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“In the rush to return to normal, let’s consider which parts of normal are worth returning to.” This quote from Dave Hollis is one of many messages doing the social media rounds.

An appreciation of the planet’s state and an understanding that fast-paced lifestyles and other man-made factors may have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, are causing more people to consider sustainable choices. In theory, apartments and homes factoring in green elements mean a decreased carbon footprint whereas their inhabitants benefit financially through utilities savings, a cleaner lifestyle and increased long-term property values.

“Residents and investors want to know what’s being done to reduce the impact on the environment,” says Amdec Property Development MD Nicholas Stopforth. “Modern trends in development and construction are focussed around sustainability.”


Future fit

What will the green home of the future look like? “Probably not that different from the homes we’re living in now, but it will be an improvement,” says Grahame Cruickshanks, former managing executive for marketing engagement at the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA).

“A home that’s 20% more energy efficient would benefit the environment and the homeowner significantly. Renewable energy installations are likely to be a more common sight on roofs. Such homes will reward people for reducing their water consumption.”

Cruickshanks believes poorly insulated structures requiring extensive winter heating will be a thing of the past in 10 years’ time. “Walls, floors and roofs will be designed to reduce heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. Air quality and good natural lighting will be part of that design too.”

In June 2019, the sectional title property developer Balwin Properties registered 16,000 apartment units with GBCSA’s Edge certification, a global first. The company is also committed to achieving net zero and six-star Green Star ratings for all lifestyle centres in its developments.

“As a leader in sustainable residential development, our mission is to generate affordable green living at scale and reduce our carbon footprint,” says Bruce Jelley, Balwin Properties regional quantity surveying manager for Gauteng.

The GBSCA’s Green Star tool categories address environmental and sustainability aspects of designing, constructing and operating a building. Targeted credits are assessed for a score. Its Edge software offers a measurable way to cut back on the resource intensity of a building. The online platform determines the financial viability of green elements in a build.

The Edge standard is set at a minimum of 20% reduction across energy consumption, water and embodied energy. Jelley says all Balwin units have energy-efficient appliances and LED lights. Many developments also have solar panels.

Certifying so many units allowed Balwin to negotiate a green bond product to encourage accessibility for the middle class. The Absa Eco Home Loan, a collaboration between Balwin Properties and Absa Group Limited, was launched in March.


Minimal cost

Jelley says green buildings are fairly easy to develop at scale, so developers should be open to embracing technology at minimal additional cost. The best way to reduce a building’s energy requirement is through its design – reducing window-to-wall ratios, roof insulation, and low-e coating on glass.

Such measures have resulted in huge savings in Balwin’s developments. “The Polofields in Midrand, for example, achieves operational savings of 3.72 total CO2 per unit per year, 31% lower energy consumption, 34% reduced water consumption, and 38% lower embodied energy in materials as rated by Edge,” Jelley says.

At The Reid in Linbro Park, all 1,294 units received a preliminary Edge certification and the process has begun for final certification of all units. The development’s 1,500m2 lifestyle centre uses technology and innovation to fulfil all criteria, including air quality sensors and submeters that monitor energy consumption. The centre is targeting a six-star Green Star Public and Education Building rating and net zero Carbon Level 2 certification.

Green spaces are proving popular in city centres where they used to be rare. With the rise of smart cities, developers bring nature back into the concrete jungles that replaced it. An urban precinct such as Amdec’s Melrose Arch in Joburg operates on the principle of accessibility. Its garden areas and courtyards provide a green lung and help create a sense of community.

Cape Town’s foreshore is set to have its first environmentally friendly mixed-use development in Harbour Arch. Plans for the 5.8ha precinct include a green rooftop.

Solid Green Consulting director Marloes Reinink says sustainable development is a must, as buildings account for more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. “Our sustainability initiatives are mainly focussed on energy and water,” says Amdec Property Development investment manager Antonie Jordaan. These range from LED lighting to façade design and double glazing. Groundwater is extracted and desalinated, and grey and black water is harvested and treated on site.

“Sustainability is not limited to the completed product,” he adds. “It begins with the sourcing of building materials from responsible suppliers, utilising water- and energy-efficient methodology and ultimately reducing the impact on the environment.”

Green by design

Melrose Arch operations manager Reiner Henschel says the green-by-design approach at this Joburg precinct includes a R13m solar project. It also has electric car charging stations and a water storage facility. “There are no council services such as refuse removal. Waste goes to a separation plant, then to a recycling plant, and the balance is converted into gas. In all, 43% of recycling is turned into gas, making the site’s waste 100% recyclable.”

Constructing on a more boutique scale in Cape Town, Horizon Capital’s residential developments are located in Sea Point, Camps Bay, Oranjezicht and Vredehoek. “We’ll continue to ensure that our new developments are adaptable to the environment we operate in. Our buildings now come standard with full back-up generators and, in some cases, off-the-grid independent water supply,” says MD David Sedgwick. “In terms of value-added extras, our developments have storage pods and other green features to ensure they’re adaptable to modern living.”

For residential developer BLOK, also in Cape Town, a standout structural element of TWELVEONV unwittingly became a green feature. Sales and brand manager Lior van Embden says they wanted to make an architectural statement with screens, as the luxury development is located on high-traffic Victoria Road in Bantry Bay.

“What we didn’t expect was the passive design impact the screens have on the temperature regulation in the apartments,” she says. “In summer, when the arc of the sun is high, they provide shade. In winter, when the arc is lower, they let in more sunlight and warmth.”

Saving costs

Developers and financial institutions’ bottom lines are also boosted by going green. “There’s a huge benefit in implementing water-saving measures at construction stage rather than retrofitting. Not only is it better to have systems in place at the start, it also saves money in the long run,” says Jordaan.

With current economic challenges causing tenants to default, those looking to rent in 2020 will be spoilt for choice. Melrose Arch leasing manager Renee Feeney says more and more tenants are demanding greener buildings because they provide a healthier, more productive indoor environment. Reducing the consumption of energy and resources is also becoming paramount.

“It’s not just about the environment,” Feeney says. “The bottom-line benefits of building and operating green buildings are important, considering rising energy costs and water scarcity. Add to that lower risks, improved productivity, better investment returns and higher property valuations.”

Don’t be afraid of committing to green development. It’s imperative and will soon become regulation, advises Jelley.

“Building sustainably is not only simple but also sensible: It reduces costs and is a powerful marketing tool,” says Reinink. “Building sustainably is the future norm and it’s my sincere hope that no developer gets left behind.”

As a leader in sustainable residential development, our mission is to generate affordable green living at scale and reduce our carbon footprint BRUCE JELLEY, GAUTENG REGIONAL QUANTITY SURVEYING MANAGER, BALWIN PROPERTIES


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