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Giving developers a greener EDGE

As green building becomes the new normal in estate development, EDGE certification is emerging as a powerful marketing tool

By Mark van Dijk

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Giving developers a greener EDGE

As green building becomes the new normal in estate development, EDGE certification is emerging as a powerful marketing tool

By Mark van Dijk

, |

While green building practices – and Green Building Council certification – are known to improve sustainability and reduce running costs, EDGE certification is now also showing its worth as a marketing tool for estate developers.

How EDGE certification works

EDGE – which stands for ‘Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies’ – is a green building certification system designed especially for emerging markets by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. In South Africa, the Green Building Council of South Africa is the exclusive certification services provider.

EDGE is based on a free online platform that gives developers a measurable way to reduce the resource intensity of their building. The EDGE standard sets a minimum of 20% reduction across the categories of energy consumption, water consumption, and embodied energy. It calculates the development’s inputs and outputs using locally adjusted data for utility costs, climate data, and building regulations.

The EDGE certification process has a design phase and a construction phase, with a preliminary EDGE certificate awarded between the two, and final EDGE certification awarded when the development is complete.

New standard for energy efficiency

The first South African residential project to receive final EDGE certification was Port Elizabeth’s Fourleaf Estate, in 2017. The Similan Properties development offers 323 affordable housing units to low- and middle-income families. Its EDGE certification was based on 32% energy savings (achieved through reduced window-to-wall ratio, roof insulation, and heat pumps for hot water), 25% water savings (achieved through low-flow bathroom taps, and dual-flush toilets), and 35% less embodied energy in the building materials (achieved by using clay roofing tiles on timber rafters for the roof construction, cored bricks with plaster on both sides for the internal and external walls, and cellulose roof insulation).

At the time, Similan and Fourleaf Estate enjoyed a fair amount of media attention, with News24 hailing it as ‘Africa’s greenest development’ and local paper The Herald calling it ‘a new standard for residential energy efficiency’.

Other developments followed. In Cape Town, the Madulammoho Housing Association’s Belhar Gardens affordable housing development received final EDGE certification for its 41% energy savings, 30% water savings, and 36% reduction in embodied energy in its materials. Instratin’s Johannesburg social housing development Devland Gardens was awarded for its remarkable 28% in energy savings, 51% in water savings, and 64% reduction in embodied energy in materials. RPP Developments’ Candlewood Crescent development, meanwhile, announced recently that it expects to realise savings of almost R600,000 a year by applying EDGE-certified efficiencies.

A marketing edge

But while those affordable housing developments are pushing the normalisation of EDGE-based building practices (largely due to cost savings), a handful of more upmarket estates are using their EDGE certification to promote green building practices and – let’s not be coy – to enhance their profile.

Take the example of Wahhab Estate Co’s EDGE-certified Atlantic Tower in Ghana’s Airport City outside Accra. In a recent interview, Meridian Ghana MD Radwan Dakmak said that he saw building green as a marketing strategy that could bring greater value to his customers. ‘With this market, you need to be one step ahead,’ he said. ‘It was my vision to have a resource-efficient building, which became a good marketing tool for us. Any rational businessman wouldn’t opt for a non-green building. The benefits are far more than the added costs.’

South African residential and lifestyle estates may ultimately end up somewhere in the middle, using EDGE certification both to attract new residents and to provide honest-to-goodness sustainable living. Central Developments Property Group’s Celebration Retirement Estate in North Riding, for example, combines green spaces, walking paths with lighting controls, solar hot water collectors, low-flow showerheads and sustainable construction materials.

Gerrit Brandow, Director overseeing the Celebration project says the following;

“In accordance with research done by the Green Building Council of South Africa an EDGE certification could increase a unit’s value by 11% to 12%. An increase of 5% to 6% in rental rates is also achievable.”

Celebration is the first retirement estate in Gauteng registered for EDGE certification by the GBCSA. Celebration’s homes are therefore constructed and equipped with environmentally friendly and energy saving technology and materials to comply with certification requirements.

Independent tests analysing actual consumer patterns at four similar retirement villages, have shown that a solar water heating system can potentially save the residents of a simplex unit an average of R315.00 and the residents of an apartment R164.00 per month on their electricity consumption (based on R1.85/kWh and a 31 day month). These tests have also shown that it is possible to rely only on solar power for water heating with very little, if any, additional electricity required.

Celebration Retirement Estate’s EDGE score (35% for energy savings, 25% for water savings, 51% for less embodied energy in materials) points to a model that other estates will surely follow – and that residents will find more and more appealing.

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