The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) recently awarded Millennia Park office building in Western Cape Province of South Africa a Green Star SA Certification. The accolade is significant: the 29-year-old building located in Stellenbosch is the first refurbished building in the country to receive the rating.
The refurbishment of Millennia Park set precedent for how existing buildings can be turned green. The market for green buildings is increasingly expanding in South Africa, as indicated by the membership of the GBCSA, with many companies adopting sustainability in businesses and property development.
"Green technologies are fast becoming mainstream globally, and even though South Africa is lagging behind compared to countries such as the UK, the country is transitioning from an early adopter stage to green building practices becoming the standard," says Graham Peters, the managing director of GJP Consulting Engineering.
According to the GBCSA, more existing buildings will be refurbished in the short to medium-term, as economic and environmental factors continue to be a challenge.
"Property developers and home owners are keen to green existing buildings, and there are many ways of tackling such projects. One of the cheapest and quickest ways to realise savings is through lighting. Compact fluorescents are now commonplace and LED lighting is emerging as a new technology, which uses even less energy. Daylight and motion sensors can also easily be retro fitted to control lighting. If the building has an air conditioning or heating system, insulation is the first step to better efficiency. Blinds can be easily fitted to windows to reduce solar gain, as this makes air conditioning systems work much harder," says Peters, whose company offers sustainable design service to the property sector.
The GBCSA says there is now a growing and wider market base for green buildings, following its marketing and education campaigns that highlight the need for change in the South Africa's built environment.
However, due to conflicting interests of investors in the built environment, more commitment would be required to grow the green building market further.
"One of our greatest challenges is changing the mind-sets. People often believe that the temperature of a building's air conditioning system should be constant throughout the year. However, by varying the set point between summer and winter (23°C in summer and 21°C in winter) a great deal of energy can be saved throughout the year.
Further challenges are encountered in the engineers themselves. In addition, engineers need to educate themselves on global best practices in systems design. What worked several years ago may not be appropriate now," says Peters.
As South Africa's industry develops, attention has turned to other African countries such as Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius, Kenya and Namibia, with a view of supporting the green building industry.
Founded in 1999, South Africa- based GJP Consulting Engineering, focuses on all aspects of commercial property such as shopping malls, airport buildings, office blocks, schools, prisons and data centres. The company has international experience covering projects in the UK and Malaysia.