From inspiring the industry’s frontrunners to drive market transformation, to democratising the process of metering and modelling, so everyone has access, and empowering the people who experience new buildings with access to opportunities… here’s what you need to know about the Positive, Leadership and People categories in the New Build v2 tool.
The Green Star New Build v2 tool per category, unpacked:
CATEGORY DIRECTOR: Francois Retief, Founder: Sow & Reap Green Building Solutions
MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: Upfront Carbon; Energy Use; Water Use
OTHER CREDITS: Other Carbon
The POSITIVE category embodies the industry’s Net Zero journey up until today. According to Francois Retief, Category Director and founder of Sow & Reap Green Building Solutions, it’s time for the industry to take on a productive role in society by generating power and using regenerative materials that reduce buildings’ negative impact on the environment. Task team member and Partner and Director at PJC+Partners Yogesh Gooljar believes all eyes are on this category’s credits, emphasising the need for it to be robust enough to align with real-time situations, and to respond to the Paris Agreement’s Net Zero targets.
“Measuring the UPFRONT CARBON of a building might just be a game changer, driving a much bigger uptake of low-carbon building materials,” says an animated Retief. As a minimum requirement, the upfront carbon needs to be measured by project teams, with tools and guidance provided by the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA). Project teams who then reduce their upfront carbon compared to the provided baseline will be rewarded, based on their level of improvement.
According to Dash Coville, Technical Manager of Special projects at the GBCSA, this can be done by considering the following design interventions for material selection: reuse, correct size, dematerialisation, carbon-storing materials, product substitution, sourcing and circular design. Gooljar goes on to say that everyone has a role to play: “The structural engineer can be approached for ways to make the building structurally efficient with less material, while architects can be tasked with finding ways of using fewer materials from a design perspective.” This helps projects lower their carbon footprint – and the more of these steps that are taken, the more points are up for grabs. Retief believes this credit will level out the playing field when it comes to alternative building materials, which will now be incentivised.
A minimum of 20% reduction in ENERGY USE on a baseline building, without the use of renewable energy, is required to apply for a Green Star rating. Retief elaborates that points will be awarded on a sliding scale. Every percentage of better efficiency awards a project more points, and it can reach full points for being a net-positive building. Retief adds that, as a minimum requirement, project teams will also be required to provide a net-zero action plan.
According to Gooljar, the current modelling protocol is being updated to align with current international and local benchmarks. “A calculator is also being developed by the GBCSA, where the baseline building is standardised through the calculator to ensure transparency and equal comparisons,” he says. Gooljar adds that a lot of work has been done to ease the process (considered somewhat cumbersome in the past) and encourage uptake, by not only using modelling for certification purposes, but also to use it as a practical and valuable tool. To close the gap between predictions and actual meter readings, Retief says the tool has been adapted to align more with actual operational consumption.
“The WATER USE credit is structured similarly to energy use,” says Retief. “There’s a minimum efficiency requirement, after which points are awarded on a sliding scale for a project’s percentage improvements on the baseline.” The water balance calculator has also been updated to align with international and local best practices. Adding to that, Retief says some improvements and adjustments have been made to ensure that all building typologies are covered. A word of advice from Gooljar: “Look at the tools provided – such as the calculators – and use them early on in the design development phase, rather than looking at them towards the end of the project.” Retief agrees, saying these tools will help teams to plot their journey, and avoid confusion in cases where it is applied as an afterthought.
There are three levels to the OTHER CARBON credit. Its three focus points consider refrigerants, operational energy offset and upfront carbon offset. Projects teams aiming for the first level of points must identify refrigerants used in the building, as well as their carbon impact – and then offset that.
The second and third levels tie in with the credits of Energy Use and Upfront Carbon, which, according to Retief, cover the full lifecycle of these processes. “For both of these levels, there may still be a carbon impact,” explains Coville. “In buildings where there is a carbon impact, project teams would need to quantify the carbon through the calculators provided, and offset it.” Gooljar adds that there is an opportunity for meeting some elements of the LEADERSHIP category in terms of offsetting emissions from construction activities.
By making the whole process more accessible, Gooljar believes the tools and structure of this category are democratising the way project teams think about modelling and calculating energy and water use – “whether you’re big or small, complex or simple – and for everyone with various levels of expertise.”
CATEGORY DIRECTOR: N/A
MINIMUM CREDITS: None
CREDITS: Market Transformation; Leadership Challenges
Previously known as “Innovation”, the LEADERSHIP category calls on the sector’s frontrunners and game changers. “It aims to recognise and celebrate innovative ideas that fall outside the scope of the Green Star framework,” says Coville. Project teams are encouraged to identify initiative(s) in their project, or flowing from their project, that are not included in the Green Star categories. “If it can set a precedent that addresses a valid environmental concern, exceeds Green Star benchmarks, or be considered a pioneering initiative, process or strategy, it could become something that is available as guideline for all future projects,” he adds. A prime example is how the industry is designing and building staircases to minimise the use of lifts.
Although the rating structure of the category is still being finalised, it will likely have two credits, drawing from the Australian tool’s “Leadership Challenges” and “Market Transformation” credits. According to Coville, 10 points, aligning to 10 initiatives, will be made available initially. “Over time, we’ll be able to open up that threshold, in line with the Australian tool, once we’ve built up a bit more of a library of these innovations that projects can choose to target.”
