Friday, 15 May 2009

Build It and They Will Come

{pp}The Green Building Conference and Exhibition will again welcome property owners, regulators, built environment professionals, academics and representatives from all facets of the construction industry as delegates to the conference and visitors to the exhibition, which will open to all consumers for the full two days.

The business of building has plenty of eco-friendly tricks up its sleeve.

With events like the Green Star SA Accredited Professional Course sold out in Jo’burg and Cape Town (happening in October), it doesn’t take a genius to notice that the green-building industry is not slowing down.

One early trend-spotter was Lloyd MacFarlane. He was inspired by green architect Llewelyn van Wyk to set up about three years ago.

For Lloyd, who is passionate about reducing carbon emissions but is also first and foremost a businessman, the key to implementation of green-building practices lay in supplying a sustainable network model that would connect suppliers and builders.

GreenBuilding is such a networking platform. On the website, industry professionals list their services – and all aspects of building are covered, from design and planning to materials, technologies, project management and even green demolition.

Their first Green Building Conference was held in 2007, says Lloyd, and their second (in 2008) sold out in five weeks. Lloyd and his growing company are now looking towards Australia, North America, the UK and Africa to expand their platform. And they’ve just published The 2009 Green Building Handbook, which offers comprehensive guidelines on eco-conscious construction.

The 40 000-plus subscribers to their SA Journal of Green Building (80% of whom are South African), available on the website, are made up of building pros, government reps, NGOs, “or anyone connected to the environmental industry”, says Lloyd.

Business types are fast beginning to comprehend the scope and benefits of greening a building, and big corporations are setting the bar.

The new Woolworths distribution centre in Gauteng’s Midrand has a massive grey water system, intelligent lighting and solar water heating. Woolworths invested R10 million in sustainable initiatives and expect to make their money back in 10 years.

The visionary BP head office at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town was built in 2005. Its T-formation makes the most of natural light and airflow. Photovoltaic cells and solar panels provide 10% of the electricity and motion-sensitive, low-energy lights turn off when workers leave their workstations. A 1.3 millionℓ underground tank stores run-off water that’s used for irrigation and ablution.

To standardise green measures, the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) was established in early 2008. The NGO determines the degrees of “green” that a building can or does attain, based on factors like management, indoor environmental quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use, ecology and emissions.

Going green – even partially – makes financial sense to home- or small-business owners, too. Doran Schoeman of Natural Dynamics, a Cape Town solar-energy company, says solar water heating can save you up to 50% on electricity. “And the Eskom Demand Side Management programme offers a rebate on approved systems, which ranges from R2 000 to R5 000 – depending on how much electricity the system displaces,” he says. “The return on investment averages between three and five years, with a life expectancy of at least 20 years.”

Individuals will pay between R14 000 and R30 000 for a system that will service your bathroom, kitchen and swimming pool.

Celeste writes for Green Building Media; an information portal for all professionals in the Built Environment, focusing on the issues around sustainable living. They have a monthly e-Journal that is edited by Llewellyn van Wyk, the head of the CSIR.


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