“Many green building practices are simple, financially accessible and beneficial for the future,” says Bruce Kerswill, executive chairman of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA,) further explaining that everyone can be a part of the green building movement – in their own homes and workplaces, new and already built – not only architects, developers, construction companies and property managers can make a difference, but you can too.
“Going green isn’t expensive – neither in terms of short-term financial output, such as for materials, nor for long-term benefits where environmentally sound practices inherent in green design result in lower energy and water bills, as well as other operating and maintenance costs.”
So how and where can you start to make the change to green building?
The GBCSA offers these easy suggestions in five different areas for a basic ‘eco-retrofit’ at your office or home to create a greener environment immediately. The earth will breathe a little easier, and so will you, if you take these simple steps:
Light bulbs: Change your traditional incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs. Both use less much less energy and last much longer than other light bulbs. Also, switch off the lights in your office when you leave to go home!
Paint: Next time you paint, opt for no-VOC or low-VOC paints. They contain much less or none of the chemicals found in traditional paints. These paints don’t release chemicals into your home or office when dried, providing better indoor air quality. This also applies to furniture paints and varnishes. A reminder for those renovating – remember that in older buildings, you could come across hazardous materials such as lead-based paint – always take precautions or call professionals.
Water: Replacing your toilet? Choose a dual flush system that provides the option of a full cistern flush or partial cistern flush, which saves water. Also, installing flow restrictors in your existing taps can reduce the water you use when washing your hands and doing the dishes.
Garden: Indigenous vegetation can flourish in natural weather conditions, without additional watering. If you need to water your garden, the installation of a rainwater tank to collect rain for use on the garden can reduce your water bills and reduce the strain on our reservoirs.
Heating: To save money and energy heating your home or office this winter, install seals around your windows and doors to stop the heat being sucked out and uncomfortable drafts!
The environmental, social and economic benefits of green building are all compelling.
Add health rewards, and sustainable building becomes impossible to ignore.
Buildings – including your home and office – account for over 40% of the world’s total energy consumption and produce around a third of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Green building reduces the environmental impact of building through sustainable design and construction, as well as energy- and resource-efficient materials.
A recent study by the School of Planning, Design, and Construction at Michigan State University found that a green-certified work habitat meant a 60% decrease in allergies and asthma in staff, and a 30% drop in absenteeism resulting from depression and stress. Greater access to daylight was a major factor, because it cuts the need for artificial lighting, and also makes the environment more welcoming and attractive.
Source: Green Building Council of South Africa
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SA tenants and landlords are increasingly demanding ’green leases,’ according to recent research conducted by the Green Building Council of South Africa(GBCSA) and to the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA).
Bruce Kerswill, Executive Chair of the GBCSA , says a green lease lays out certain contractual lease obligations between a landlord and a tenant of a building that require or encourage the adoption of environmentally friendly practices.
“Although green leases are rapidly becoming the norm in countries such as Australia and the United States, they are a relatively new concept in South Africa. The GBCSA is working with SAPOA to develop a Guide to Green Leasing with recommendations and guidelines that will allow owners and occupiers of buildings to establish green leases.”
Why a green lease?
Tenants are increasingly demanding green buildings as they provide a healthier and more productive indoor environment.
They also reduce the consumption of energy and other resources, which is becoming more and more important.
The green lease can be used by tenants to ensure the space meets these requirements. From the landlord’s side, if tenants don’t buy in to the concept of a green building, their behaviour can defeat the purpose of the building – especially in areas like energy usage, recycling schemes, etc.
According to Kerswill, rapidly increasing interest in green buildings is leading to developers building sophisticated Green Star SA-rated buildings which improve performance and access a range of environmental indicators –and Green Leases, which set out the responsibilities of each party, are a way of measuring this performance and dealing with cost issues, and therefore make sense in such buildings. “A Green Lease can ensure that a building that is designed to be sustainable is operated in a sustainable way.”
“What’s more, property owners will be under pressure to improve the energy performance of their buildings as more and more SA tenants want to lower their energy costs as well as reduce their carbon footprints. Green Leases are also being seen as a way of attracting tenants: Nearly 80% of our waking time is spent at work and there are indications that “green” buildings are better for overall health, wellbeing and productivity. Corporates are also seeing green buildings as a way of attracting high-level staff.”
“Green buildings offering green leases will ultimately attract and retain tenants for longer and at optimal rentals. Additionally, green leases can ensure that tenants and landlords both benefit from the cumulative reduction in operating expenses of a green building. Accordingly, green leases are generally collaborative, with both parties committing to certain obligations,” says Kerswill.
“The GBCSA recognised the need for a new approach to leasing already in 2009 by introducing the ‘Green Lease’ credit in the Green Star SA – Retail Centre tool (a tool which facilitates the rating of a new green building) which incentivises and rewards property owners that draw up a green lease with their tenants.”
What is in a green lease?
Examples of a landlords’ obligations as contained in a green lease may be:
to meter the energy and water consumption of each tenant separately;
to provide certified evidence that all building elements and systems are installed and operated with
to prohibit the use of CFCs in air conditioning systems;
to ensure dedicated recycling facilities are easily accessible;
to monitor and adjust air conditioning levels to reduce energy use
and to provide appropriate numbers of bicycle storage and changing rooms.”
Examples of a tenants ‘obligations might include:
monitoring good levels of indoor air quality and ventilation efficiency;
ensuring their offices fit-out avoids the use of toxic materials, uses recycled materials and energy
efficient office equipment
that they recycle in accordance with the buildings waste management and recycling policy.
Other examples may be for landlords and tenants to mutually establish an environmentally friendly purchasing policy covering ongoing consumables, such as paper, office supplies, printer cartridges, and other low-cost items that are regularly used and replaced through the course of business.
The structure of a green lease is one that motivates all the parties involved to invest, operate, and work in a building in the most environmentally and socially responsible manner. All parties stand to benefit and it is vital for landlords and tenants to adopt co-operative approaches and to work together to address the issue of reducing their carbon footprint.
“The GBCSA and SAPOA are responding to demand from their members for guidance on green leasing that is practical and understandable, and so we have set up a working group of members that are jointly developing a Guide to Green Leasing. We are very excited to see the results of these efforts and anticipate an informative document that will take SA forward towards global best practice in terms of green leasing,” concludes Kerswill.
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