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Setting new sustainability standards

Jul 25, 2019 | Featured, Property News

Water shortages and rising energy bills are driving the nationwide demand for sustainable property. We look at how green intitiatives in this sector are setting up SA for a brighter future

WORDS: MIRIAM MANNAK :: PHOTOS: SUPPLIED :: CONTENT PROVIDED BY BUSINESS DAY HOMEFRONT 

SA’s property sector is becoming greener every year. According to the 2018 World Green Building Trends report, the number of developers belonging to the Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA) rose from 31% to 51% between 2015 and 2018. This will likely translate into more green developments, including residential projects.

The report shows that by 2021, 48% of South African developers will dedicate 60% of their projects to green endeavours – up from 28% in 2015.

Various elements are driving the market, including the increasing cost of water and energy and their declining availability.

“Water shortages and loadshedding make resource-efficient homes increasingly attractive,” says Anthony Stroebel, GBCSA board member and head of strategy for the Pam Golding Property Group. “Properties listed with green attributes such as recycling, energy efficiency and water saving features receive considerable attention.”

“Water shortages and load shedding make resource-efficient homes increasingly attractive” Anthony Stroebel, head of strategy, Pam Golding Property Group

NEW AWARENESS

Sustainability is about more than keeping your utility bills low and safeguarding your water and electricity supply. SA’s property industry is driven by increasing awareness around environmental issues such as climate change. “Homeowners, tenants and investors want to know what is being done to reduce the impact on the environment,” says Amdec Property Development MD Nicholas Stopforth.

Grahame Cruickshanks, the GBCSA’s managing executive of market engagement, confirms growing environmental awareness among South Africans, particularly regarding the impact of their lifestyles. “This is influencing the decisions they make about the homes they want to live in.”

The GBCSA’s independently verified certification systems, Edge and Green Star SA, offer consumers peace of mind by providing a reliable measurement of their homes’ environmental performance. Jessica Hofmeyr, Century Property Developments sales, rentals, marketing and operations executive, shares Cruickshanks’ opinion. “People are more educated on the subject, and sustainability is becoming a deciding factor on where they stay,” she says. “The demand grows by the day.”

“Homeowners, tenants and investors want to know what is being done to reduce the impact on the environment” Nicholas Stopforth, MD, Amdec Property Development

RESILIENT DESIGN

What makes a home, apartment or entire residential development sustainable starts with how it is built, says Cruickshanks.

“Many developers are using the best practice approach to designing a building’s envelope – walls, floor, and roof – appropriately for the region, taking into account specific elements such as insulation, correctly sized and oriented windows and doors, shading, as well as building materials with the correct thermal mass. This is the ability to store and release heat at different times of the day,” he says. “Technology is added to enhance a building’s performance.”

Green architect David Talbot, founder of multidisciplinary consultancy Platform, explains that it all boils down to resilient design, which is defined as the intentional planning of buildings, landscapes, communities and regions in response to vulnerabilities to disaster and disruption of normal life.

“Resilient design has become a genuine trend among developers and architects, one that helps occupants deal with Eskom and water outages,” Talbot says. “Individual homeowners are looking at this more and more, too. It is almost a fundamental requirement and no longer a nice-to-have.”

WATER-WISER

In arid SA, water is a big issue, particularly from a property development point of view. As the effects of water constraints are becoming more palpable around the country, more developers are going the extra mile to save every drop. Simply installing rainwater tanks is no longer enough.

“We have implemented systems that detect water leaks immediately, and our latest developments such as The Precinct within the Waterfall Area, The Parks in Riversands and The Campus in Auckland Park have grey-water systems in place,” says Hofmeyr.

Amdec Property Development, too, has upped its water-efficiency offering. It has fitted its most recent development, The Yacht Club in Cape Town, with a reverse osmosis plant that provides 35,000 litres of clean drinking water every day, taking it off the municipal water grid completely. Amdec’s future Harbour Arch development will be equally water-wise. “With water scarcity being the new normal, developers must implement waterwise strategies from the ground up,” Stopforth says.

CLEVER LANDSCAPING

When looking at lowering a development’s water footprint, the role of landscaping cannot be ignored. This goes beyond planting water-wise vegetation. Val de Vie in Paarl, for instance, has implemented innovative irrigation technology interventions that have decreased its Pearl Valley Golf Course’s irrigation footprint by a third over the past summer season.

The type of paving can also help residential developments be more sustainable. At Century City in Cape Town, Rabie Property Group is doing its bit by, where possible, having storm water running into the ground instead of draining off hard surfaces and roads.

“This assists with the natural regeneration of the water table within developments,” says Rabie’s director, John Chapman.

“By designing your development’s landscape in a certain way, you can also capture storm water in retention ponds,” adds Talbot. “Municipalities are encouraging civil engineers and developers to build such ponds in their developments’s landscaping to retain and store excess rainwater, which can be used for irrigation or even to flush toilets.”

