Green buildings save businesses cash
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Energy efficient buildings save companies money and make for happier tenants, heard a meeting of environmentalists and businesses in Cape Town this week.
The meeting was called by Accelerate Cape Town, a business think tank aimed at developing and implementing long-term economic growth plans in the city. The meeting was held on Wednesday.
Business leaders heard that one “has to be ruthless about getting your building green”.
Andre Harms, an environmental consultant from Ecolution, said they were presently wrapping up Hotel Verde near Cape Town International Airport. It is to be “Africa’s greenest hotel” and will launch in August.
Harms said they built natural ventilation, will recycle water as well as create energy via solar panels and wind turbines to bring down electricity costs. The hotel’s gym equipment has also been designed to generate electricity for the hotel.
“We believe that waste has value. We have a zero waste to landfill goal. When we approach partners or suppliers we look at how we can cut down on packaging,” said Harms.
“Green notes will be visible to guests throughout the hotel. On Friday evenings we will switch off essential lighting and use candles in the hotel. We use rainwater to wash cars.”
Harms said there is “return on investment when building green”.
“It brings down your operational costs. We are spending 14,5% more than conventional building. But a green building can bring down energy costs by 75%,” he said.
Sarah Rushmere, from the non-profit Green Building Council of South Africa established in 2007, said more construction sites were working on sustainable building plans.
“This used to be something that very few people talked about. We want to transform this and lead the property sector to greater environmental sustainability. We developed a range of tools for existing buildings,” said Rushmere.
She said implementing environmentally friendly building solutions was not the reserve of new buildings only.
“There is a lot that can be achieved with retrofitting. There are 1,000 buildings in the CBD and these can be retrofitted with sustainability in mind,” she said.
These buildings could for example replace ventilation systems or add water saving mechanisms.
“There’s value in green building. The value of the property increases because it is built with sustainability in mind. One does not want a building that will become obsolete in future. It has to be energy efficient. Tenants are also happier because their energy costs are lower,” said Rushmere.
Another speaker at the meeting talked about a website that lists local building materials that have been verified to be environmentally friendly. Products include toxic free paints and whether a product will affect the environment throughout its life cycle.
Cape Town will meanwhile host the sixth annual Green Building Convention from October 16 to 18. It will be the first time that this event is held in Africa. It is described as the “largest international network influencing the green building marketplace”.