South Africa’s construction industry has been gearing up to go green for some time and recently the exciting results have been inciting much comment throughout the nation’s populace.

Many people are still unsure exactly what a ‘green’ building actually is. According to the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) a green building is energy and resource efficient as well as environmentally responsible. The GBCSA also indicates that these buildings should significantly reduce or, ideally, eliminate the negative impact of construction and operation on the environment and the occupants of the building.

Since November 2011, regulations applying to all new energy-consuming structures (including those in which people live or work) have been put in place by the Department of Trade and Industry and the South African Bureau of Standards. According to these regulations, all new buildings will have to utilize solar water heaters or heat pumps, and walls and ceilings will have minimum requirements with regards to insulation in order to reduce the amount of heating and cooling required. All heating, cooling and ventilation systems in the buildings will have strict guidelines in order to make them as energy efficient as possible.

These regulations have served to boost South Africa’s trend of green building. Based on Australia’s Green Star rating system, the GBCSA has developed South Africa’s own Green Star Rating which is South Africa’s official green certification measuring system.

The first building in South Africa to be awarded a five-star Star Green Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa is the Aurecon office building in Cape Town, developed for an estimated R130-million. The office building is also the first in Cape Town and only the fifth nation-wide to receive Green Star certification from the GBCSA. The Council awards four Green Stars when a development has employed what is considered “best practice”, five Stars for “excellence” and the much sought-after six Green Stars which indicates that the venture is considered a “world leader”.

A highly anticipated green project is the Menlyn Maine development in Gauteng. Including Nedbank’s new regional head office, the undertaking’s ultimate goal is to become ‘climate positive‘, an ambitious aspiration that aims to reduce the area’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

The full development will include office blocks, residential, retail and entertainment areas and is geared to become Africa’s very first green city – an exciting prospect, when it is considered that currently there are only 17 green cities world-wide. Energy efficient components within the development include the use of storm water tanks that will provide water for the precinct, and the recycled wood, concrete and steel which will be used in construction.

The nation’s provincial governments are joining the green building trend by inviting contractors to submit tenders for buildings that employ alternative building techniques. The Western Cape’s local government has recently invited contractors using alternative building technologies to submit applications to build an estimated 2000 homes in Cape Town localities.

According to the Green Building Council of South Africa the green building trend in South Africa is poised to become a sustainable and economically beneficial long-term aspect of the building and property industry.

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