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How green do you have to be to qualify for government’s proposed new energy-efficiency incentives?

Given the threat of an energy and a water crisis, President Jacob Zuma has encouraged the private sector to “go green”, with government now looking to increase the energy efficiency incentives on offer.


South Africa’s first five star Green Star building, Aurecon’s Western Cape head office in Century City, Cape Town.

But how green do you have to go to be considered officially green, and how will this be measured and rated?

“Support for green initiatives was also stated in the Budget speech, but I believe that businesses still find themselves in an uncertain position as to what it is they’re supposed to do,” says Brian Wilkinson, chief executive of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

“The possibility of incentives for greater efficiency will certainly encourage more green buildings initiatives. But there will need to be a clear measure of efficiencies for government to confidently and consistently award these incentives.

Businesses especially will now more than ever be looking for solutions to bring about reductions in operation and facilities management costs in light of, for example, Eskom’s recent announcement that it would be appealing for an additional increase on electricity costs over and above the already approved 12 percent. Sustainable solutions are desperately sought.

“Green has become a new buzz word with many businesses and service providers claiming to be sustainable in their offering and operations. This focus on green building has demonstrated the need for a rigorous, standardised system that rates just how green projects are with tangible results to back up these claims.“

Fortunately, this system is already in place with the GBCSA’s Green Star SA rating tools.

“With these tools we can guarantee that businesses live up to their green building claims, and help with their endeavours to minimise their carbon footprints,” says Wilkinson. “With happier, healthier employees and existing evidence of significantly reduced operations and maintenance costs at greener buildings, the benefits of Green Star SA ratings are extensive.”

Building owners who want to achieve Green Star SA ratings can, together with their green building consultants, submit the necessary documentation to the GBCSA. Independent assessors are employed to evaluate submissions and allocate points based on the green measures that have been implemented. Certification is awarded for four-star, five-star or six-star Green Star SA ratings.

Office, retail, multi-unit residential, public and education buildings, as well as existing commercial buildings are all catered for with rating tools designed specifically for the various projects. The GBCSA has also recently introduced a Green Star SA interiors tool which focuses primarily on efficient maintenance and operation of interior fit-outs and caters for a broad range of tenancies, including office, retail and hospitality projects.

“With this tool the tenants have all the power, allowing each tenancy to have its own specific environmental design initiatives fairly and independently benchmarked. It rewards healthy, productive places to work that are less costly to operate and maintain and have a reduced environmental footprint,” says Wilkinson.

For existing buildings, the Green Star SA – Existing Building Performance (EBP) tool covers the same environmental categories addressed in the Green Star SA new building tools, but also places focus on the efficient operation and management of the building. This rating is only valid for a period of three years, to ensure the building is continually well operated and maintained, and energy and water monitoring, management policies and plans are all required.

Wilkinson says the most effective and simple starting point to check the performance of your building is the GBCSA’s Energy Water Performance (EWP) mini-tool. This tool benchmarks an office building’s energy and water consumption against an industry mean. So, if your asset compares poorly, you can be sure that investing in its electricity and water efficiency will bring worthwhile benefits to the building’s bottom line, attractiveness, and sustainability, and the environment too. The EWP mini-tool makes up 40 percent of the EBP, and is also available as a separate certification.

“Green Star SA rating tools are comparable to those of other green building councils around the world, making them a reliable benchmark, not only across South Africa, but internationally too,” says Wilkinson.


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