High energy consumption, environmental stewardship and lower operating costs are among the top reasons for the spike in the development of environmentally friendly and ‘green’ buildings in the country, as is evident in the latest McGraw-Hill Construction’s SmartMarket Report, which suggests that the number of green buildings in the country is growing faster than in other parts of the world.

This is according to Arthur Chien, VP of Talesun Energy, who says that the environmentally friendly building trend is rapidly gaining popularity in the country as the industry starts to recognise that the development of sustainable buildings is key to environmental sustainability and lower operational costs.

“In South Africa, the benefits of adopting energy efficiency initiatives are even higher in comparison to other regions due to the massive impending hikes in electricity tariffs. This has also had an impact on the development of green buildings, which we believe could soon become standard practice in the country, which will of course contribute positively towards the environment.”

Chien says that building owners and tenants need to get as much as they can out of each unit of energy, water and material used in a building due to the high operating costs. He says that greater energy efficiency is therefore needed to control rising energy costs, reduce a business’s environmental footprint and increase the value of buildings.

He points to the McGraw-Hill Construction’s SmartMarket Report, which revealed that 28% of architects, engineers, contractors, building owners and building consultants around the world are focusing on sustainable design and construction, and are ensuring that at least 60% of their projects are green. “A remarkable finding in this report is that green buildings are by no means a trend growing in developed countries only. The report stipulates that from 2012 to 2015 industry players are expecting that their work related to green projects will more than triple in South Africa.”

Chien references South Africa’s recent achievement of 50 Green Star SA certifications in only six years, a series of Green Star rating tools that set the standards for green buildings by the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA). “The developers of the 50 certified projects that received Green Star Rating certifications have revealed that their buildings will result in the combined annual savings of 76 million kilowatt hours, which is the amount of electricity needed by 5300 households for a year, and / or 115 million kilograms less of carbon emissions every year. This is equivalent to taking 28000 cars off the road and saving 124 million litres of water per annum, which is sufficient to keep 34 000 households going for a year.

Many corporates in South Africa are making use of eco-friendly building techniques, such as Nedbank, which recently constructed South Africa’s first green star-rated building, and Standard Bank, which launched sustainable offices in Rosebank last year, and received a five-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa. The new Allan Gray building on the V&A Waterfront site and the Cape Verde Hotel at the Cape Town International airport are also examples of green projects. Hyundai’s new Head Office, situated in Bedfordview, is another development to receive a Green Star Rating, and signifies buy-in and commitment to sustainable practices from this large motor corporation.

Chien says that in order to keep environmental impact of a building to a minimum renewable energy should be part of every corporate sustainability strategy. “Strategies should include sustainable energy practices such as the implementation of the latest energy saving technologies which reduce waste, pollution and environment degradation, and increase the efficiency with which energy, water and materials are produced. The strategy should also ensure that the environment is not be harmed throughout the building life-cycle.”

Chien says that an increasingly popular choice of technology is the use of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy on larger rooftop systems of commercial buildings, parking garages, warehouses and retail stores, as it allows buildings to harvest the sun’s free, clean energy to power the building, while lowering electricity costs and impact to the environment. “Green initiatives such as PV solar energy decrease dependence of grid-connected electricity consumption.”

He adds that any building can become a green or sustainable building. “New buildings are being designed and built as green buildings, but existing buildings can become green through retrofits, modifications and improved operations.”

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