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Green Building Council urges SA to set world example

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 26 Aug 2011

With the international community poised to arrive in South Africa for the UNFCCC’s 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) climate change talks in Durban in December 2011, the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) is urging South African industry, business and government to work together to achieve the mitigation potential offered by greening our built environment, and thereby set an example for the rest of the world.

Water tanks store harvested rainwater for use at False Bay Ecology Centre.

“Worldwide, buildings are responsible for about a third of all carbon emissions,” says Bruce Kerswill, Executive Chair of the GBCSA.  “Consider that this translates to one in every three tons of carbon released into the atmosphere is from buildings – so the built environment has a major role to play in climate change.”

At the previous climate talks in Cancun, Mexico (COP 16) in 2010, South Africa  committed to reducing our carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025. Given that we are heavily reliant on coal for our electricity, one of the fastest and easiest ways to reduce our emissions is through the greening of our built environment (our homes, offices, shops, etc).

In fact global experts have recognised the potential reductions in emissions from the built environment through green buildings as a “low hanging fruit” of carbon emission mitigation – a relatively quick and easy way to turn things around with readily available tools and technologies.

What the GBCSA has done so far – a few examples

“The GBCSA is working hard to develop and provide the tools to facilitate necessary change in the built environment in South Africa.  We are also focusing on knowledge sharing and training of professionals within the property industry that can help take green building forward,” says Kerswill.

“Since the launch of  the Green Star SA rating tools for buildings, the GBCSA has awarded ratings to  a total of five buildings in South Africa, the latest being the new Aurecon office building in Century City in Cape Town, which was the first in the country to achieve a 5-Star Green Star SA rating.  We have also had applications for ratings from over 30other developments countrywide – showing that South Africa is ready for a shift to green building and that, the change is well under way.”

The Green Star SA tools are designed for use by owners, developers and consultants (architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers, building contractors etc.) to influence the design of buildings. The tool enables these stakeholders to minimise the environmental impacts of their developments, and to receive recognition against an objective standard for their efforts.

Critically, 25% of the credits available in the Green Star SA system address energy efficiency and carbon emissions. With a 4-star Green Star SA building reducing energy consumption by at least 30%, use of these rating tools has an immediate impact on reducing energy usage and carbon emissions.

“With the world on our doorstep watching to see what SA is doing in preparation for COP 17, and to meet our reduction commitments, the GBCSA is striving to turn policy targets into practice and to provide a common link between all the players in South Africa’s commercial property industry and the public building sector.”

The GBCSA is also developing rating tools for the many types of government-owned buildings.  In fact the Construction Industry Development Board (cidb), an agency of the Department of Public works (DPW), is contributing towards funding their latest rating tool, the Green Star SA – Public Building Rating Tool, which is due for PILOT release in October 2011.

Kerswill also notes that the GBCSA is currently working on an Energy and Water Benchmarking Tool and Certification Scheme which will assist with and guide the industry on the essential energy and water retrofitting of existing buildings in South Africa.

With South Africa’s history of cheap and plentiful energy, buildings have not focused on measuring and monitoring energy usage in the past. In addition to this, energy benchmarks for buildings have not yet been established so in most cases in SA, owners are unable to tell whether their buildings are energy efficient or not.

This tool will enable portfolio owners to measure energy usage, compare performance to industry benchmarks and ultimately take action to improve energy efficiency and carbon footprint of their buildings.

“This is an exciting project that we are currently developing and one that will be widely used by property portfolio owners. The retrofitting of existing buildings for energy efficiency is absolutely essential if South Africa is to meet our promised carbon emissions reductions by 2020.”

Furthermore, the GBCSA is currently developing a Green Leasing Guide in conjunction with SAPOA. This publication will contain recommendations and guidelines that will allow owners and occupiers of buildings to establish green leases – the future of lease agreements in South Africa that lay out certain contractual lease obligations between a landlord and a tenant of a building that require or encourage the adoption of environmentally friendly practices, of which energy will be a key factor to be targeted.

“So as can be seen, the Green Building Council of South Africa is changing the way South Africa is built and we are calling on others to join the GBCSA in showing the world, in the build up to COP 17, that South Africa can and is being  changed,” concludes Kerswill.

Source: SA commercial prop news

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