DEEP DIVE: Responsible & Healthy
Centring mostly around the well-being of building occupants and system processes, the Responsible and Healthy categories will not only transform the market and increase workforce productivity, but will also result in saving on resources like water and energy.
The Green Star New Build V2 tool per category, continued:
Credits with Minimum Requirements: A-1 Industry Development; A-2 Responsible Construction; A-3A Verification and Handover; A-3B Metering and Monitoring; A-4 Responsible Waste Management
Other Credits: A-3C Post-Occupancy Tuning; A-6 Responsible Product Framework
Featured Credits: A-2 Responsible Construction; A-3A Verification and Handover; A-3B Metering
and Monitoring; A-3C Occupancy Tuning and Evaluation
The RESPONSIBLE category, according to category director and founder of Ecolution Consulting André Harms, answers questions on how buildings are handed over, and how they can remain environmentally responsible, well-functioning and efficient. “It’s a little more nuanced than some of the poster children of a few of the difficulties we face in South Africa, such as water constraints and the very acute energy crisis,” he says. “However, the indoor environments that we find ourselves in for so many hours a day shape our physical and mental health. They influence our productivity, and many other aspects of human development and human life.”
To prove high levels of compliance, a skilled commissioning agent is pivotal.
VERIFICATION AND HANDOVER is process-driven, and aims at saving resources like energy and water, and creating an environment for happier, healthier and more productive staff. There are three aspects.
3A: VERIFICATION AND HANDOVER requires teams to design, build and test systems within a building to meet the owners’ requirements and to ensure that it is functional in all its operating conditions. “It’s based on international best practice guidelines, deriving from the American Society of Heating, Ventilation, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and from the UK equivalent, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE),” says Harms. Instead of just “flipping a switch at the end”, the goal is to show the advancement of principles such as functionality, quality efficiency, maintainability, accessibility and commissionability throughout the project development cycle.
Yogesh Gooljar, sustainability consultant, partner and director at PJC + Partners, and task-team member, says: “It’s about making sure the process is robust through its documentation so that information is not lost across the various stakeholders in a building’s cradle-to-grave life; someone responsible to ensure that the process is being followed, and that there’s communication of all the different aspects across the project team.” A basic guideline will be provided for minimum requirements, but for additional points, a professional must be involved to steer the process. According to Harms, implementing these credits (although it may initially add costs) has significant long-term benefits that are paid back multiple times over a short period of time.
3B: METERING AND MONITORING speaks to the ongoing management of a building, using appropriate metering and monitoring systems – and the focus is not necessarily on quantity, but on functionality. “The priority is on the right number and location of the submeters for energy and water, perhaps even other sources like gas, or heating and cooling,” says Harms. Project teams must prove that the building can be managed effectively, and respond proactively to unforeseen, unintended consumption. “If the system automatically flags that you consume 50% more energy than last month,” Harms says, “an investigation should be triggered, rather than just having information that you don’t actually compare to anything.”
This credit requires a minimum set of meters. Going beyond that minimum makes it possible to achieve one point in this category.
3C: OCCUPANCY TUNING AND EVALUATION has no minimum requirements or different tiers, because, says Harms “it’s deemed as a stretch for industry”. It requires that the project team stays involved for a certain period after the practical completion of the building, to “fine-tune the system to operate as effectively as possible, given the practical use of the building”. This could mean identifying too much ventilation, or insufficient water pressure – and intervening to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.
A word of advice to project teams: According to Gooljar, teams shouldn’t feel intimidated by the amount of work that will go into this credit. “If there’s a good verification and handover process, they will save money in maintenance, resources and operations. Rather have a good commissioning process now than pay for it later.”
The RESPONSIBLE CONSTRUCTION credit expects teams to strive towards construction practices that reduce the impact on the environment, and to promote opportunities for improved environmental and social outcomes.
This credit comprises four initiatives, aimed at the Principal Contractor.
As one of the minimum requirements, an Environmental Management System (EMS) must be in place, to manage the environmental impacts on site. Projects with an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system are eligible for additional points.
