Advice and Opinion

Why green building makes sense

Dorah Modise, CEO of the GBCSA.
Dorah Modise, CEO of the GBCSA.

South Africa is at the forefront of green building technology, and Tshwane is leading the pack. Not only has its new headquarters received a 5-Star Green Star SA certification, but Tshwane is one of only four international cities to participate in a new partnership between the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and the World Resources Institute-led Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA), in a bid to double the rate of energy efficiency in buildings by 2030.

Little wonder, then, that Tshwane is also hosting the annual Green Building Conference on 14 June, under the auspices of Sustainability Week 2017. It’s an event that nobody in the building industry can afford to miss: South Africa’s green building economy is rated in the McGraw-Hill Construction World Green Building Trends survey as the fastest growing in the world, and the Green Building Conference is where the top minds of this exciting sector assemble to exchange insights and best practices.

Why green building?

Dorah Modise, CEO of the Green Building Council and a keynote speaker at the event, comments, “The environmental benefits of green building are beyond dispute. With the construction and on-going operation of building consuming 40% of total energy usage worldwide and generating one third of all carbon emissions, green building is a major part of the solution to addressing climate change and resource scarcity”.

“South Africa has the highest green building share in the world, trumping countries such as the UK and the US, China, Singapore, Germany, and the historical green building market leader Australia.  One can attribute this to a number of factors, but most notable are the glaring resource constraints and escalating utility prices. Electricity shortages and most recently the drought that’s been with us the past two to three years have increased the level of awareness across the board and the property sector is one such sector that is beginning to show leadership in sustainability thinking”.

According to the Green Building Council’s Green Building In South Africa report, the average cost premium of building green over and above the cost of conventional construction was just 5.0% at the end of 2014. Modise purports that costs will inevitably come down. Green building is also an employment driver.

“Unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges in South Africa. The fast-paced growth of Green Building and evolving innovative approached means that there is a continued increase in new industries, translating into the creating of new jobs. Existing building certifications are growing at an exponential rate due to elevated demand in the market,” says Modise.

A smart business move

Beyond the environmental and social benefits, green building simply makes good business sense.

“In the local property industry,” says Modise, “the question that is now being asked is: ‘What is the price of not building a green building?’ With higher running and operational costs as resources become depleted and space a premium, asset managers, property developers and owners need to seriously consider the long term benefits of building resource-efficient buildings – not to mention the greater paybacks and payoffs of developing a ‘green’ building”.

“A certified green building creates a differentiated product in the market, which is viewed as technologically advanced and environmentally and socially responsible, where these claims have been independently verified. These attributes can be positively linked to the company brand and image of the owner and/or the tenant.”

Modise explains that green precinct developments are also taking place, for example Menlyn Maine in Pretoria, Waterfall Estate in Midrand as well as V&A Waterfront and Century City in Cape Town.

Private and public sector leadership

Not only is green building a runaway train of economic growth, it is also an area where the public sector is catching up with the private sector in terms of leadership.

“While the private (commercial sector) is in the lead on green star certified buildings, in recent years we have seen an exponential growth in public sector take up,” comments Modise. “We have certified 13 buildings owned by national, provincial and local government and state-owned enterprises. What is more encouraging is that the growth in green buildings within the public sector is across the board (i.e. from environment, to economic and social based Departments)”.

“Local Government remains the largest sector of government where there is maximum potential for green building and we have been encouraged by the commitment of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to action in this space as well as the City of Tshwane, which is part of our Green Building Leader Network.”

“In short, the Green Building Council South Africa has plenty of reasons to celebrate. Commercial properties are being certified at a rapid rate. “This means one thing: that green building is growing exponentially in South Africa,” concludes Modise.