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Monday, 25 April 2016 13:36

Green building is alive and well in SA

Research released in February this year found that if South Africa’s degree of commitment to green building holds, the country will be a leader in the global green market in the next three years.

South Africa is depicted as an engine of new green growth for the next three years, with the World Green Building Trends 2016 Smart Market Report reporting that global green building continues to double every three years.

Presented by Dodge Data & Analytics and United Technologies Corporation, the World Green Building Trends 2016 study focused on global green building growth. The report provides new world green building trends, as well as data specific to 13 of the 69 participating countries.

In South Africa, survey respondents indicated that currently 41% of their projects are green, with nearly two thirds of participants expecting this number to increase to over 60% by 2018. This is currently the highest green share indicated by any country in the study, followed by India (37%), Singapore (36%), Germany and Mexico (35%), Australia and Poland (34%) and the United States (33%).

    

Growth sectors
According to the report, South Africa is one of the few countries where retrofits top the expectation for green projects, followed by new commercial developments.

Sector                                                                                 SA average                                Global average
Retrofit of existing buildings                                                   46%                                          37%
New commercial (offices, retail, hotels)                                     40%                                          46%
New low-rise residential (1-3 floors)                                         31%                                          27%
New institutional (schools, hospital, public buildings)                  29%                                          38%
New high-rise residential (4+ floors)                                         23%                                          25%
Communities (mixed-use development)                                    23%                                          21%
Commercial interiors                                                               6%                                           20%
A local vs global comparison of the sectors with planned green activity over the next three years.
Source: World Green Building Trends 2016 Smart Market Report

Products and services
No single category of green products or services stood out in the study, with respondents reporting a wide variety of products being used.

Top triggers
While client demand is one of the top reasons influencing future green activity globally, it is trumped locally by being “the right thing to do”. Another important driver which ranks higher here compared to the global average, is healthier neighbourhoods.

“In South Africa, there is an absence of regulatory requirements – which in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore are in fact the trigger for green building,” explains Brian Wilkinson, chief executive officer of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

This pays testimony to the work being done by the GBCSA since its establishment in 2007. The council certified South Africa’s first green building project in 2009, reached 100 projects in May 2015, and in February this year, the count stood at 167 certified projects.

Environmental reasons
Reducing energy consumption continues to be the top global environmental reason for building green by a big margin. Locally, reducing water consumption is also a top priority, followed by the quest to protect natural resources.

Cost savings
The study further found that green buildings offer significant operational cost savings compared with traditional buildings. In South Africa, respondents expect operational cost savings of 18% over five years for new green buildings and savings of 9% for green retrofit and renovation projects. In addition, green buildings, whether newly built or renovated, reportedly have a 7% higher asset value than traditional buildings.

Benefit                                                                   New green building    Green retrofit response
Decreased operating costs over one year                   18%                        9%
Decreased operating costs over five years                  19%                        29%
Payback time for green investments                           8 years                    6 years
Increased asset value for green versus non-green projects

(according to owners)

*Global statistic (not only South Africa)                      7%                          7%
Business benefits expected from green building investments in South Africa.
Source: World Green Building Trends 2016 Smart Market Report

Most South African respondents indicated that they use metrics to measure the performance of their green projects and consider operational cost savings to be much more important than some other countries. Interestingly though, the expected payback period is the same as the global median, which might mean that building green comes at a premium locally.

Barriers to growth
Indeed, local respondents have cited perceived higher initial costs as one of the main obstacles to green building, together with a lack of public awareness.

Another challenge is finding sufficient skilled green professionals, which could, in part, be due to South Africa currently having the highest reported green share of any country in the study, with more growth to come.

Finally, as is the case in other developing countries, a lack of political support and incentives also features as a barrier to green building development.

Sources of green information
When looking for material and data on green building, global reliance on the Internet as a source of information has declined worldwide to about 60%, although it is still an important reference point in South Africa for 80% of the respondents.

Conferences and industry associations play a big part in promoting green building by inspiring and informing the market, and the importance of direct contact with product manufacturers is increasing.

South Africa is also one of the markets where magazines still carry the most influence in informing the industry on green building practices and solutions.

Full thanks and acknowledgment are given to Dodge Data & Analytics and United Technologies Corporation and the GBCSA for the information given to write this article.