Green buildings start paying off
The current energy crisis, on the radar since load-shedding began impacting the country in 2008, has contributed to a change in thinking about the built environment. Add to this the attraction of lower operating costs and less dependability on the grid and it’s little wonder that the move towards sustainable, efficient, eco-friendly buildings is gaining significant traction.
Buildings are responsible for around 40% of the world’s end-use energy consumption and are among the main contributors to climate change. Energy efficiency and financial rewards aside, awareness and perceptions around environmental issues have changed and the once inefficient built environment is following rapidly as more buildings are becoming green.
Advantages of green buildings include energy and resource efficiency, a reduced carbon footprint and the ability to provide sustainable solutions for energy, water and waste. Over and above being the environmentally responsible choice, they also offer significant monthly cost savings. HOW GREEN ARE SA’S BUILDINGS? Aside from two international properties, the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), which promotes and facilitates environmentally sustainable building practices, has awarded Green Star certif ication to 121 buildings in the country, 25 of those in the last three months alone (see graph below). It’s a far cry from the single certification in 2009.
At 63%, 4-star certifications are by far the largest. “4-star, rated as South Africa Best Practice, is by no means an entry-level rating. It’s extremely good and a tough mountain to climb,” explains Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the GBCSA. Just over 8% of green
buildings have been awarded GBCSA’s highest rating, a 6-star certif ication. This world-class certif ication ranks alongside a LEED Platinum (US Green Building Council’s highest certification for sustainable building) or any other rating system’s top buildings.
USA, Canada and China hold the top three spots on the green building rankings while Sweden is 10th, with around 2.54m green square metres, just ahead of South Africa’s 2m green square metres, Wilkinson tells Finweek.
The commercial sector has responded to energy challenges by demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and resource efficiency, with the bulk of the country’s green buildings belonging to this sector.
Boasting the largest portfolio of green buildings of any company in South Africa is Growthpoint Properties, the country’s largest real estate investment trust (REIT).
Growthpoint is not only acting as a responsible steward by embracing green building principles, but is doing well because these buildings are worth more, tenants are happy in them and they have lower operating costs.