How green is green?11th Nov 2019
To take the greening of your estate seriously, you must consider each step from conception to design, through the building process and continuing to operation and management.
You’ve taken the words ‘The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it’ by explorer Robert Swan seriously. The architects have been consulted, and plans are afoot to create what you hope will be the best eco-estate in the country. The solar geysers, heat-pumps, rainwater tanks, LED lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures have been ordered … you’re even considering the installation of a solar photovoltaic system. And after that?
Well, even before you get to the ‘after that’ thought, you need to consider getting the right advice, right up front – from conception to design, through the building process and continuing to the operation and management thereafter.
And how do you do this? Consult the leaders in their fields …
According to the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) , the building and construction industry combined contributes nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions globally. And with total building floor area set to grow over the coming decades, it’s imperative that we do something. Quickly!
The vision of the WorldGBC, of which the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) is a member, is that ‘buildings and infrastructure around the world can reach 40% less embodied carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve 100% net zero emissions building by 2050’. Tall order? Perhaps, but if everyone does their share, it is possible.
A good start is with the GBCSA’s range of green building solutions , which include green building certification and training. The certification systems include:
- Green Star SA rating tools which support design professionals and developers alike in the delivery of sustainable ‘green’ buildings;
- Edge – Residential is an online platform to rate the environmental integrity of a development through pre- and post-construction phases;
- Energy Water Performance (EWP) is a mini-tool to benchmark the energy and water consumption of existing building against an industry mean;
- Net Zero/Net Positive Certification rewards projects that have taken the initiative to completely neutralise or positively readdress their impacts;
- Green Star Custom for those whose building doesn’t fit the norm, such as light industrial with office component, hotel and mixed-use developments.
Operation and Management
But what’s the use of having the world’s greenest, most eco-certified building if you don’t operate or manage it responsibly? So, what are the options?
The globally recognised International Organisation of Standardisation, more commonly referred to as ISO, has several standards that apply to environmental management. These standards provide practical tools for companies to manage their environmental responsibilities and ultimately prepare for an external audit and environmental certification.
For a more comprehensive local environmental management tool, opt for the locally developed Heritage Green Estate Environmental Rating Programme, which as developed by the globally recognised Heritage Environmental Management Company.
The standards of this system are benchmarked against leading initiatives in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Europe, and adapted to suit African conditions. It is tailored to the needs of the respective owners and operators/managers of residential estates, and offers support and assistance, evaluation by external audits, and incremental recognition that can be improved over time. The primary areas of evaluation are:
- Management systems, which include operating procedures and systems;
- Communication and marketing, which develops an understanding of environmental issues and responsible practices with staff, guests and residents alike;
- Resource management, which includes water, energy and waste;
- Community development, which looks at the extent to which the community is incorporated into the activities of the estate, and whether their lives are impacted on positively or negatively.
Peter Drucker’s quote, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’, might have been targeted at business management, but it is equally appropriate when it comes to operating and managing a sustainable built environment.