Green’ buildings are value for money

PROPERTY developers who opt for the more expensive “green building” approach may produce longer-term savings by reducing the strain on electricity infrastructure, says Swish Property Group CEO Giancarlo Lanfranchi. Swish, together with listed property stocks Madison and Redefine Income Fund, is working on a green mixed-use development in Cape Town called Upper East Side.

Lanfranchi says electricity “load-shedding” problems in SA contribute to interest in green building concepts.

“The electrical and sewerage infrastructure is under strain in SA. We need to ensure that we don’t place more pressure on these systems, so we tackle the problem at the source by creating tools within the building to deal with alternative uses for waste and conservation of electricity.”

He says there is a global trend towards green developments, with many large companies choosing green buildings over more conventional types for their office space. This is encouraging the proliferation of “green” buildings around the world.

Lanfranchi says the energy giant BP is a typical example of such a large company. “They (BP) will insist on office space that is energy efficient.”

Closer to home, the second phase of the Upper East Side development in Cape Town’s Woodstock area is being launched this month, after the successful sale of the first phase.

The entire development, which will have a total area of 50000m², will consist of residential studios, loft apartments, office space, as well as shops.

Lanfranchi says that as far as the group is aware, it is SA’s first “green” mixed-use development.

“Not only are we offering the benefit of reduced traffic congestion ... but the entire development is dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of residents.”

He says it is much more expensive to develop an environmentally friendly building “up front” but that there are savings in the long term. He also says many property companies are “more interested in green buildings because of the fashion attachment”.

“It is becoming trendy (to develop green buildings), but can they turn the building around?”

Lanfranchi says that in Upper East Side, one way that energy is conserved is through the central air conditioning system.

The wasted energy from the air conditioning system produces hot air, which is then captured and piped into a central hot water cylinder that heats water to a certain temperature. This means only a small amount of separate energy will be required to ensure the water that comes out of the building’s water taps is hot.

In conventional buildings, this hot air goes to waste.

Also in conventional buildings, every apartment has a separate geyser, but in Upper East Side there is only one central hot water cylinder, which serves all the apartments and “uses a lot less energy overall”.

“It saves on electricity costs and ultimately occupancy costs. If more developers became more conscious about electricity savings and incorporating methodologies to save electricity, it would reduce power failures and the strain on infrastructure.”

He says Eskom has also launched a R2bn fund to subsidise “green” building efforts, which could be an additional incentive for developers to opt for “green” approaches.

Lanfranchi says the “whole nature” of mixed-use schemes reduces the “carbon footprint”. The schemes also reduce the strain on infrastructure because they encourage people to live, work and play all in the same area. But he says local authorities need to emphasise and encourage mixed-use developments, identify precincts and call on developers to help create integrated mixed-use developments.

Another area of focus for developers should be the use of solar heating. Lanfranchi says this is not being used enough, especially in Gauteng, where there is a lot of sunshine.

“One day of sunshine can give you up to four hours of additional lighting in building common areas, ” he says.

Chris Renecle, MD of commercial and residential property developer Renprop, says local authorities and Eskom also have to “look at incentivising developers to go the energy-saving route on building”.

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