Formation of a Green Building Council for South Africa

At the recent SAPOA Convention held in Sun City and attended by over a thousand delegates from across the property industry, SAPOA President Alex Phakethi announced SAPOA’s support for the establishment of a Green Building Council (GBC) in South Africa.

The initiative is being facilitated by Bruce Kerswill, managing director of Spire Property Management, who says that the GBC will be a non-profit organisation that promotes green building in SA. “It will provide a hub for information on green building, offer training and accreditation, and set the benchmarks and standards that are necessary in order to rate whether a building is considered ‘green’ or not.”

According to Kerswill, a green building is one that is energy-efficient, resource-efficient and environmentally friendly. “A green building should consume less than half the energy that a conventional building does, with similar reductions in potable water usage, runoff to sewer, and solid waste disposal. As the building sector is estimated to consume over 40% to 50% of the world’s energy, green building can have a really significant impact on containing CO2 levels, which create global warming.”

Kerswill adds that green buildings are becoming the norm overseas. “Developers and owners are realising that there is value in green buildings. They do not necessarily have to cost more than a conventional building, but have significantly lower operating costs. They also create a healthier working environment, and tenants are prepared to pay a premium to be in a green building.”

“There is a ‘menu’ of different components that go in to a building to make it green. This starts with careful design, orientation, shading and screening to moderate heat loads on a building, which reduces requirements for cooling and lowers energy consumption significantly. Similarly, maximum use is made of natural light rather than artificial light, reducing energy demands. Ultra energy-efficient light fittings and air-conditioning systems are used, with ‘smart system’ sensors that pick up changes in temperature or light, and switch air-conditioning or lighting on only when it is needed. Cooling generally involves much greater quantities of fresh air being used for ventilation. Much can be achieved through careful upfront design, which costs nothing, without any of the technology that people tend to associate with green buildings.”

“Other measures include using products made from renewable resources or recycled materials, and limiting the use of toxic products or products which have consumed large amounts of energy in their manufacture (so-called ‘embodied energy’),” says Kerswill.

“Water efficient fixtures such as low-flow taps, dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals are virtually becoming standard, while rainwater collection and greywater systems may be used. The ‘cherry on the top’ is renewable energy sources such as solar, photovoltaic panels and wind energy.”

According to Kerswill, a building can range from being ‘slightly green’ to ‘very green’, and one of the main objectives of the GBC will be to develop a rating system that will set the standards and benchmarks which will provide an objective assessment of how efficient a building is.

“The GBC will represent the property industry across the board, including owners, developers, managers, professionals, suppliers, government and research institutes. It will have its own independent board and staff, and will seek affiliation with the World Green Building Council, which provides assistance and sets standards on a worldwide basis.”

Kerswill notes that the response to the announcement has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. “I believe the property industry is ready for this – we are a long way behind the rest of the world – and it is going to spread very quickly.”

People who would like to participate in the GBC, or who would like information on green building, can e-mail “We hope to start getting people in place during the month of June, who can start offering assistance and deal with queries.”

SAPOA Chief Executive Neil Gopal, who, along with Kerswill, attended the Green Building Council of Australia’s annual Green Cities conference in February, for preliminary talks on the way forward in this country, stated that the establishment of the GBC was a move that will bring the country’s commercial and industrial property industry in line with global environmental practice.

Gopal said that the mission of the Green Building Council is to promote and encourage environmentally sustainable practices in the South African property industry through market-driven solutions. “The SAPOA board fully supports the establishment of the GBC. As an industry, we need to start thinking seriously about the environmental impact of developments – we need to think green concepts within development plans in advance of government regulations, and we must ensure that the government alone does not set the regulations.”

“The GBC’s objective is to support and educate the commercial and industrial property sector in thinking green. The South African GBC will work closely with the World Green Building Council, as well as with its counterparts in Australia, New Zealand and other countries.”

Issued by: Catherine Pate
082 922 1737

On behalf of: Spire Property Management
Contact: Bruce Kerswill, Managing Director
(021) 685 4020
083 409 7058