Moreover, for this credit, project teams are expected to proactively create awareness among the various stakeholders on matters of green building principles and sustainability during the entire project development, by implementing a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP). This includes a once-off, high-level Green Building induction for each newly appointed contractor or subcontractor, to the requirements of the project-specific Green Star specification. Along with that, “Toolbox Talks” are expected at prescribed intervals, covering various environmental topics and, as a minimum, include: the sustainability attributes of the building and their benefits; the value of certification; and the role site work or site workers play in the delivery of a sustainable building.
For additional recognition, the project team should develop a project-specific CEMP that is implemented from the start of site activities, and includes all work within the scope of the project. The plan should cover the scope of construction activities to assist the contractor and its service providers or subcontractors to manage environmental performance conditions and impacts arising from demolition, excavation and construction activities. The CEMP should be implemented on a monthly basis.
Project teams will also be expected to develop a Construction Waste Management Plan (CWMP) and submit a final waste report summary. According to Harms, this an easy place to score, because it’s a practice that’s increasingly gaining traction in the South African context. Contracting teams aiming for this credit should have this in place from the time of Green Star registration, and a waste report summary must be produced at the end of construction.
To achieve in this credit, more specifics on the plan and a specific diversion rate (which is still being researched) must be reached. “It has increasingly become standard practice, from recycling and reuse to avoidance, or by donating certain building materials,” says Harms.
He believes it’s now easier than ever to achieve high outcomes. “We’ve had a project that was built roughly 10 years ago in Cape Town, and it achieved over 95% waste diversion. That was obviously quite hard at the time – the initiative was associated with considerable effort – but in the past 10 years, we’ve increasingly seen projects that have managed to achieve diversion rates of more than 70% and 80%.”
Credits with Minimum requirements: B-1 Clean Air; B-2 Light Quality; B-4 Exposure to Toxins
Other credits: B-3 Acoustic Comfort; B-5 Amenity and Comfort; B-6 Connection to Nature,;
B-7 Thermal Comfort
Featured credits: B-2 Light Quality; B-1 Clean Air
Note: This category is still in the process of being finalised. More information will be confirmed once the tool is launched.
“The HEALTHY category is especially aimed at businesses with a focus on staff well-being, and to minimise presenteeism and absenteeism, by creating a healthy indoor environment that benefits all building users,” says category director Annelide Sherratt, Solid Green Consulting’s Head of Department: Green Building Certifications (New Build and Interiors). “The goal is to create trust that the building is safe, comfortable and conducive to occupants’ physical and mental well-being,” she says.
The LIGHTING QUALITY credit will challenge project teams to be more innovative in how lighting is selected. This is according to task team member, sustainability consultant and building physics modeller at WSP, Alex Varughese. The credit aims at optimising daylight, minimising the glare from natural and artificial lighting, and ensuring that artificial lighting is of high quality. By having performance glazing, enough daylight, and decreasing electricity usage with high-quality light fittings, Varughese believes energy usage can be reduced even further.
The category consists of three parts:
LIGHTING COMFORT will be informed by various lighting and colour-rendering indexes to set the minimum and higher standards. Project teams will also have to consider certain technical aspects of light and colour rendering. Glazing is an important element, and although Varughese says the know-how is there, the high cost for bigger projects remains a hurdle. However, he believes this credit might help to drive market change. “A few years back they asked for a certain certificate for paints without any volatile compounds. At the time it wasn’t available, but as the GBCSA rating system came through, it became readily available.”
GLARE FROM LIGHT SOURCES challenges teams to limit the glare provided by light sources, and obscure direct light from the viewing angles of the occupants. “We need to make sure that light doesn’t reflect too much off desks or certain flooring types, by fitting bare light with louvres, or using translucent diffusers in the ceiling designs,” he says.
Project teams aiming for this credit should ensure that building is providing DAYLIGHT access to building occupants. Certain levels of daylight have to be obtained throughout the different seasons of the year and these criteria are still being finalised. To measure and prove these levels, simulation software or other measuring systems would be required.
A word of advice to project teams: “This credit isn’t more difficult to achieve than it was before. It’s very easy to apply to a project, but project teams just need to apply themselves a bit more,” says Varughese. He hopes these credits will deepen project teams’ understanding of the available technology, beyond the existing general understanding.
