‘Green’ building is catching on in South Africa

Over the past decade, ‘green’ building has emerged as a growing trend among a vigorous interest group to create high-performance, energy-efficient structures that improve tenant and/or owner-occupier comfort and well-being while minimising environmental impacts, says Nival Porun, portfolio executive and head of the green business unit at Excellerate Facilities Management.

“With support structures in place by organisations such as SAPOA (South African Property Owners Association) and the Green Building Council of South Africa, both public and private entities are increasingly pursuing green buildings in the institutional, commercial and residential sectors. Landlord and tenant mindsets are changing and progress in achieving greener standards is becoming noticeable,” he says.

Porun says that building projects which are currently being designed but have not yet been submitted for municipal approval need to be aware of the SANS 10400 part XA standards which form part of the National Building Regulations. Fundamentally, these standards focus on how buildings are designed and built by providing guiding principles for minimum requirements for items such as hot water supply, energy usage, design assumption (ie the design process followed) orientation or location/positioning of the building, floors, external walls, fenestration (the design and placement of windows in a building) and roof assemblies.

The standard also provides a few options for proving compliance, which needs to be substantiated with any building plan that is submitted to a municipality for approval. A further advantage for achieving such compliance is that the accredited person can apply to the SA Revenue Service for a tax refund in terms of the National Energy Act, 2008 Regulations on the Allowance for Energy Efficiency Savings (as published in Government Gazette number 34596). And, as Porun points out, there are other incentive schemes in place to drive the greening process, for example the standard offer and standard product schemes set out by Eskom in order to promote energy efficiency in South Africa.

‘Green’ building makes sound business sense

Says Porun: “One of the other key factors to be considered when changing a business unit or building from traditional to sustainable is to carry out a cost-benefit analysis. The purpose of this is to make sure that the investors weigh the costs of doing business the usual way or against the costs of keeping the environment in mind when conducting business. It is imperative to consider the social implications of implementing a sustainability programme into your business and how your organisation will reap the future rewards. Previously, when a person termed an organisation as being sustainable, one would have considered the steady increase in the earnings of that particular organisation, but in more recent times sustainability of an organisation may refer to as a strategy to save costs in order to drive the bottom line, thereby making good business sense.“
He says in order for a building to obtain a green star accreditation, a process of submitting documentation highlighting the efficiencies of the design and implementation is the route to follow. Once the documentation is vetted by the Green Building Council, green rating is granted on the building. He raises a valid point: “If that particular building does not perform the way it is said to, is the building really green? An inefficient building could result in higher energy usage, mislead investors and more resources could be utilised on the building - which could end up having a higher carbon footprint. Our ongoing objective is continuous improvement, and as a result systems to ensure that a building performs should be vital in maintaining the green rating. A proper measurement and verification process should be in place so that the performance of the building is monitored and the ultimate aim is achieved.

“So how does one proceed in a challenging environment by taking a sustainable approach? At the sustainable business unit we provide a flexible solution assisting organisations to reduce costs and improve their bottom line.  Our assessments are designed to strategically focus on critical areas that are negatively impacting on tenant and owner comfort. From a tenant’s perspective we focus on reducing energy costs while at the same time ensuring that the habitable area meets the regulatory standards. From a landlord’s perspective our objective is to lower operating cost, meet government regulatory requirements and increase the asset value. We therefore provide assessments for an existing building in order to derive green solutions to our clients, and by setting out continuous improvement guidelines the implementation of these are sustainable over the long term.”

Long term benefits outweigh initial cost

Concludes Porun: “There is a perception that implementing green methodologies costs more and is therefore not suitable for the average property owner. However,research has shown that the costs versus benefits of green building have a modest initial cost premium, but that long-term benefits far exceed the incremental capital costs. In addition, research has proven that if green methodologies are incorporated during the design phase of a project, it is far more cost effective than implementing green initiatives once the building is developed.”

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