10 March 2014
The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) has certified auditing firm Ernst & Young’s new headquarters in Johannesburg as the 50th green building on its Green Star SA rating system, the organisation announced last month.
The council, established in 2007, uses a voluntary rating system which sets standards and provide clear guidelines as to what constitutes a “green building”. The Green Star SA is based on the internationally recognised Australian Green Star rating system and has been customised for South Africa.
“We are absolutely thrilled by the uptake in green building in South Africa,” GBCSA CEO Brian Wilkinson said in a statement. “In the past few months the number of buildings that have been certified, or which have applied for certification, has increased exponentially – with 20 buildings being certified in 2013 alone.”
The system encourages developers and architects to minimise the environmental impacts of their developments. Among other things, it rewards projects for reducing waste sent to landfill, and for building designs that yield reduced energy and water consumption and lower operating costs.
Buildings are rated using a sliding scale, from the six-star Green Star SA certification, which indicates “world leadership”, to five stars for “South African excellence” and four stars for “best practice”.
Government leading by example
“The support has been widespread, but of most significance is the take-up of Green Star SA by government bodies and big businesses from banks to property developers,” Wilkinson said, adding that the government, as the country’s largest owner and operator of property, played an influential leadership role.
“It’s encouraging to see the country’s leadership take up international best practice when it comes to green buildings, and we are delighted that there are nine government buildings certified to date. One of the only three 6-star buildings to be certified so far in South Africa is also in this category.”
Nine government buildings have been certified, including the six-star Department of Environmental Affairs head office in Pretoria, the five-star Sisonke district office in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and the five-star National English Literature Museum in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.
The business case for green building
According to construction company McGraw and Hills’ World Green Building Trend survey (2013), 51% of South Africa firms expect to be building green by 2015, most notably in the commercial markets, where companies are recognising that green buildings can produce measurable financial value.
“Developers have identified that there are clear environmental benefits for building green as well as a compelling business case,” Wilkinson said. “Going green is not just about the environment; the bottom-line benefits of building and operating green buildings are particularly important considering South Africa’s rising energy costs and water scarcity – coupled with lower risks, improvements to employee productivity and, ultimately, better investment returns and higher property valuations.”
South African banks with Green Star-rated buildings include Nedbank, with one 5-star and two 4-star rated buildings, Standard Bank with its five-star office development in Rosebank, Johannesburg, and Old Mutual and Firstrand Bank, with their joint initiative five-star Portside building in Cape Town.
Other notable Green Star-rated buildings in the country include the six-star Vodafone Site Solutions building in Midrand, Johannesburg; the five-star DSTV City in Randburg, Johannesburg; the five-star Chevron Project Core building in Cape Town; and the No 1 and No 2 Silo buildings in Cape Town (six-star and four-star respectively).
Several buildings belonging to commercial property developers have also achieved Green Star status, including Shepstone & Wylie’s four-star 24 Richefond Circle building in Durban, and Growthpoint Properties’ four-star Lincoln on the Lake and Mayfair on the Lake developments in KwaZulu-Natal.
Because developers have kept increasing utility costs, potential carbon taxes and stricter regulations in mind when it comes to rental premises, they have recognised that green buildings can fetch lease premiums and retain tenants for longer than conventional buildings, the GBCSA says.
South African tenants are also increasingly demanding green buildings, as they provide a healthier and more productive indoor environment and reduce the consumption of energy and other resources.
“Globally, the built environment is responsible for one-third of all carbon emissions, and with global warming a very real concern that affects us all, a shift in focus to green building is something that should be foremost in everyone’s minds – from government to developers to the average man in the street,” Wilkinson said.