The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), in conjunction with the World Green Building Council (WGBC), has announced that they are developing a framework and new rating tool category for green buildings that will make “green” certification ratings even more relevant to the unique circumstances of developing countries.
The Social and Economic Development framework and category, when completed, will feature an innovative set of benchmarks that, when applied primarily to the design and construction of green buildings in developing countries, will address societal challenges such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, lack of education and skills, and poor health.
“By expanding the focus of green buildings – to include broader socio-economic impacts, the GBCSA and the World GBC hopes to strengthen the relevance of a Green Star rated building in the context of development priorities in South Africa and internationally,” explains Bruce Kerswill, the Executive Chairman of the GBCSA and the Vice-Chairman of the World GBC.
Incorporating social and economic impacts
The concept of sustainability usually spans three factors: social, economic and environmental. Most green building rating systems have understandably focused exclusively on environmental impacts so far, but there is an increasing interest in the inclusion of social and economic impacts as well – especially in developing countries which have to address issues of meeting fundamental needs.
“The socio-economic framework to be created will concentrate on the factors seen as the biggest challenges in developing countries, and which can most readily be measured and included in rating tools,” explains project manager, Sarah Rushmere of the GBCSA.
International framework to be ‘prototyped’ in SA
The WorldGBC sees this as an important initiative that will help address the needs of all its developing country members. Once the international framework is created, then a ‘prototype’ socio-economic category will initially be developed specifically for Green Star South Africa, but will be adaptable to other leading international green building rating tools.
“This category can act as a stand-alone or as an “add-on” component for Green Star SA and other leading international green building rating tools which are used in developing countries.”
“Building projects will be rewarded for their design and construction-phase interventions which improve: employment and economic opportunity; education and skills training; equality; community engagement and benefits; and improved health and safety. The aim is to make this first socio-economic category simple and focussed on a set of top priority ‘big hit’ factors.”
“We believe this is an important piece of work for South Africa and other developing countries, and based on the interest already expressed in it, we are sure that it will enjoy a high profile,” concur Rushmere and Kerswill.