Tenants are now demanding that buildings are either Green Star rated, or at least designed according to sustainable design principles. We are moving from a period of ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘non-negotiable’ sustainable design.
South Africa shares the Green Star rating tool with Australia and New Zealand, while a few other African countries use it as well. This is one of a number of tools used globally, including US-based LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and UK-based BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method).
However, these operate in the same basic way, namely attaching points for sustainable design, construction, and performance. Essentially both these systems seek to standardise the evaluation of buildings for more accurate assessments. In future it is hoped that ‘green-rated’ buildings are not designed simply to accumulate points, but rather because it is the correct thing to do.
The Local Picture
The challenge facing ‘green’ building in South Africa focuses on convincing clients that many of the additional costs associated with sustainable design are recouped within a fairly short period of time. This is ultimately what would separate a 4 Star Green Star rated building from a 6 Star Green Star rating equivalent. Fortunately, this mindset is changing fairly quickly.
It’s important to note that ‘green’ design can be a law of diminishing return as one approaches high-cost benefits for perhaps a reduced recovery, as for example with high-performance glazing. Every aspect requires input from a specialised designer.
Another factor that clients need to take into account is the fact that a ‘green’ rating, in fact, increases a building’s value. Certainly, a Green Star rated building, or at least a sustainably-designed building, would increase its value, because running costs are likely to be lower. It is more difficult to persuade a client to covert from 4 Green Star to 6 Green Star, but fortunately there are enlightened clients out there.
With regard to retrofitting or refurbishing existing buildings in order for them to be sustainable, this poses a particular challenge due to some elements being integral to the actual construction, such as floor and wall insulation. However, lighting can be changed to LED with monitors, water can be harvested, and waste can be better channelled. Glass can be changed to coated or double-glazed, so there are some practical changes that can be made.
By Hugh Fraser
Hugh Fraser is the Media Manager of Paragon Group