Green building is leading the pack of green innovation in our country with systems and verifications in place to educate, inspire and assist all those who are serious about a more sustainable future.
Green Times attended Accelerate Cape Town’s sustainability forum which offers a think tank for people with innovative green ideas, and shares success stories and learning curves, to implement a long-term vision for sustainability and economic growth in the city of Cape Town.
This months’ Green building meeting was an eye opener into the rapid growth and interest in green buildings in South Africa. Sarah Rushmere of the Green Building Council of South Africa gave some positive feedback about the emerging trend. “Apart from all the environmental benefits like water and energy efficiency, green building has now become a thing of quality.”
People are becoming involved and discussing the latest 5 and 6 Star buildings and even the government is not staying behind either. This month the Department of Environment in Tshwane has launched their new 6 Star accredited green building. In the corporate world it becomes a seal of environmental commitment and corporate responsibility.
Green construction not so pricey after all
Unlike populare opinion, she said the cost of constructing a green building is not substantially higher than to build a standard one. The premium is only 1.5% to 4% higher which, in the long term, is not a high cost differential. It is all about managing supplies, generating a clever design and good teamwork. There are now 1000 South African companies who are members of the Green Building Council, 35 certified green buildings in SA, 80 pending for certification and 600 Green Star Accredited Professionals country wide. No wonder the numbers of green certifications are taking off!
There are also social and economic dimensions being ascribed to the term green, and green building incorporates people and economic growth. The new Allan Gray building on the V&A Waterfront site and the Cape Verde Hotel are examples of green projects that not only focused on environmental sustainability, but also undertake to lift the economy and the local community.
Mark Noble, V&A Waterfront Project Manager, and Michael Smith, Allan Gray’s Development Manager, shared their insights and challenges with designing and building the new Allan Gray offices at the Waterfront (artist impressions above come from this info booklet). Here is a unique partnership between the property owner and the tenant collaborating for a greener future and the start of green leasing.
“We agreed to construct a building that was slightly more energy efficient, in order to leave the planet in a slightly better place than if they didn’t do it,” said Mark. They concluded that “sustainability here is not sustainability there,” therefore sustainability is context related to each country, province or city. What works for one site may not work for another.
They travelled overseas and learnt from existing buildings, particularly taking note of what didn’t work. They also stuck to the basics and used tried and tested methods that were more reliable and actually worked.
“Allan Gray understands the term green to mean environmentally and socially responsible, as well as financially viable. It is about our reputation,” said Mark.
Impressive tech of Africa’s greenest hotel
Andre Harms, consultant with EcoSolution Consulting, shared their journey of building Africa’s Greenest Hotel, the Cape Verde (artist impression above), situated near the airport. The project was approached via their three pillars of sustainability: construction, technology and operation. They went the extra mile to grab the title of the “greenest and most sustainable hotel in Africa,” and ventured into unchartered territories to produce energy even from the gravitational pull of the elevators to making boreholes and ground source heat pumps.
The technology is astounding! Incorporated into the guests’ stay are incentives to reuse and live green, and sustainability awareness is promoted in all aspects. Cape Verde is now pursuing ambitious credentials such as LEED’s Building Design and Construction certification and the Heritage Environmental Management certification.
Sarah Ward, City of Cape Town’s Head of Energy and Climate Change spoke about future green buildings as well as retrofitting existing buildings. Sally-Anne Kesner from Jaffres & Green introduced Eco-Standard, the South African tool to assess the green claims of building product. Eco-Standard perform onsite verification audits to investigate materials from origin to end of life, then mark them with a “seal of quality” valid for one year, before the process of assessment is repeated.
Aurecon engineer, Ryan Alexander, explained that management post construction of a green building is as important as the green design, and the administrators must understand the system. Each green building also works within its own context. The unique environment of a specific structure must be considered before commencing design and construction.
The steady increase of interest in Green Building promises a greener future for South Africa and provides hope for all of us who are concerned about escalating climate change. Buildings account for over 30% of energy related carbon emissions worldwide; hence it is encouraging to see a constructive shift towards responsible building in our country.
By Soninke Combrinck