Faieda Jacobs, non-executive chairman, GBCSA’

Q: What is your vision for the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) during your term?
A: To be an engaged, member-focused organisation that leads and inspires its members to adopt green building principles as one of their core strategic pillars, with green buildings being the norm rather than the exception in our built environment.

The relationships forged with our members, other industry bodies and government will enable us to educate, influence and promote the benefits of buildings that are designed, built and operated in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Q: What are the benefits of the GBCSA – environmentally, socially and economically?
A: The GBCSA leads the transformation of the SA property industry to ensure that buildings are designed, built and operated in an environmentally sustainable way. Buildings are one of the main contributors to climate change, and building green is an opportunity to use resources more efficiently and address climate change.

Green Star SA-rated buildings cite energy savings of between 25% and 50% compared to a building designed to regular standards, and green buildings are future-proofed against increases in utility costs, potential energy and water supply problems, tightening legislation and carbon taxes.

The green building initiatives advocated by the GBCSA not only reduce the impact on the natural environment but also create healthier and more productive working and social environments for people and communities. Improved internal environment quality has been shown to lead to improvements in productivity by up to 20% in some cases.

Green Star-certified buildings have been proven to deliver better investment performance, as evidenced by the results of the IPD South Africa Green Property Index, released in October 2017. Green buildings showed superior performance in capital growth, lower vacancies and higher income growth, thus presenting a compelling argument for property investors to build green buildings.

Q: Where does the GBCSA add the most value?
A: In the fight against global climate change, our drive towards emissions reduction and resource efficiency in the built environment makes a meaningful contribution to securing a sustainable future for all.

The GBCSA acts as a catalyst to transform the property industry, and its objectivity as an independent NPO allows for broader participation across industry subsectors.

Q: How does the GBCSA influence policy and regulation?
A: The GBCSA collaborates with relevant public-sector institutions and departments to inform and support policy development and implementation. We are proud of our recent contribution to the national green building policy that the Department of Public Works is in the process of finalising. The South African Local Government Association is part of the Green Building Leader Network, and through this platform, the GBCSA is able to gather information and provide insight into local government green building policies and practices.

Q: How does SA rate in terms of our green buildings? Are we following trends and do we lead in any particular aspect?
A: The World Green Building Trends 2016 report, compiled by Dodge Data & Analytics, shows that SA has emerged as a green building leader. It has the highest green building share, trumping countries such as the UK and the US, China, Singapore, Germany, as well as the historical green building market leader, Australia. One can attribute this to a number of factors, but the most notable is SA’s glaring resource constraints and escalating utility prices.

Recent electricity shortages and the drought that we’ve been experiencing have increased the level of awareness across the board, and the property sector is leading the shift towards sustainability thinking.

The GBCSA’s inaugural Green Building in South Africa report (compiled with the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors and the University Of Pretoria) found that the average cost premium of building green compared to the cost of conventional construction is just 5%, and can be as low as 1.1%.

As of December 2017, the GBCSA had issued 350 certifications since inception of the certification system in 2009. To demonstrate the rapid adoption of green building practices, 100 of these certifications were issued between June and September 2017 alone.

Q: In your opinion, why should developers care about sustainable buildings?
A: The building industry has a significant role to play in reducing carbon emissions to contain the increase in the global average temperature to under 2˚C – a higher increase would have severe repercussions in terms of climate change.

Green buildings have also been proven to contribute significantly to improved health and well-being, resulting in increased productivity and reduced sick days. For corporates, this would impact positively on their bottom line.

Finally, for developers and investors, there are clear and proven superior returns on investment, which will be realised in the immediate and long term. There is no doubt in my mind that building sustainable buildings has a positive impact on people, planet and profit.

By Kerry Dimmer
Image: Janine Petzer

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