JSE-listed Redefine Properties has recently certified and/or re-certified 40 buildings in its property portfolio, under the Green Building Council South Africa’s (GBCSA) Green Star Existing Building Performance (EBP) rating tool.
The company’s diversified property portfolio, which amounts to the value of R75.3 billion, includes a mix of retail, office, and industrial space throughout South Africa, and retail and logistics property investments in Poland. These Green Star accolades include 16 office EBP re-certifications and 24 new EBP certifications across Gauteng, Cape Town, Kwazulu-Natal, and Polokwane – the largest bulk Green Star EBP certification from any one commercial property owner to date and represents a major milestone for green property in South Africa.
“Property owners, such as Redefine stimulate market transformation by pioneering and leading when they ‘walk the talk’ and commit significantly to certification,” says GBCSA head of technical, Georgina Smit. “EBP certifications extend far beyond just energy and water performance management to encompass a much broader and holistic approach to sustainability management at an operational level. As such, they represent a commitment to a wide range of sustainability issues by a property owner and manager.”
Sustainability consultant and Green Star accredited professional for the project, Sally Misplon, explains that there are numerous advantages for REITs and other kinds of property owners willing to certifying many buildings at once. These include aligning each building’s operations with the overall sustainable objectives of the fund, building capacity within the fund for continued implementation, economies of scale in implementation, and reporting of overall portfolio performance (linked to environmental, social and governance -ESG- goals).
Independently verified green building certifications, such as GBCSA’s Green Star certification suite, are linked to improved financial performance of properties, according to the most recent MSCI SA Green Property Index results. Covid-19’s requirement for healthy indoor workspaces has also increased the demand for green office space, and there are benefits to be gained for commercial property owners and developers who commit to certifying their portfolios.
Smit says the MSCI SA data shows that “certified offices, in comparison to their non-certified equivalents, are attracting higher tenancies, higher net operating income per square meter, and lower risk ratings.” These benefits signal a growing appetite for green buildings and sustainability in the property market, and in the greater global business context. Essentially, greener office spaces offer healthier work environments for employees, and mitigate risks of increasing energy costs, and potential future water shortages (to name a few potential climate-related crises).
The EBP rating tool measures a building’s operational performance over a 12-month period. Covid-19’s unexpected arrival, and the subsequent lockdown in March 2020, posed some challenges to the measuring of the information.
Misplon explains: “The EBP rating tool has some minimum requirements in terms of occupancy density where each building is required to be occupied at a minimum of 70% during the performance period. As a result, GBCSA issued Covid-19 guidelines to assist projects teams in finding a way around this which still gave credits meaning during these different times. For example, the most recent reliable and accurate ‘pre-Covid’ set of energy and water data was used to benchmark the buildings energy and water performance, and adaptions were made to certain indoor air quality audit’s criteria to make it applicable to Covid-19 times, all while keeping the original intent and integrity of the rating tool in place.”
Covid-19 aside, processing many certifications simultaneously, is a massive undertaking. Timing and planning are critical, Misplon explains. “Staying on top of data collection and tracking everything well is pertinent to successful and high-quality submissions.” As is support from the technical team at GBCSA. Due to meticulous teamwork, a high number of the projects received their certification after round 1 assessment”.
Substantial portfolio certification, such as Redefine’s recent move, acts as a catalyst to other property owners who operate in the same space, says Misplon.
Head of ESG at Redefine, Anelisa Keke, elaborates: “The benefits of green buildings run deeper and wider than what’s obvious at first glance. Besides the water and energy efficiencies, reduction of emissions and waste that come through sustainable design, construction, and operations, at Redefine the certification is a testament to our drive to create, manage, and invest in spaces in a manner that changes lives. Looking ahead, creating spaces that support the health and well-being of our customers, tenants and employees, as well as the economy and environment, will be vital to accelerating sustainable development and delivering a better standard of living.”
Typical sustainability features across most projects:
- Indoor environmental quality testing to recognise the monitoring and control of indoor pollutants and help sustain the comfort and wellbeing of building occupants.
- Development and implementation of a Building Operations Manual, Building Users’ Guide and Preventative Maintenance Management Plan, Landscaping Management Plan, Hardscape Management Plan and Pest Management Plan.
- Development of a Solid Waste and Materials Management Policy to encourage sustainable waste management and recycling.
- Green Cleaning Policy in line with the Green Star requirements.
- A green procurement plan compiled and implemented to encourage and guide the property and facilities management teams to select the most sustainable products available on the market.
- Publication of green operational guidelines for tenants.
- Glare control devices are mandatory in occupied spaces to reduce the discomfort from glare and direct sunlight.
- Each building’s energy and water consumption benchmarked against other buildings of the same building type to encourage the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the burden on potable water supply and wastewater systems, associated with the use of energy in the building operations.
- A Green Travel Plan introduced to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport to and from work.