WASTE NOTHING

Another trend among developers is to reduce their projects’ waste output. According to Talbot, the construction phase of property developments tends to generate a lot of waste that often goes to landfill. Fortunately this is starting to change, thanks to new legislation.

The City of Cape Town has implemented rules that prescribe that waste management plans have to be submitted along with building plans. This is pushing contractors to recycle more waste rather than send it to landfill,” Talbot says.

Innovative building techniques that produce less waste than when using bricks and mortar are also gaining traction. Crosslaminated timber (CLT) construction, for example, involves the use of large prefabricated sustainably produced wooden panels to build walls, roofs and floors. According to Talbot, the environmental impact of CLT is lower than that of many conventional building methods. “Bricks, for instance, need to be fired, which uses a lot of energy. In Europe CLT is even used to build multistorey buildings.”

MORE THAN SOLAR

Energy efficiency has always been a key driver of the green building sector in SA – one that more property developers are now taking to the next level. Solar panels alone no longer suffice.

“From an energy-efficiency perspective, we focus on LED lighting, better façade design, double glazing and other efficiency measures,” says Amdec investment manager Antonie Jordaan.

In addition, Rabie Property Group accommodates solar panels where possible and installs heat pumps instead of geysers across its projects.

“We aim for designs that introduce the maximum amount of natural light to reduce the requirement for artificial lighting,” says Chapman. “This, along with energy-efficient glazing, reduces heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter, thereby decreasing a building’s electricity usage and lowering its carbon footprint.”

While there is a price tag attached to these solutions, the investment certainly is worth it, Chapman adds.

“Harvesting energy from the sun and using long-life LEDs reduce the running costs over the long-term life cycle of a development.”

“We aim for designs that introduce the maximum amount of natural light to reduce the requirement for artificial lighting” John Chapman, director, Rabie Property Group

RETROFITTING

As the number of green developments grows, more homeowners retrofit their existing homes. This also applies to developers like Century Property Developments, which constantly re-evaluates its plans from a sustainability point of view. “We have built a solar plant at our Carlswald and Crowthorne luxury apartment complexes in Midrand,” Hofmeyr says. “Both complexes feature new water-management technology that allows us to monitor the amount of water used. We have installed rainwater catchment systems too.”

Talbot confirms the popularity of retrofitting, adding that it is not limited to residential projects. “Big funds like Growthpoint are retrofitting their existing spaces with green building technologies and having them rated.”

GREEN STAR BUILDINGS

  • Fourleaf Estate, Port Elizabeth Africa’s first residential development to receive the GBCSA’s Edge final certification, this property is up to 29% more energy efficient and 25% more water efficient than the average regular home.
  • 78 Corlett Drive, Johannesburg This office development by Legaro Properties was the highest-rated green building in the country in 2018, and got six stars from Green Star SA. The design incorporates minimalist geometries, with louvres serving as a passive shading device.
  • 32 Napier, Cape Town Situated in De Waterkant, 32 Napier’s energy efficiency, ecofriendly building materials and various water-wise interventions have garnered it Green Star SA Multi-Unit Residential certification with a four-star rating.

GREEN ESTATE RULES

Before investing in an estate, first establish its sustainability profile in a high risk environment, says Louise Martin of Estate Living. Though it has become common for new estates to follow green practices, established ones such as Arabella and Helderberg Village Estate in the Western Cape are now retrofitting their buildings by installing water treatment devices, for instance. What’s more, their homeowners association rules are reviewed regularly to keep up to date with new sustainable developments.

TOP GREEN RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS

Steyn City in Midrand has used energysaving resources in all its buildings from the outset, and thousands of indigenous trees were planted across the sprawling estate filled with birdlife and small wild animals.

Steyn City’s 3,000m2 clubhouse with its grass roofs and thriving plant life has minimal environmental impact. By involving the local Diepsloot and Cosmo City communities in the construction of the clubhouse, the estate also provided local employment.

Balwin Properties is well known for its environmentally conscious building practices, from the use of ecofriendly appliances to sustainable solarsupplemented electricity.

Its Kikuyu and The Whisken developments are some of the first in SA to bring more economical and cleaner energy to residents through the introduction of solar energy. CEO Steve Brookes says it is a concept they are looking to roll out in future developments.

“These will be among the first Edge-certified projects to include solar PV technology, offering energy-saving benefits to residents and setting an exciting trend in green homes,” says GBCSA managing executive Grahame Cruickshanks.

Blok’s new development in Sea Point, EIGHTONN, includes a rainwater harvesting and borehole connection and filtration systems that run into water tanks kept in the basement of the building.

MD Jacques van Embden says: “This is added to the already efficient glazing, water heating and smart energy products and appliances we always include as fundamentals of a good building and home, ensuring we are working harder to create more sustainable buildings and living habits.”

Tongaat Hulett will bring a new community to life with the soon-tobe-built Ntshongweni Urban Development. This mixed-use precinct is expected to set into motion socioeconomic transformation for the N3 highway area and surrounds. Environmentally sustainable, peoplecentric and strategically located, the innovative design will support the site’s ecology and provide for needs of the people who use it.

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