There’s no place like a green home

En­vi­ron­men­tal ex­perts sug­gest that the prac­tice of sus­tain­able green build­ing should be­gin where you live, writes Anna-Marie Smith

Business Day - Home Front - - HOME FRONT -

IN­CREASED aware­ness of the long-term ben­e­fits of sus­tain­able green build­ing, as pre­sented at the Green Build­ing Coun­cil SA’s (GBCSA’s) re­cent an­nual con­ven­tion in Cape Town, is in line with global trends.

In his key ad­dress, en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­pert Bill Reed, of US Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign, em­pha­sised the need for a holis­tic en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­proach that cul­ti­vates an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the dif­fer­ence be­tween car­bon neu­tral­ity and the long-term sus­tain­abil­ity of na­ture’s whole evolv­ing sys­tem.

Reed, founder of the US green­star rat­ing sys­tem, said that home­own­ers can re­duce their car­bon foot­print sub­stan­tially for the greater pro­tec­tion of liv­ing sys­tems by un­der­stand­ing the in­ter­re­la­tion­ship be­tween nat­u­ral and built en­vi­ron­ments.

“De­vel­op­ing green build­ing prac­tices might start with de­sign, but they ex­tend all the way through­out the life cy­cle of a

Care­ful plan­ning of on-site ori­en­ta­tion by max­i­miz­ing sun­light dur­ing all sea­sons plus in­tro­duc­ing more re­new­able en­ergy sources will achieve a marked re­duc­tion in the project’s car­bon foot­print

prop­erty,” says Ni­cola Dou­glas, CEO of GBCSA, one of 20 World Green Build­ing Coun­cil fullmem­ber coun­cils.

“It would be waste­ful to de­sign and con­struct a green build­ing, then fol­low with en­vi­ron­men­tally harm­ful man­age­ment that con­trib­utes to wast­ing pre­cious re­sources. The two dis­ci­plines, build­ing and man­age­ment, must work hand in hand.”

The GBCSA de­fines a green build­ing “as a build­ing that is en­ergy ef­fi­cient, re­source ef­fi­cient and en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble, and that in­cor­po­rates de­sign, con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tional prac­tices that sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce or elim­i­nate its neg­a­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and its oc­cu­pants”, she says.

For the GBCSA, build­ing green is an op­por­tu­nity to use re­sources ef­fi­ciently and ad­dress cli­mate change while cre­at­ing health­ier and more pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ments for peo­ple to live and work in. Lo­cal in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als, in­clud­ing ar­chi­tects, de­vel­op­ers, builders, own­ers and ma­te­ri­als sup­pli­ers, have ac­cess to an in­ter­na­tional stan­dard rat­ing-tool sys­tem adopted from the Aus­tralian green-star sys­tem.

Adapted to suit lo­cal cir­cum­stances, it is aimed at trans­form­ing the lo­cal prop­erty in­dus­try to­wards pro­mot­ing, en­cour­ag­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing green build­ing.

The GBCSA’s first green star SA tool-rat­ing sys­tem for com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial build­ings — Of­fice V1 — was launched in 2008, fol­lowed by the re­tail cen­tre V1 tool in 2010.

The lat­est ad­di­tion will be the multi-unit res­i­den­tial tool (murt) cur­rently un­der devel­op­ment and due to be re­leased in pi­lot form in De­cem­ber. Murt will ad­dress var­i­ous forms of multi-unit res- iden­tial de­vel­op­ments — new or re­fur­bished — from mul­ti­story build­ings to clus­ter or sin­gle homes in sin­gle de­vel­op­ments where there is a home­owner’s as­so­ci­a­tion or body cor­po­rate man­ag­ing the com­mon ar­eas.

An­other GBCSA as­set is the green star pro­fes­sional ac­cred­i­ta­tion sys­tem, pro­duc­ing a so­phis­ti­cated in­dus­try where skilled pro­fes­sion­als not only prac­tise the prin­ci­ples of green build­ing, but also ed­u­cate oth­ers about them.

Qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als and mem­bers of GBCSA trans­late the green star rat­ing tools into com­mon lan­guage and a stan­dard of mea­sure­ment for green build­ings to pro­mote in­te­grated whole­build­ing de­sign, raise aware­ness of green build­ing ben­e­fits, recog­nise en­vi­ron­men­tal lead­er­ship and re­duce the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of devel­op­ment.

Cat­e­gories in­clude man­age­ment, indoor en­vi­ron­men­tal qual­ity, en­ergy, trans­port, wa­ter, ma­te­ri­als, land use and ecol­ogy, emis­sions and in­no­va­tion.

Andy Horn, a Cape Town ar­chi­tect and lec­turer at UCT’s fac­ulty of ar­chi­tec­ture, said that when build­ing green homes own­ers should aim at achiev­ing a holis­tic en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­proach in ev­ery prin­ci­ple of the de­sign, as op­posed to view­ing dif­fer­ent as­pects in iso­la­tion.

He said that show­ing re­spect for the land by util­is­ing what is avail­able in the im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings ul­ti­mately in­te­grates build­ings into land­scapes.

In teach­ing and prac­tic­ing eco de­sign he en­cour­ages us­ing a va­ri­ety of lo­cal nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, such as straw bales and earth build­ing and ma­sonry dome con­struc­tion meth­ods.

Horn says that re­liance on mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter from dams can be re­duced by har­vest­ing rain wa­ter and in­tro­duc­ing grey and black wa­ter re­cy­cling where pos­si­ble.

By work­ing with na­ture’s forces, such as grav­ity, nat­u­ral wa­ter flow can be fa­cil­i­tated, as op­posed to me­chan­i­cal pump­ing.

To cre­ate a green home for op­ti­mum healthy liv­ing, the ap­point­ment of a ‘green’ con­trac­tor will re­sult in plan­ning ahead to im­ple­ment sim­ple con­struc­tion changes, such as the non-toxic treat­ment of tim­ber, roof­ing, bricks, ce­ment, and paint, to re­duce a po­ten­tially harm­ful toxic liv­ing space.

A skilled con­trac­tor will in­tro­duce an over­all re­duc­tion in en­ergy con­sump­tion, both dur­ing and af­ter con­struc­tion.

Care­ful plan­ning of on-site ori­en­ta­tion, max­i­miz­ing sun­light dur­ing all sea­sons, plus the in­tro­duc­tion of ad­di­tional re­new­able en­ergy sources, will achieve a marked re­duc­tion in the project’s car­bon foot­print.

When com­pared with con­ven­tional build­ings, once green build­ings are con­structed they pro­vide lower op­er­at­ing and main­te­nance costs, there­fore re­quir­ing less cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture over the build­ing’s life cy­cle.

Straw bale con­struc­tion and moon phased har­vested tim­ber projects de­signed by Eco De­sign Ar­chi­tects.

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