It is an honour and privilege to take up the reins as chair of such a prestigious organisation, one tasked with making a real and measurable impact on our environment. At the same time, I’m also humbled, given the legacy set by past chairs. I want to thank Brian Unsted for his tireless work and handing over the organisation to me in its commendable state.
Although I am acutely aware of the board’s duties and the responsibilities it must discharge in the interests of good governance, I’m also reminded of the influence a board has on an organisation’s culture. In his book Flying Blind, Peter Robison charts the decline of Boeing after its merger with McDonnell Douglas, manifested by the crashes of the 737 MAX that ultimately led to Airbus displacing Boeing as the market leader in commercial aircraft. As chair, this account holds lessons for me and makes me mindful of the impact that we as board can have on the GBCSA.
Furthermore, it strikes me how, in aviation, decisions about new aircraft designs are made every 10 years, but then the industry must “live with the consequences for 50 years”. The parallels to the built environment are uncanny – build an inefficient and resource-consuming building, and the consequences on the environment remain long after the developers have moved on.
The GBCSA has weathered multiple headwinds and we have come out stronger, agile, and more resilient than ever before. I plan to build on that culture and on strategies that drive further positive performance, creating value for our members and the environment. I am excited about the finalisation and imminent pilot phase of the Green Star New Buildings Rating Tool (New Build V2). As green building has matured in South Africa, so too has the need to improve and update our rating tools to move the built environment forward, and this will continue to form part of my agenda.
Having said this, I also believe that there’s plenty of scope for more utilisation of the Existing Building Performance Rating Tool in its current form, and the IFC’s EDGE® Rating Tool, in the residential sector. I was privileged to attend IFSEC in London in May this year. IFSEC International is an annual trade fair and conference for the global security industry, held alongside the FIREX International Show, the Safety & Health Expo and the Facilities Show.
One of the addresses was by the UK Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, Lord Martin Callanan, on how the UK government is planning to achieve net zero carbon. The UK has recognised that one of their biggest challenges is how much of their built environment is pre-WW II. While they have new standards for new builds, the amount of retrofitting required to meet current resource efficiencies requires the funding of incentives – what he referred to as improved cladding or insulation “taking precedence over shiny new kitchens”. I came away from that talk convinced that the GBCSA’s driving use of the Existing Building Performance Rating Tool will contribute immensely to the South African built environment, given just how much of our building stock pre-dates green building.
In his book, Robison also details how the Boeing 737, while developed much earlier and on a limited budget, became Boeing’s bestseller decades later – the “stepchild” ultimately outperforming more modern aircraft such as the 747, 777 and 787, in terms of revenue earned. For me, this presents another parallel for our Existing Building Performance Rating Tool: while not necessarily addressing new and “shiny” buildings, the tool will look to existing building stock and ultimately contribute to better resource usage and retrofitting, thus increasing capital allocation and the associated job creation.
Brian Unsted’s last note reflected on the areas he wanted to give attention to, and I want to close by reassuring you that in addition to my agenda, I will continue to build on those areas as well. I am buoyed by the support, dedication, professionalism and passion of Lisa Reynolds and her able team at the GBCSA.
While writing this, I’ve had to scuttle outdoors every now and then to thaw out in the sun – poking its pale head out between bouts of the ubiquitous Cape rain. I think I may speak for most South Africans in saying I look forward to spring after a rather chilly and prolonged winter!
While spring brings with it renewal, growth and expansion, for the global building and construction sector, these very things go hand in hand with a key responsibility: helping drive the transition towards a decarbonised, energy-efficient and sustainable future for all.
Annually, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) brings us World Green Building Week – falling on 11–15 September 2023 this year. Led by a network of over 75 national Green Building Councils and their 46 000 members, the week-long campaign will show how, through systems-change thinking and leveraging local solutions, we can transition to sustainable built environments. For the events line-up, and to find out how you can take part in World Green Building week, visit https://worldgbc.org/wgbw23/.
Our spring issue is testament to our local successes in this journey, showcasing a broad variety of projects that go way beyond bricks to address sustainability.
Law firm ENS’s office in Cape Town’s striking 35 Lower Long Street building is a case in point (page 18), having secured a 5-Star Green Star Interiors v1 certification. A sublime departure from the traditional office concept, the space’s innovative design is truly a union of functionality, design and sustainability, at the same time catering to the health and wellness of its staff.
Apropos the well-being of building occupants, part four of our Transforming Tomorrow series on page 26 unpacks the Healthy and Responsible categories of the Green Star New Build V2 tool. These categories centre mostly around the comfort of buildings’ users and the efficient functioning of system processes, aiming to transform the market and increase work productivity, while saving on resources like water and energy.
What better way to embrace greenness and growth than through considered landscaping? Dsm-firmenich South Africa set a benchmark for sustainable landscaping within the green building industry by becoming the first GBCSA-certified, Net Positive Ecology level 2 – Operational Ecology (Measured) project in the country. On page 34, +Impact looks at how the site’s original vegetation type was used as a way to regenerate and increase its diversity.
From regeneration to preservation: the City of Cape Town’s Bracken Nature Reserve has recently been awarded a 5-Star Green Star certification for its upgraded building complex design (page 42). While water and energy efficiencies were the main targets on this project, indoor comfort was also an important focus, and when completed, it will offer the public an escape into nature, along with experiential education around sustainability and the environment.
The role of business in supporting sustainable development objectives is key, according to CEO of the National Business Initiative (NBI), Shameela Soobramoney. Read more about how Shameela intends to focus on sustainability in her new role at the NBI on page 48.
To round off this issue’s diverse offering, we highlight Illovo Country Estate in KwaZulu-Natal on page 52, which recently achieved EDGE® certification with the GBCSA – a first in South Africa in the affordable housing sector.
As, increasingly, new and retrofitted projects employ mindful design and construction practices to reduce environmental impact, decrease costs and provide better places in which to work, it’s an honour and a pleasure to present them to you, our readers. We hope you enjoy this spring-time edition.