ALTHOUGH South Africa is relatively new on the "green building” scene‚ it is making rapid progress in catching up with the likes of Australia‚ North America and Europe‚ says Heath Andersen‚ associate director at global engineering firm Arup.
However‚ in line with much of the global industry‚ "there is a lack of focus on existing buildings” in South Africa‚ with property investors and developers focusing more on new green developments‚ Mr Andersen says.
According to the Green Building Council of South Africa‚ 39 buildings have received Green Star South Africa certifications — up from 31 at the beginning of June and from only three in 2009. A further 85 registered buildings are aiming to achieve a Green Star South Africa rating.
Mr Andersen says South Africa "is ahead of the curve” in its green building cycle compared with more established industries.
While numbers vary across world markets‚ he says estimates show that about 70% of the built environment consists of buildings that are at least 20 years old. These are substantially more energy-intensive than newer buildings‚ providing opportunities for sustainable initiatives.
"Significant gains in reducing energy usage and emissions could be made if there was more focus in this area‚” Mr Andersen says.
While the government could assist with the introduction of various incentives such as Eskom’s LED light replacement programme‚ the focus on green buildings "will more than likely come down to the developers to be the innovators in the market”.
Rob Kane‚ chairman of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District and CEO of Vunani Property Investment Fund‚ said earlier this year that "there is no doubt that refurbishing a building is a much greener alternative than building even an eco-friendly building from ground up”.
"Developers should investigate the green refurbishment opportunities already present in existing buildings before building from scratch‚” Mr Kane says.
The Green Building Council has no rating tool applicable to existing buildings‚ having focused its efforts so far on new buildings.
However‚ the council is developing a rating tool for existing buildings and is holding a number of pre-launch events of its Existing Building Performance rating tool across the country. The rating tool is due to be officially launched at the 2013 Green Building Convention in October.
Mr Kane said last week that the next green building refurbishment project in Vunani’s fund would be its Foretrust building in Cape Town‚ where "the power consumption is huge and we aim to reduce that substantially”.
He says Vunani has undertaken a unique joint venture with the building’s tenant — the national Department of Public Works — as well as with Eskom and the City of Cape Town. The joint venture will look at ways of greening what is a "complex” existing building.
Vunani could spend up to R24m on initiatives in the building‚ although Mr Kane says it is important that shareholders see a return from such initiatives.
Mr Kane says Vunani’s initiatives at its 14 Loop Street building in Cape Town have proved that such projects make financial sense.
The refurbishment of 14 Loop Street saves the tenant "66% of their power consumption”. As a result‚ the tenant saves R15/m² in consumption charges‚ "which is huge”. In addition‚ the building uses 94% less municipal water.
Mr Kane says this helps to drive higher rentals in the long term‚ so Vunani "shares the upside” of its greening initiatives. "We are making money out of greening‚” he says.
Mr Kane’s comments mirror a recent report released by the Green Building Council of Australia‚ which shows that on average‚ Green Star-certified buildings emit 62% less greenhouse gases and use 66% less electricity than average buildings.
While South Africa is behind in its sustainable building drive‚ Mr Kane says it is "catching up fast” and is probably about five years behind the likes of Australia. "We are very early adopters of new technology as a nation. The best thing about being a follower is you can learn from everybody else’s mistakes.”
While the green-building drive in South Africa is largely driven by the corporate sector‚ the public sector is also paying more attention to the issue.
The Green Building Council has lauded the recent example set by the Department of Environmental Affairs‚ whose head office scored the highest possible Green Star South Africa rating of six stars — the first for a national government-owned building in South Africa.
Meanwhile‚ the head of public works in the Western Cape‚ Gary Fisher‚ said at the IPD property investment conference in July that his department had secured a grant from the US Trade and Development Agency‚ which could lead to solar panels being installed on the roofs of all provincial government buildings.
Mr Andersen says while South Africa is making inroads into the sustainable building drive‚ the rest of Africa is lagging as "there are still more pressing issues than sustainability at this stage”.
"Projects in developing parts of Africa have bigger issues securing a resilient supply of power and water‚ hence this is usually a more pressing issue than sustainability‚” he says.
However‚ as these markets mature‚ sustainability is likely to receive more attention‚ he says. © BDlive 2013