The Green Building Council SA (GBCSA) is celebrating World Environment Day on 5 June with inspiration and ideas on how to bring the outdoors inside, appreciate nature and protect the natural environment that we all share.
The theme for this year is Connecting with Nature and the GBCSA invites South Africans to take positive steps – both big and small – to bring nature into their cities, workplaces and homes.
For inspiration, consider what corporates like Alexander Forbes in Sandton and the Vodafone Site Solution Innovation Centre in Midrand, and hospitality businesses like Hotel Verde in Cape Town are doing to make greener spaces a reality, or the Ngewana family undertook in their own home.
Alexander Forbes’ office building at 115 West Street in Sandton, for example, has literally brought the outdoors indoors with their beautifully landscaped garden reception area, while 58% of the office area has natural daylight levels sufficient to allow the electric lights to be turned off during daylight hours.
The developers of the Vodafone Site Solution Innovation Centre showed considerable sensitivity to nature: care was taken to integrate the building into the landscape and landscapers went to great lengths to protect and relocate indigenous trees that were on site before construction.
Hotel Verde is living up to its claim of being the greenest hotel in Africa. With a whole host of nature-loving innovations, you can literally immerse yourself in nature just steps from Cape Town International Airport. The hotel boasts an indigenous roof garden that also acts as a thermal barrier, an organic food garden and vertical aquaponics set-up that provide all the fresh produce required by the kitchen, and a chemical-free eco pool for guests to cool down in. The developer also rehabilitated the wetlands adjacent to the hotel to the extent that it is now a green lung in the Airport Industria precinct and is host to over 100 species of indigenous and endemic vegetation, an ecotrail, outdoor gym and two beehives housing over 60 000 Cape Honey Bees.
Interestingly, all Green Star SA new buildings tools have a credit specifically designed to protect nature – the Eco-Conditional Requirement – which aims to encourage and recognise development on land that has limited ecological value, and discourage development on or adjacent to ecologically sensitive sites. This credit recognises that humans need to exist alongside, and with minimal impact to nature, so discourages damage to or infringement of vegetation of high ecological value, or indigenous natural vegetation that is in its untransformed state; threatened or protected species, including flora and fauna; and watercourses of high ecological value, which include those deemed significant under a local, provincial or national register and registered wetlands.
But GBCSA Chief Executive Officer Dorah Modise points out that it’s not only corporates and hotels that should be investing in greener spaces: everyone can make small changes towards greener buildings and healthier lifestyles, without a large outlay of capital or time.
“Think baby steps: bring more greenery inside, for instance, or make sure there is as much natural light as possible inside your building,” says Modise. “Plant as many plants as you have space for – whether that’s a pot plant on the window sill or indigenous gardens outside – or a herb or vegetable garden.”
A great example of this is how the Ngewana family transformed their backyard into a herb and vegetable garden, as part of the GBCSA MyGreenHome project.
“Making a concerted effort to spend as much time as possible in nature is beneficial on so many levels – it’s good for physical and mental wellbeing and relationships, plus it helps to remind us to live in harmony with our fellow beings. Our natural systems are also responsible for keeping our planet in a healthy livable state, so for the sake of our children we must preserve nature, whilst at the same time enjoy spending time in nature.”
“A good way to start is to join us in celebrating World Environment Day on 5 June 2017. We will be helping create the world’s biggest nature photo album, and you can too by snapping selfies of yourselves connecting with nature and tagging @GBCSA and #WithNature and #WorldEnvironmentDay,” concludes Modise.