A Green Star for South Africa’s Department of Transport
The sustainable building environment is gaining ground in South Africa. The country’s Green Building Council, a member of the World Green Building Council, has grown significantly since its establishment in 2007. To date, green building certifications were announced for buildings across South Africa’s economic sectors: commercial, industrial as well as residential. The cost savings from water and energy conservation for individual owners have contributed to the industry’s expansion and increased demand for green buildings. Now, South Africa’s Department of Transport has taken the lead for green government buildings with a Green Star rating – the first Green Star rating issued for a government building in the country. This news brought great satisfaction for the national Green Building Council. In a recent press release, the CEO of the national Green Building Council expressed their excitement about this new direction for state buildings. The CEO emphasized the importance for South Africa to expand in the green building arena – contributing to the country’s carbon emissions reduction goals.
According to the Green Building Council, green buildings can reduce energy demands by up to 50%, compared to conventional buildings. Significant reductions for water consumption and waste production can also be expected. Overall, green buildings contribute to resource conservation and climate change prevention in meaningful ways.
To meet the defining green building criteria, a great deal of thought is needed for the building’s design, as well as its construction and operational phases. A green building is characterized and accredited based on three main concepts, namely energy efficiency, resource efficiency and environmental responsibility. The end product can go far in reducing negative impacts on the receiving environment, including not only the natural environment, but also social and economic environments. The defining categories of green buildings are Indoor Environmental Quality, Energy, Water, Materials and Emissions and Innovation. Green buildings have shown to reduce heat load, apply natural light to the maximum extent possible, give preference to fresh air circulation, apply energy-efficient technologies, apply environmentally responsible building materials and include environmentally responsible operations such as recycling and rain water harvesting. This then also summarizes the Green Building Council South Africa’s aim: “…to ensure that all buildings are built and operated in an environmentally sustainable way so that all South African’s work and live in healthy, effective and productive environments.”
Carbon emissions data has shown that our buildings contribute up to 30% to carbon emissions. This is pointing to a very prominent area where cities can reduce their carbon footprints. Considering how design concepts can reduce carbon emissions are quite interesting. The following have been incorporated in the Department of Transport’s new green building:
- A roof allowing planting space for water-wise succulents, to thrive in the blazing South African sun (some South Africa succulents are outstanding carbon traps, contributing to carbon offsets, whilst requiring almost no water);
- Solar-generated water cooling system, incorporated into an air flow system for the building (reducing electricity demands);
- a two-layer façade of dual purpose: maximum natural light and views, while reducing the heat island effect for urban areas (the heat island effect results in increased electricity demand for cooling, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions); and
- an external building shading layer allowing for screening during the warmest parts of the day (reducing the need for artificial air conditioning and associated electricity demands).
The building’s air conditioning system was designed to allow for the production of ice – which is stored during night time – and applied for the cooling of the building during day time. It has been estimated that this solar-generated reverse air cooling system can provide up to 75% of the building’s air conditioning needs. Furthermore, the system has been designed to provide the building with heating during winter time. Fresh air entering the building is either pre-cooled or pre-heated by means of Heat Recovery Wheels, meeting ventilation requirements without unnecessary electricity requirements.
The green building industry is set to create a more environmentally sustainable built environment for South Africa. Resources will be use more conservatively and effectively, working towards changing the country’s contribution to global climate change. According the Green Building Council, the Department of Transport’s building placed high standards for energy and water conservation. Water and energy conservation incorporated in buildings directly and actively reduce carbon emissions, without significant cost factors. And with South Africa’s carbon emission reduction targets of a 34% reduction by 2020, and a 42% reduction by 2025, this is surely a precedent that will bring about positive change.
Authored by Word from the Savanna, a South African based freelance environmental reporting company.
Green Building Council of South Africa.
SA Commercial Prop News. The first parastatal building in SA to achieved a Green Star certification. Issue of 16 March 2012.
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