Areas and Places

South Africa’s green building sector continues to grow says GBCSA

What saves enough water to meet the daily needs of 550 000 people each year? Just 300 resource-efficient buildings certified by the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), said CEO Dorah Modise.

GBCSA is meaningfully contributing to the planet,” Modise told a crowded conference room, without a hint of exaggeration, at the 10th Green Building Convention, held in the Century City Conference Centre from 9 – 11 October 2017.

Growing demand for local skills and jobs

In 2018, the proportion of green buildings will climb from 2017’s 41% to 61% of all South African building project activity. The GBCSA certifies buildings according to the Green Star rating system, and these buildings are recognised for their resource efficiency, which are rated in minute detail using sustainability indicators on every aspect of the development, from light and water fixtures, to paint and carpeting.

And local job creation is the result. “If developers want a high Green Star rating for their building, then the Local Content category points, gained for using a local supply chain of sustainable materials and skills, is a key contributor,” Modise explained. As established corporates order new green products from SMMEs, the general skills base increases to accommodate the growing demand.

Initiating this virtuous cycle are growing number of GBCSA-accredited sector experts; in 2017 one training group consisted of 200 individuals.

Green buildings make good business sense

Interestingly, most South African firms give the motivation of their green builds as ‘the right thing to do’, comments Modise. However, with extended irregular rainfall affecting the country, and especially the Western Cape, along with the continued hikes expected in electricity and fuel prices, the right thing to do is also often the most financially prudent. Beyond cheaper running costs, green buildings also show a higher return on investment.

Green buildings consider people first, and we urgently need to build better to enable thriving communities, better businesses, efficient cities and a sustainable economy,” agrees Rudolf Pienaar, GBCSA Chairperson. “The GBCSA is perfectly positioned to build a better world in South Africa and the rest of the continent,” said Pienaar.

The GBCSA strategy has matured since the South African Property Owners Association’s initial sponsorship paid for the development of a rating tool relevant to South African conditions. “Today there are 10 rating tools, including a world-first framework to build better places for people,” said Pienaar.

The GBCSA continues to grow exponentially. “It took six years to certify the first 100 buildings, and just two and a half years to certify the next 200. Plus we’ve signed up all the municipalities in the country through an agreement with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA),” said Pienaar. Added to this, Local Context Reports have been developed for Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia and Mauritius to initiate growth in their green building sector as well.

The success of the GBCSA as an economic and social imperative depends on collaboration, continued Pienaar. Citing the hurricanes across the Americas, the crippling drought in the Western Cape and violent storms in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal this week, Pienaar emphasized that the effects of global warming were very real. “A significant 23% of greenhouse gases stem from buildings, and if we don’t act now, and fast, there will be no chance of achieving reduced carbon emission targets,” he warned.