Consumer appetite for green building on the increase

Green Building in South Africa will take hold in the mainstream when the tenants of buildings push for a more sustainable built environment – and the way to ensure this market demand is through education. Long-term energy and water savings, which translate into cost savings, are steadily pushing business- and home-owners to seek out green buildings, rather than leaving it up to built environment professionals.

Local property developer Amdec’s Head of Sustainability Josef Quraishi, is of the opinion that this is slowly starting to happen in South Africa.

Amdec’s latest residential development - Forty on Oak, within the Melrose Arch precinct - was the first in South Africa to achieve a 4 Star Green Star SA Multi-Unit Residential Pilot Design rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

Since obtaining the rating, Amdec has received enquiries from new and existing tenants on how they could either pursue a Green Star SA rating, or implement greener building principles within their office, residential or retail space. Tenants are the real drivers of change, affirms Quraishi, adding that architects have traditionally pushed green thinking, while clients have been concerned with the cost.

“The positive response from tenants reaffirms that the benefits of going green go beyond the evident reduction of operating costs. Tenants are starting to drive the transformation by becoming more environmentally conscious of broader issues like climate change, enhanced living conditions and responsible developers are experiencing the increased interest”, reiterates Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the Green Building Council of SA.

Now, tenants are starting to ask building owners and architects about greener buildings. Globally, consumers are becoming more discerning, and this is slowly taking root in South Africa. Investors want to know that companies have a sustainable outlook, and companies must prove that their green thinking is not mere rhetoric.

“The biggest task is education. We as the developers can provide a platform, and demonstrate the principles, and then educate the tenants on implementing efficiencies for sustainability,” emphasises Quraishi.

Overcoming mind-sets – it’s easy with the right foundation

Beyond educating tenants on the benefits of green building, Quraishi admits that a certain amount of persuasion of the professional team was required to strive for the Green Star SA rating for Forty on Oak.

In a turnaround of traditional roles, Amdec as the client convinced the professional design team to pursue the Green Star SA design rating, and
overcome fears that it was too late in the design phase to achieve the rating.In December 2010, Amdec applied to be a part of the Multi Unit Residential Pilot tool certification programme, with the GBCSA. At this stage the company was already half way through the design of Forty on Oak. Initially the design team was concerned that they would be expected to create special manuals and new drawings, however they were only required to submit the original drawings.

The Amdec board also had to be convinced that pursuing the Green Star SA rating would not increase costs significantly. Quraishi says that the additional cost to achieve a 4 Star rating for Forty on Oak was less than 1%, which was lower than expected. Quraishi notes that this low cost increase is thanks to the Melrose Arch precinct’s existing green principles.

“We managed to get the rating easily because of the precinct’s location and proximity to amenities and local transport nodes. Also, certain elements of the original design were naturally green, such as the district cooling, and the use of gas for heating. The majority of the points scored were precinct related,” explains Quraishi.

The greater Melrose Arch precinct was originally conceived upon the principles of ‘new urbanism’, which opposed urban sprawl and followed sustainable principles before the latest green wave.

The main contractor for Forty on Oak is Murray&Roberts, who have experience with Green Star SA developments, and have thus been able to manage the requirements. The project’s sustainability consultants, Solid Green Consulting, who were responsible for managing the Green Star SA Design submission, have also educated the professional team where necessary in the process, and are now also collating all the information required to achieve an ‘As-built’ rating.

Quraishi proved to Amdec, and the design team that achieving a Green Star SA rating was possible with the least effort as all the principles were commonplace. “Because the rating was pursued half way through the design phase, nothing too complex or ground breaking was pursued.”

Achieving this rating has hugely affected Amdec’s future developments, and Quraishi asserts that future development in the Melrose Arch precinct will
definitely pursue Green Star SA certification.

Being involved with the Multi Unit Residential Pilot tool meant that Amdec could provide critical input to the final version 1 and technical manual, which the GBCSA was developing, making it more appropriate for local conditions and ensuring applicable measurements. Therefore, moving forward it will be easier for all developers to achieve a Green Star SA rating.

Receiving the Green Star SA rating has impacted interest in Forty on Oak positively, in particular from buyers wanting to know how the rating will impact their lifestyle, and what will be required of them living in a green building. As well as surrounding tenants of Melrose Arch, who are now keen to follow in their greener footsteps.

Proponents of green building are faced with inertia on all levels, with people overwhelmed at the thought of thoroughly researching what will be required to develop a green building, or assuming it will be too expensive.

These are hurdles that the GBCSA is trying to overcome, as the organisation strives to raise awareness on green building, recognise excellence in green building, and train professionals to become compliant with use of GBCSA rating tools. With this in mind the GBCSA is developing and launching two key publications to further educate investors, owners and tenants of the operation and benefits of green buildings – these are the ‘Green Lease Toolkit’ (developed jointly with SAPOA) and the ‘Rands & Sense of Green Building’, both to be launched in mid-2012.

The Multi Unit Residential rating tool is the third Green Star SA rating tool released by the GBCSA, following the office and retail centre rating tools. The fourth rating tool, for public and education buildings was released in October 2011, and is currently in its pilot certification programme phase. Refer to the GBCSA website to freely download all Green Star SA rating tools (

Currently there are 17 Green Star SA certifications in South Africa, most of which are design ratings, and three are As-built ratings. There are another 20 buildings registered to be certified.

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