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Sustainable Precincts

Sustainable precincts: the key to people leading healthier, more productive, and socially responsible lives

By Nexxagen

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Sustainable precincts: the key to people leading healthier, more productive, and socially responsible lives

By Nexxagen

, |

4 min read

Crowds, pandemics, transportation challenges, overflowing refuse, load shedding – if you live in a South African city, these are common experiences. South Africa is facing exceptional urban growth, creating pressure on municipal services and resources.

It is predicted that 12 to 14 million people will move to cities – the latter number being the current population size of Gauteng. The answer to accommodating our new neighbours and changing lifestyles lies in sustainable precincts. These spaces are the key to people leading healthier, more productive, and socially responsible lives.

What are sustainable precincts?

In the wake of climate change, health concerns, and growing urban populations, it’s clear that cities and precincts can no longer be built as they used to be. Sustainable precincts are a response to this, by taking the principles of green buildings and channelling them on a larger scale.

Sustainable precincts provide opportunities for greater connectivity, leading to greater sustainability, innovation, economic and social outcomes. They create spaces that are integrated, use energy sources that are renewable, use sustainable water and food supplies, and deliver on multiple complex needs for the community and economy.

Benefits of sustainable precincts

When a sustainable precinct is built according to best practices, it offers residents, workers, and other stakeholders a number of advantages.

Accessibility is at the heart of sustainable precincts, encouraging walkable spaces and alternative transportation like cycling. This means that people walking and cycling are prioritised above vehicles. These precincts are also built close to shops, services, and recreational spaces to reduce the need for commutes.

With a focus on carbon neutrality or zero-carbon status, sustainable precincts can promote respiratory and cardiac health. Instead of relying primarily on municipal electricity provision, sustainable precincts can overcome power shortages through renewable sources.

Using integrated systems involving water-sensitive urban design, sustainable precincts can save water and prepare for water shortages. By using effective waste management, sustainable precincts can reduce output and even use it to generate energy as well as sources of nutrient input into the food chain for urban farming and access to fresh food.

How sustainable precincts are rated

There’s a lot that can be done to make sustainable precincts as liveable as possible. Rating systems ensure that all meet the same criteria and uphold a strict standard of quality. In South Africa, the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) rates and assesses the sustainability performance of precincts and neighbourhoods. Using their Sustainable Precincts tool, large-scale development projects are evaluated at a precincts/neighbourhoods scale. The tool rates the planning, design and construction of the precinct and not specific buildings or their operations. Other more specific tools, such as the Green Star New Buildings and Green Star Existing Building rating tools, are available for buildings and operations.

The Sustainable Precincts tool considers the following categories (inter alia) when rating a sustainable precinct:

  • Governance: This category awards points if the project’s urban design is subject to a design review process, demonstrates corporate responsibility, engages the community and engages in environmental management, undertakes sustainability awareness, as well as recognising projects that are resilient to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
  • Livability: This category encourages healthy and active living and awards points if the project implements community development projects, provides access to fresh food, has walkable access to amenities, and is designed for safety. As the environment continues to remain uncertain, sustainable buildings will continue to be a dominant theme that will shape the form of cities into the future.
  • Economic Prosperity: This category promotes affordability, community investment, return on investment, digital infrastructure, and awards points if the project delivers education and skills development programmes, puts residential affordability strategies in place, stimulates local and diverse employment opportunities, and reduces peak electricity demand.
  • Environment: The aim of this category is to encourage the use of bioclimatic building material, waste management, and provide for sustainable transport and movement. This category awards points if the project has best practice sustainable urban water management and integrated water cycling, minimises the environmental impacts of construction materials for the site-wide works, enhances the ecological value or biodiversity of the project site, as well as reducing light pollution and the heat island effect that many older developments neglected to account for. It also seeks to ensure that a greenhouse gas strategy is in place to address climate change.

How affordable are sustainable precincts?

With such particular criteria, investors and developers may be under the impression that it can cost an exorbitant amount to create a sustainable precinct. Recent studies by the GBCSA, the University of Pretoria, and the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors found that the average green cost premium for a 4-star rated building has reduced from 5.2% in 2016 to 3.9% in 2019. The average green cost premium is largely dependent on the certification level, with the highest average premium of 10.2% reported for a 6-star Green Star rating. While it can be slightly more expensive to construct green buildings and precincts, increases in the value of buildings of up to 18% have been reported due to higher demand, healthier buildings, lower operating costs and generally better buildings provided. Sustainable precincts offer an exceptional living and working experience, which makes them more marketable and ensures that property value remains high. These spaces are human-first, creating a place where people lead healthy and productive lives – an excellent drawcard for residents and businesses.

Build a sustainable precinct with Nexxagen

Nexxagen is a property development firm specialising in property development and related services. We aim to develop healthier and more productive spaces for our clients and customers and to make a positive contribution to our stakeholders and the communities in which we live and work.

Our niche market is Green Star-certified high-quality buildings and developments. Contact us today or visit our website to see how we can get your sustainable precinct or green building developed.

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