20 July 2012
Construction began on the Environmental Affairs Department’s new R8-billion “green building” in Pretoria on Thursday, illustrating South Africa’s determination to move towards a low-carbon economy.
It serves as a “green and bold step” which signals a new era in South Africa’s response to climate change, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said at the sod-turning ceremony.
Molewa predicted it would change the face of the construction industry.
“Through this green building we will propel the department above the construction industry players, setting a good example for other organisations and of course for the benefit of the environment and future generations,” she said.
‘Bold steps to ensure green output specifications’
The building’s features include rainwater collectors made of recyclable materials; indigenous plants in the landscaping to reduce the need for regular irrigation; and direct access to sunlight and ventilation to reduce electricity and air conditioner usage.
“We have, through this investment, taken that bold step which will ensure that our infrastructure can meet green output specifications outlined in our country’s climate change response policy,” Molewa said.
“This policy, among others, [encourages] the use of sustainable building materials which promote urban greening, energy and water efficiency.”
Project leader Gugu Dingaan of Imvelo Concession Company said the designers had paid careful attention to global trends to ensure that the building met all the requirements in terms of architectural design and landscape.
“This building talks to the overall goal of sustainable development and aims at being an example in the field – from the gardens right up to the roof of the building, we have built in environmental design principles,” Dingaan said.
An investment in the future
With the global economy rapidly transforming to low carbon growth, the green buildings initiative is an investment by government to assist South Africa meets its carbon emissions reduction targets.
In South Africa, the building sector accounts for 23% of greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions from the manufacture of the major materials for the building sector amount to 4% of total carbon emissions.
Molewa said South Africa had relatively high carbon emissions for a developing country, and new strategies were needed to change this.
The country’s green economy strategy has eight focus areas that include green buildings, sustainable transport as well as agriculture and food production.
“We anticipate that the urban area around us will become a green hub of creativity of green buildings that will influence corporate and state-owned companies around the country to follow suit,” she said.