole. Property owners should convert to energy efficient homes because of the monthly saving rather than the long-term capital appreciation,” she says.

In Gauteng, both Jonathan Davies, joint area manager of Pam Golding Properties Hyde Park and Jason Shaw, manager of PGP’s Fourways office, concur that as rising electricity tariffs bite deeper into consumers’ pockets, the need for energy-saving and cost-saving features becomes more compelling.

Meaningful monthly cost savings

Davies, who is currently personally investigating all that is involved in getting ‘off the grid’ in regard to his own home and even feeding energy into the grid, says there is a host of measures one can put in place, from solar-powered geysers and LED lighting to solar-powered inverters which run all appliances. “If you consider the affordability of the costs of running a home it becomes clearer. A family in a four bedroom home in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs may easily be spending R4000 to R5000 per month on electricity alone. While the outlay costs of installing energy saving features is initially significant, the fact that one may achieve a saving of in excess of R40 000 a year makes sound economic sense,” he says.

Shaw says there is definitely a shift towards the ‘greening’ of homes. “It’s becoming more than just a ‘nice-to-have’ as the break-even point becomes more achievable, making savings more meaningful over time. We are certainly starting to see more energy and water saving features in homes, which also adds to their appeal when owners wish to put them on the market.”

The area manager of Pam Golding Properties on the Western Cape Atlantic Seaboard, Basil Moraitis, says implementing green technology in homes is still a new concept. “While this trend towards green technology is just beginning, and will take a couple of years to become more evident, we will head in that direction in future in order to reduce the strain placed on the electricity grid by our over-reliance on fossil fuels, thereby easing the depletion of the planet’s ecosystem.

New developments show the way

“New developments are currently being fitted with energy-efficient heating and cooling systems to comply with Cape Town City Council’s zoning regulations,” he says. Moraitis mentions The Odyssey, a 65-unit luxury apartment building in Main Road in Green Point which was marketed by Pam Golding Properties, as an example of a building where energy-saving measures were implemented and which is fully compliant with council’s new regulations.

“This ultimately benefits the purchaser by reducing energy consumption and saving money at the end of the day.” Apart from solar-powered geysers, he says other measures which can be used to reduce reliance on heating and cooling systems, and thus reduce energy demands, include using the heat generated by air conditioning units to heat hot water instead of being discharged into the atmosphere, while west-facing windows can be double-glazed to keep the apartment warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

Concludes Stroebel: “It is certainly incumbent upon us as the business sector to ensure that we look to take a far more responsible approach as far as the protection of our natural capital is concerned and that we, in turn, look to utilise our channels and networks to drive consciousness and action around this critical issue. As the saying goes, ‘we are merely borrowing our planet from future generations’.”

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