Spread­ing the green word

Cape Town will be host­ing the Green Build­ing Coun­cil of SA’s third an­nual con­ven­tion in Septem­ber, writes Anna-Marie Smith

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

THE Green Build­ing Coun­cil of SA (GBCSA), a full mem­ber of the World Green Build­ing Coun­cil and the of­fi­cial Green Star SA ac­cred­i­ta­tion body, sees its con­ven­tion in Cape Town as a key piece of the agency’s strat­egy to em­power lo­cal prop­erty pro­fes­sion­als with global green tools cus­tomised to lo­cal con­di­tions.

In so do­ing it will as­sist in driv­ing the prop­erty in­dus­try to­wards more en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able build­ing prac­tices.

The GBCSA’s Green Star points-based rat­ing sys­tem cur­rently ap­plies only to of­fice and re­tail spa­ces but it will be launch­ing its next tool for multi-unit res­i­den­tial pur­poses later this month, ac­cord­ing to GBCSA CEO Ni­cola Dou­glas.

Once the tool be­comes avail­able res­i­den­tial build­ing own­ers and de­vel­op­ers will be able to rate their projects and be­come Green Star SA cer­ti­fied as an en­dorse- ment of the project’s en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance.

Dou­glas says other coun­tries, such as Aus­tralia, which sub­scribe to the Green Star rat­ing sys­tem for com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial build­ings, have govern­ment pro­grammes in place for sus­tain­able green build­ing prac­tice of houses, and the US Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign (Leed) has its own rat­ing sys­tem that ap­plies to sin­gle unit homes.

Dou­glas says the Green Star rat­ing has pro­vided in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als with a use­ful frame­work through which to at­tain green sus­tain­able build­ing prac­tices.

Com­ment­ing on the sys­tem, Peta Brom, a Green Star SA ac­cred­ited pro­fes­sional, says: “The most vis­i­ble green in­ter­ven­tions, such as a so­lar panel roof, sel­dom have the most in­tense im­pact on the build­ing’s over­all en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance. It is of­ten those de­sign el­e­ments that are least vis­i­bly green, such as ac­cess to nat- ural light, or the in­stal­la­tion of dis­place­ment ven­ti­la­tion, or a change in the way con­crete is mixed (some­thing that would be com­pletely in­vis­i­ble to the com­mon ob­server) where the great­est en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance gains are made.”

Brom says this rat­ing sys­tem de­scribes many of the ar­eas of en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact that need to be mit­i­gated dur­ing con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion of build­ings.

In­dus­try ex­perts say the ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign of any home is piv­otal to the over­all prac­tice of sus­tain­able green build­ing.

Green Star SA ac­cred­ited ar­chi­tect Louise van Riet says the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances of the 21st cen­tury should not be ig­nored, and in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als should set pri­or­i­ties to de­ter­mine ef­fec­tive strate­gies through­out the process. “Al­low your pro­fes­sional team to do as­sess­ments on all items of the de­sign: en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, ma­te­ri­als choice and use, site im­pact, wa­ter use and ef­fi­ciency, build­ing longevity and flex­i­bil­ity.”

She says pas­sive de­sign is the most cost-ef­fec­tive way of in­cor­po­rat­ing sus­tain­able prin­ci­ples such as keep­ing heat out in­stead of cool­ing a house me­chan­i­cally, al­low­ing win­ter sun to warm a house, pre­vent­ing heat from es­cap­ing at night, re­duc­ing heat­ing costs, and po­si­tion­ing liv­ing ar­eas in the sunny parts and ser­vice ar­eas on the cold side.

Van Riet says prac­ti­cal ob­ser­va­tion re­sults in the smart de­sign of a new house, and huge ben­e­fits lie in be­com­ing fa­mil­iar with the build­ing site through all sea­sons to de­ter­mine sun an­gles, over shad­ow­ing from trees, pre­vail­ing winds, views, and noise.

Elec­tri­cal con­sul­tants say that home­own­ers should think and prac­tice green prin­ci­ples, and just one fac­tor such as max­imis­ing nat­u­ral light can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the long term.

Tyrone Wil­son, a Green Star SA ac­cred­ited pro­fes­sional, says WSP Con­sult­ing En­gi­neers be­lieves the use of re­new­able en­ergy should be of pri­or­ity, as il­lus­trated by projects im­ple­ment­ing so­lar pan­els for ei­ther heat­ing or elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion. Wil­son says al­though it is not part of the elec­tri­cal man­date, lit­tle is said about the very ef­fec­tive, nat­u­ral method of so­lar light­ing.

He says so­lar light is the best qual­ity light known and is 100% free. Ev­ery ef­fort should be made to em­ploy this light source, and one such op­tion is to place sky­lights on the roofs of houses.

An­other pri­or­ity of sus­tain­able green build­ing is the use of en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly build­ing ma­te­ri­als wher­ever pos­si­ble.

Wayne Bur­ton, tech­ni­cal chair­man of Clay­Brick.org, and a Green Star SA ac­cred­ited pro­fes­sional, says en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly bricks, when as­sessed over their full life­cy­cle, have a net pos­i­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, typ­i­cally through re­duced use of ma­te­ri­als in the build­ing, lower en­ergy con­sump­tion to achieve indoor ther­mal com­fort, long life of the build­ing, and re-use or re­cy­cling if the build­ing is later de­mol­ished.

The sus­tain­abil­ity of walling so­lu­tions would be as­sessed not only in terms of en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, but also from a so­cial and eco­nomic per­spec­tive.

Bur­ton says that in SA, ther­mal per­for­mance mod­els have shown that for a stan­dard res­i­den­tial house, us­ing walls with an ap­pro­pri­ate com­bi­na­tion of ther­mal ca­pac­ity and re­sis­tance yields an en­ergy cost to achieve indoor ther­mal com­fort, over 30 years that is 25% lower than the same build­ing with light­weight walls.

Bricks are an ex­cel­lent so­lu­tion for pro­vid­ing both ther­mal ca­pac­ity and re­sis­tance in a walling sys­tem. Last week saw the govern­ment’s sup­port this re­gard, in Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Rob Davies’s pub­li­ca­tion of amend­ments to en­ergy ef­fi­ciency reg­u­la­tions, which would make it com­pul­sory for all new build­ings to be de­signed to a stan­dard that min­imised the en­ergy use.

An il­lus­tra­tion of an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly house de­signed by ar­chi­tect Louise van Riet.

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