With buildings and their construction together accounting for 36% of global energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, the built environment has a responsibility, and the opportunity, to shift to building holistic, data-driven and renewal-focused spaces.

So many different pockets of the South African built industry have been doing just this. In our news section on page 12, 84 Harrington Street, Cape Town, is the world’s tallest building constructed with hempcrete and is setting the benchmark for how to build a safe, carbon-neutral, multi-storey building using hemp.

The hempcrete block is a non-load bearing, insulating masonry product that consists mainly of hemp, which is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth, reaching maturity in four months. Hempcrete absorbs so much carbon during its rapid growth that more CO₂ is locked up in a hempcrete wall than is used to build it.

Kedibone Tsiloane, founder of Ramtsilo Manufacturing and Construction, began prototyping the use of plastic in brickmaking in 2016 and formally went into market in 2019. And on page 64, we have a closer look at the ecobrick, an empty PET bottled filled with single-use plastic that is used in sustainable construction.

Legaro Medical Centre, Melrose North, aims to be the most sustainable building in Africa with the highest 6-Star Green Star rating possible. The rating will include net-zero carbon and net-zero water certification.

A highly energy-efficient building that uses its remaining energy from a renewable energy source, so that there are zero-net carbon emissions on an annual basis is termed net-zero carbon. Do not miss our showcase of GBCSA net-zero carbon certified projects.

The GBCSA defines a net-zero water building as one “designed, constructed and operated to greatly reduce total water consumption and then use harvested, recycled and reused water such that the amount of water consumed is the same as the amount of water produced”.

Vleihuis Residential Development in Linden, Johannesburg, is set in a landscape traditionally dominated by wetland. Restoring the indigenous wetland ecology of the site was the starting point for “reversing local extinction through sustainable architecture.” The wetlands provide evaporative cooling of around 2°C to surrounding air temperature – the change projected due to climate change – so this created landscape will provide resilience of the design for the future.

The Existing Building Performance (EBP) tool focuses on the operational phase of a building lifecycle, realising that energy efficiency and sustainability is about the journey to better performance. The tool rewards energy and water monitoring initiatives in office buildings as well as the adoption of sustainability focused management policies.

A major component (40%) of the EBP certification is energy and water benchmarking. Project teams seeking certification for their office buildings must make use of the Energy Water Performance (EWP) tool. Other ways to measure energy and water compliance paths are available within the EBP tool for other building types. The EWP water score informs the future-proofing strategy for a building recognising that water security will face significant pressure in the imminent years. +Impact uncovers the EBP tool.

The investment to create high-performance buildings is significant. Often, particularly skilled facilities managers are challenged with working as waste-free as possible and are required to meet ESG targets that are being set at group level. Today a successful facilities manager is key to ensuring a fuss-free green operating environment that retains tenants for longer while ensuring the building becomes increasingly valuable.

The theme for the 15th Green Building Convention – The RE-Generation – is aimed at “shifting years” and is focused on the regeneration needed in the built environment in this decade of accelerated climate action. It is about building a RE-Generation of people that move beyond sustainability to building regeneratively towards transforming the built environment for people and planet to thrive. Make a positive impact and be there.

Let’s thrive, let’s net that zero!
Alexis Knipe