Optimized Green Buildings and Energy Usage
Cape Town – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative attributed 30% of annual carbon emissions to the global building sector, according to Alison Groves, regional director, building services, of engineering professional services firm WSP Africa.
She explains that, in response to this and the commitments made by numerous states to reduce their carbon emissions, green building design has become integral in the design and construction of buildings in many parts of the world, as well as in Africa.
By 2011 there were already 15 Green Star rated buildings in South Africa. Since then the industry is doubling exponentially every year and, as the Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA) introduces more rating tools, the uptake for green buildings is sky rocketing, according to Groves.
She points out that the green building uptake can also be seen throughout Africa, where over the past four years the GBCSA continued to play an active role to assist in establishing Green Building Councils north of SA’s borders. Through these efforts, to date, GBCs have been established in Namibia, Zambia, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana.
“This progressive uptake of green building principles is not surprising as the industry’s shift to embrace sustainable practices has proven to be a significant economic business case,” says Groves.
“The shift is also largely being driven by continuous and growing pressure being placed on the ‘built’ space to address inadequate energy resources, carbon reduction targets and, revised building energy efficiency standards.”
She says architects, consulting engineers and sustainability consultant teams are constantly coming up with alternative and cost-efficient building designs to offset the impact of the building on its immediate environment.
“Previously it was thought to be more costly to make the upfront capital investments to go green, however, volatility in both the cost and availability of power and water is influencing a mind-set change,” she explains.
Savvier consumers are realising the benefits of being more ‘green’ and, for example, offsetting as much of their energy consumption as possible.
“Added to this, in the long-term, not only are these green building design adoptions financially beneficial due to reduced energy consumption, but the use of renewable and more sustainable energy resources also has the propensity to reduce the carbon emissions emitted by these buildings and provide increased resilience to uncertain service delivery,” she says.
“In Africa, the social agenda is maturing at a rapid pace and cookie-cutter solutions of the past have now made way for more mature and in-depth engagement.”
As market awareness grows on building for sustainability, so too does exposure for the skills that exist within the continent that can develop and drive unique or customisable green building design solutions for different markets and climates on the continent.
“It is conceivable that in 10 to 15 years from now, the rest of the world may be looking to Africa for original solutions, experiences and expertise in the careful balancing act of optimising equally social equity, economic prosperity and environmental stewardship,” she concludes.
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