Green Building Council announces first socio-economic impact certification

The Karl Bremer Office Block in Bellville is the first project to achieve a Socio-Economic Category (SEC) Pilot rating in Africa as part of its five star Green Star SA rating, achieved at the same time.

Artist’s impression of the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works’ Karl Bremer office block in Bellville.

The office block is a project of the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works.

The socio-economic category pilot is a world-first for green rating tools. The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) has taken the lead in developing a set of socio-economic criteria for green building rating tools. Simultaneously it has developed an international socio-economic framework for the World Green Building Council, which can be used by other green building councils to apply to their rating tools.

Socio-economic factors are particularly relevant in developing countries such as South Africa, and extend green buildings to encompass not just environmental sustainability but also socio-economic sustainability.

The socio-economic category allows the socio-economic achievements of new buildings and major retrofits, new buildings and major retrofits to be recognised and rewarded under Green Star SA tools. It is a separate optional category for which projects can be rated alongside their standard Green Star SA certifications. The development of the rating tool category was sponsored by Old Mutual Property. The socio-economic category is in its pilot phase and being tested before it is converted into a ‘version one’ rating tool category.

GBCSA chief executive, Brian Wilkinson, says: “The SA property sector is truly becoming a growing force for good, not only for the environment but for people and business too. Societal challenges such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education and skills, and health can all be addressed, at least to some degree, through the way we design, build and operate buildings.

“We encourage property owners, developers and designers to use the socio-economic category to assess, improve and certify their project’s socio-economic features. Social and economic factors are important to address broader sustainability issues in our communities and businesses.”

The design for the Karl Bremer office block has achieved a five star Green Star SA Office V1 Design rating. It is on the Karl Bremer Hospital site, on the corner of Mike Pienaar Boulevard and Frans Conradie Avenue. The Department of Transport and Public Works, Provincial Government Western Cape owns the building under construction, which will be occupied by the provincial Department of Health.

The Green Star SA accredited professional on the project is Nick Gorrie of Agama, who says the Karl Bremer office block is developing into an exciting and innovative project.

“On one hand, there are several innovations and sustainable designs that have been incorporated into the base building. On the other hand the entire project team is dedicated to achieving a socio-economic category rating. It has been a challenging project so far but, with the commitment and drive of the whole team, it is aiming for a positive result.”

A building that previously stood on the site was demolished and the new offices are under construction for completion in mid-2016.

The new building is designed to have a 1 927m2 footprint and gross floor area of 7 520m2 on a 14 046m2 site. Its landscaped area, including a 98m2 roof garden, covers 4 761m2, or 32 percent of the total site. The building has a north and a south wing, connected by a common core, with a single security-controlled access point. It has a basement, as well as offices and meeting rooms on its ground to fifth floors, and a mechanical plant on the roof.

Head of Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, Jacqui Gooch, says the building fits in with the Western Cape Government’s 110 Percent Green initiative, launched on World Environment Day 2012.

“The 110 Percent Green initiative calls for a paradigm shift to connect environmental preservation and economic growth. It aims to be a catalyst to build a critical mass of activity that puts the Western Cape well on the road to becoming Africa’s green economic hub.

“The Department of Transport and Public Works is 110 percent committed to ensure the properties we build are in line with the 110 Percent Green initiative. We aim to provide a platform that stimulates people and organisations to build an innovative and dynamic green economy and this project is an example of our commitment,” says Gooch.

There are seven possible credits for the socio-economic category to recognise achievements across a priority set of factors. They are: employment creation, economic opportunity, skills development and training, community benefit, empowerment, safety and health and – only applicable to multi-unit residential projects – mixed-income housing.

For the Karl Bremer office block, its employment creation targets at least 10 percent or more of total labour employed during the construction to comprise of disadvantaged people who are collectively from the target groups of youth, women or disabled people. It will measure this by percentage cost of the contract value.

When it comes to economic opportunity, it targets three main impacts. The first is a minimum contract participation goal of 5 percent of the total project value on selected contracts to be undertaken by joint-venture partners or sub-contracted to developing contractors that are also beneficiaries of enterprise development support from the main contractor.

The second is a minimum 30 percent, or 25 percent of contract value, of the procurement of project-specific goods and services during the construction phase from any SMEs or SMEs that are either black owned or black women owned respectively. Third, the project is targeting a minimum of 70 percent of the contract value for materials, products and services produced or generated in SA.

The project’s skills development target is to be compliant with Construction Industry Development Board standards of developing skills through infrastructure projects. It aims to do this by providing different types of workplace opportunities and mentorships for learning and skills development over the project period, which lead to recognised qualifications.

For safety and health, the project aims to improve the primary health of construction workers and promote better safety practices. Besides standard construction regulations, the project’s contractor will have to conduct full medical screening tests and basic health awareness programmes for all construction-related employees. The Karl Bremer office block design team also conducted hazardous identification risk assessments of their designs.

As the starting point for its positive impacts, the project’s design delivers green benefits that are good for the environment. These include zero discharge to sewers through a black water treatment plant and re-use of treated black water for supply to HVAC cooling towers. It will also have zero storm water discharge to municipal storm water infrastructure through multiple bio-retention areas.

Wilkinson says projects such as this are set to have a hugely positive impact in South Africa.

“The GBCSA hopes to issue many socio-economic category certifications in the future. We are confident the socio-economic category will acknowledge leadership in social and economic upliftment and inspire more and more positive socio-economic impacts and benefits in the property sector.”

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