“I would also like to see a lot more automatic controls for lights, such as motion sensors or timers, which would just decrease the usage of that space when it’s not fully occupied, or after office hours.”
Avoid sick building syndrome with the CLEAN AIR credit. It’s all about air quality, because, says task-team member Alana Shuttleworth, “the single biggest expense for many building owners who employ a lot of people is on salaries, and if indoor air quality is poor, there’s a high chance that it will affect the productivity of the building occupants.” People want to know that the air they are breathing is healthy and not contaminated or stale. Getting this credit right can also bring down energy levels and save owners money, she says.
The credit comprises three criteria, guided by local and international standards: a high level of fresh air is provided; pollutants entering the building are minimised; and levels of indoor pollutants are significantly reduced.
The task team still needs to consider the impact of the revised SANS 10400 Part O regulations, recently released for public comment, on the benchmarks for this credit’s fresh air rates.
Project teams will be expected to ensure that MINIMUM FRESH AIR RATES are achieved in occupied indoor spaces. In addition, MINIMUM SEPARATION DISTANCES BETWEEN THE POLLUTANT SOURCE AND OUTDOOR AIR INTAKES are specified, and outdoor air intakes shall be filtered to minimum filtration levels. “We’re going to reference tables with minimum distances, so your outdoor air intake must be a minimum distance of, for example, 5m away from an area where garbage is stored, or from air that’s exhausted from the building, says Shuttleworth. It must also be demonstrated that indoor pollutants are minimised in the regularly occupied areas.
Another minimum requirement is DUCT CLEANLINESS, which requires teams to clean ventilation ducts before the building is occupied. Notching it up one level, teams will be rewarded for ease of access for maintenance and cleaning, “to ensure that filters can be changed easily and equipment can be cleaned easily.” To ensure this, Accredited Professionals would look for access panels near coils, so that they can be cleaned, and near filters, so that filters can be changed.
MINIMUM FILTRATION RATES for specific types of spaces in all building typologies will be defined in the credit. This will extend to all building typologies. The latest SANS 10400 regulations will also be consulted to determine MINIMUM VENTILATION RATES for both natural and mechanical ventilation.
With regard to the MINIMISATION OF INDOOR POLLUTANTS, project teams must demonstrate that all pollutant sources inside of the building – whether from printing or even cooking – are limited. This can be done by expelling the equipment’s pollutants outside. “Another option is ensuring that the relevant equipment complies with minimum emissions standards,” says Shuttleworth.
The new Green Star tool will now apply to all building typologies, including residential. Says Shuttleworth, “The amount of fresh air supplied to the building would need to be a certain percentage improvement on the minimum fresh air rate. As an alternate route, teams can implement demand-controlled ventilation, using carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring. For this option, the ventilation system must be capable of providing enough outdoor air to maintain CO2 levels to a predetermined maximum level. The system must continuously measure the concentration of CO2 within the breathing zone and adjust the amount of outdoor air to the space accordingly.” This is an energy-efficient way of achieving the required fresh air levels without over-designing the fresh air supply, and it aids in saving energy.
Projects are also able to achieve a point for producing and implementing an INDOOR AIR QUALITY PLAN. According to Shuttleworth, “The objective would be to facilitate a process that leads to design, specification and installation decisions, and actions that minimise indoor air pollution during the design, construction and occupation of the building.”
To reach the highest tier, projects are required to provide fresh air rates at even greater percentage improvements than level 1.
A word of advice to project teams: Take a few steps back and think pragmatically about how best to achieve clean air in your building. Don’t forget to consider how your building can best “breathe” on its own, when there is no power supply, such as during loadshedding.
“We are looking for projects to pilot Green Star V2,” says the GBCSA’s Head of Technical, Georgina Smit. The GBCSA invites any stakeholders in the planning stage of a new build project (any typology) for Green-Star Certification, who want to be part of the V2 Pilot pioneers, to contact the GBCSA team as soon as possible. The Pilot pioneers will have the ability to use the existing Green-Star rating tools concurrently with the V2 credits being tested, so lose nothing in the certification process, but gain the ability to be at the forefront of refining and testing the potential of the V2 tool. “Please contact us to join this industry initiative,” says Smit, “and be part of writing the next chapter of green building history.”