MARKET TRANSFORMATION is going to be similar to the current INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES AND TECHNOLOGIES credit, and encourages project teams to demonstrate that they are pushing the boundaries, and inspiring others to follow their lead. Coville warns that not every “novel” concept will qualify as an innovation. Initiatives would have to add value to the South African context that the credit is being adapted to respond to. He says teams must demonstrate that the proposed market transformation meets the following: has a guaranteed outcome; delivers a long-lasting impact; demonstrates an impact at significant scale; proves that the initiative has the potential to transform the industry; and provides benefits to both stakeholders in the industry and the general public.
Without these standards, the concept of a “Market Transformation” might seem quite vague, but the credit provides structure and guidance. “It’s about making sure that you can respond to these questions, because that would imply that there’s an environmental benefit to what you’re claiming,” Coville says.
The other credit, LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES, combines elements of the previous “Environmental Initiatives” and “Exceeding Greenstar Benchmarks” credits. The concept of a long-term, lasting and measurable impact comes to mind. Coville uses an environmental initiative as an example: “The intention is to grow a database of the innovative initiatives to serve as guidelines for other projects to be able to implement similar processes or systems.” He emphasises that potential leadership challenges will have to be assessed for validity as a Leadership Challenge ahead of the project being submitted for assessment. This is because they must carry the weight of applicability beyond that specific project. “The reason for this is to make sure that it is justifiable in terms of being applicable to other buildings too – so that as an outcome, that credit can be used and applied by others on their projects.”
CATEGORY DIRECTOR: Michelle Ludwig, Founder: Ludwig Consulting
CONSIDERED CREDITS: Socially Responsible Building Practices; Social Equity; Design for Inclusion; Green Star Accredited Professional (AP) Development; and Green Star AP Training
“Buildings are for people, and buildings are about people’s experience of occupying them – that’s why we’re in the construction industry in the first place.”
This statement by Abi Godsell, Research and Content Project Manager at the GBCSA, underscores the essence of this category. It expects project teams to ensure that aspects of the design process, construction process and the finished building encourage long- term inclusion and access to opportunities within the different phases of new projects.
This category is still being refined and some changes can be expected. For now, we’ll just outline the four principles that interested projects teams can start thinking about.
The first credit centres on SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE BUILDING PRACTICES, which challenges project teams to identify and engage groups of people who are underrepresented in the design and construction phase. “It means taking an in-depth look at the industry you’re working with, identifying systemic barriers, and trying to address challenges that different groups of people may face in participating in that particular industry,” Godsell says.
On the design front, a possible approach is to make sure that the appointed team – from the Accredited Professional (AP) to all the companies associated with the building design – are socially responsible. This includes, but will not be limited to, BEE ratings. With regard to the construction phase, this could mean the inclusion of women, youth or people with disabilities.
The promotion of SOCIAL EQUITY expects teams to pro-actively facilitate equitable access to income-generating work, and full participation in the building’s design, construction and operation for everyone. Some elements will bear resemblance to those of the previous “Social Economic Category”, but will be streamlined and simplified to make it more accessible to the market.
This is being explored in two broad ways, firstly through recognising projects that use the services of well-rated B-BBEE contributors, and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), and secondly through promoting the dedication of space within a project itself to allow micro enterprises to operate. “It’s the idea that within the structure of the building, there is room for alternative means of income-generating work,” say Godsell. “It requires dedicated space and an agreement with the eventual building owner that the space remains dedicated for micro-enterprises.” Essentially, this targets skilled people who generate their income through less traditional economic models. These size-limited spaces are set aside for traders in goods like snacks and airtime, or those offering services such as small-scale repairs.
“We haven’t encountered specific resistance to this as a concept yet,” she adds. “It’s a very South African mode of doing business, but it’s often limited to public buildings, or transport interchanges. We’ve got good precedents for the value that it adds to a space, but I don’t think we’ve seen much uptake of this value by green buildings yet.”
Thirdly, project teams are urged to DESIGN FOR INCLUSION. Projects must demonstrate a range of universal design interventions that make buildings more accessible to a diverse group of users, and welcoming to a diverse range of needs. Some examples of universal design principles include well-designed access ramps that not only benefit users in wheelchairs, but also parents with prams or those moving heavy loads on trolleys. Another example is raising the height of electrical outlets. When the outlet is placed higher in the wall so that it can be accessed easily by users who cannot bend down, it means that no-one must make the undignified hands-and-knees shuffle to these outlets. “The idea behind this credit is that when you provide appropriate infrastructure for the people who have more specific needs, you also make it easier for people with less specific needs to use the building,” says Godsell.
Lastly, project teams hoping to achieve points in this category should demonstrate GREEN STAR AP DEVELOPMENT and GREEN STAR AP TRAINING. “This category is one of the most direct investments in the future of green buildings,” says Godsell. “It benefits all of us if we have more construction workers and contractors who have experience in green projects, and more APs who upskill as the green project runs its course, building on the expertise of our current generation of APs. It allows direct, short-term, tangible benefits (in the form of Green Star credits) to be attached to these long-term investment actions being undertaken by project teams.”
Her advice to projects teams is to maintain clear communication between all team members involved, and to reach out to the GBCSA for assistance or supportive resources. Along with that, she offers the following: “It’s important to take this category seriously, because nothing grows if it’s not watered – and that includes our green construction sector. These are all investments in a healthy and sustainable future.”