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Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) celebrates 15 years of driving sustainability in the built environment

‘Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) is not an organisation, but a movement.’ So says Dorah Modise, former GBCSA CEO, reflecting on its milestone 15th anniversary. Its pioneering transformation of the South African property sector since its inception has yielded significant results that have driven measurable impact not only in terms of certifications but also in training, accreditation, job creation and climate change mitigation.

Current CEO of GBCSA, Lisa Reynolds, says that in this time the organisation has reached 905 certifications in Africa, across the Green Star, Net Zero, EWP and EDGE certifications. The impact of the 905 certifications can be illustrated through the energy and water savings and carbon reductions achieved as a result of the measures required to achieve the certification. 91 500 households worth of annual energy (1320 million kWh/annum), and 1220 million litres of potable drinking water will be saved annually, which equates to 1 672 800 people’s daily drinking water needs every year. The 1590 million kgCO2/annum that will be saved equates to 395 400 cars off the roads every year in terms of kgCO2 equivalent.

“In the last year alone 165 buildings were certified which reflects the exponential growth in the adoption of more sustainable building practices – the first 50 certifications took over five years, but as the environmental and financial benefits of green building became more apparent, we saw a greater buy-in across the board and the industry as a whole has shifted. Our role in education and training is an important part of achieving this shift, and supports a just transition to low-carbon green building, ensuring the future and livelihoods of workers by creating new jobs within a green economy.”

GBCSA is one of about 70 members of the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and collaborates with Green Building Councils across the globe, enabling access to a community of experts and creating a platform for advocacy, training and certification, also catalysing a number of regulatory changes. GBCSA’s Annual Green Building Convention has become the property industry’s premier gathering of experts and leaders in the field of sustainable building.

Through the development of a host of certification tools and the training and accreditation of professionals in the field of green building, the adoption of environmentally responsible practice in the property sector has become mainstream, and the vision of being a driving force in the mitigation of climate change has become a reality. To date, 2265 professionals have been accredited through GBCSA’s training and accreditation programmes with 325 students going through the candidate programme.

In 2007, Bruce Kerswill, who is currently the Managing Director of Spire Property Group, saw the need for a body to facilitate the growth and adoption of green principles in the property sector in South Africa, where at the time, green building was the exception rather than the rule. He says: “We received much valuable support from the Australian Green Building Council and assistance with the development of South Africa’s own Green Star tool. Neil Gopal from SAPOA (South African Property Owners Association) was instrumental in our initial efforts, and Nicola Douglas as our CEO was a driving force in getting the organisation off the ground.”

The Green Star SA rating system was launched in 2008 and the first certification, of Phase Two of Nedbank’s Head Office in Sandton, Johannesburg, was awarded in 2009. The Green Star Rating and certification is a rigorous, standardised system that uses independent assessors to evaluate submissions and allocate points for the various green measures that have been implemented in a building project. Certification is awarded for 4-Star, 5-Star or 6-Star Green Star SA ratings and guarantees that businesses live up to their green building claims.

In 2011 the Energy Water Performance tool (EWP) was introduced for existing buildings, starting with office buildings. In 2014, GBCSA announced their partnership with the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, to launch the EDGE rating system, a green building certification programme for the residential property market, utilised for homes in South Africa. Net Zero certification assists building projects to completely neutralise or positively redress their impacts in carbon, water, waste and ecology.

Brian Wilkinson, GBCSA CEO from 2011- 2017, says: “I was incredibly fortunate to see a huge uptake of Green Building principles and practices by not only the commercial property industry and professionals in the built environment, but also by corporate South Africa and even ordinary home owners. The built environment offers an almost unique ability to really do something about climate change in a meaningful way, both in terms of mitigation impact as well as making commercial sense. It was inspiring to see how the early adopters saw their efforts become a competitive advantage and also how they proved to the sector that green building principles and practices were very do-able, were not significantly more expensive and that the skills and products were absolutely available. It was not long before green building became the norm – to the point where the uptake in formal certifications increased exponentially.”

Former CEO Dorah Modise says: “Being at the helm of the GBCSA from 2017 to 2020 and prior to that as a non-executive Director since 2009, meant that I was able to observe and be in the middle of its fast-paced growth. The level of ambition in transforming the built environment has always meant we were punching above our own weight – at times in the scariest possible ways, but the movement always emerges victorious.”

Grahame Cruickshanks is  Head of Sustainability and Utilities at Growthpoint Properties, a founding member of the GBCSA that has led the way in implementing green building practices: “The biggest impact of GBCSA is the introduction of green building as an active movement in the South African private and public property sector. The introduction of 3rd party verified certification systems to ensure the legitimacy of green building initiatives has provided benchmarks and targets for the South African property sector and achieved continuity for the green building movement.”

Reynolds says that the work of GBCSA has been driven by many partnerships in the public and private sectors and collaboration is crucial to its continued success: “Support from government bodies, the private sector roleplayers and institutions driving sustainability efforts, remains one of the cornerstones of our programmes and we look forward to growing these important relationships in order to extend the green building economy.”

Manfred Braune, Director of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Cape Town, says: “To have established a national standard for green buildings that are aligned with international best practice for green buildings, through which hundreds (close to a thousand) of buildings have been certified, is incredible, and a fantastic achievement for the first 15 years. GBCSA has also trained hundreds of people on green buildings, transforming people and equipping them to design, construct and operate green buildings.”

Jutta Berns, Founder and Director at Ecocentric, says: “The GBCSA has been the green property industry’s most significant trailblazer and advocate – indeed, without the GBCSA holding and consistently driving the narrative in South Africa and on the continent, we would not be where we are now, where green buildings are not only commonplace but becoming standard practice.

“We now have a shared vision and a shared language that straddles the interests of the investor, developer, designer, operator and construction community, which is essential in harnessing the opportunities that the green property sector offers in reversing climate change. Another key achievement is that we as green building professionals have managed to create an entirely new industry and are able to bring along others on the path to ensuring that all jobs are climate jobs. This is market transformation.”

Kerswill reflects on the GBCSA legacy: “For me, the Convention is one of the most important and most enjoyable of GBCSA’s activities – it inspires the industry, promotes networking with local and global leaders and shares technical knowledge. The training courses are also inspiring – running through the different categories and the multitude of interventions that can be made to achieve a really significant environmental impact. I’m extremely proud of GBCSA and what it has achieved – and the fact that it has reached 15 years and is still going stronger than ever. I believe there are few other organisations that have such a direct, practical and extensive impact on climate change and so many aspects of sustainability.”

The Annual Green Building Convention takes place in Cape Town at the Century City Conference Centre and Virtually, from 2-4 November.

For further information visit: www.gbcsa.org.za

Individual Membership

Designed for professionals acting in their individual capacity, including single consultant-businesses.

Organisational Membership

Ideal for companies, government departments, and organisations.

  • Total Employees: 1 - 5 Employees - R 4080.00
  • Total Employees: 6 - 20 Employees - R 12570.00
  • Total Employees: 21 - 50 Employees - R 24690.00
  • Total Employees: 51 Plus Employees - R 43840.00

Lisa Reynolds

Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director

Lisa Reynolds is the CEO of the Green Building Council South Africa.

Lisa was the driver for the drafting of Energy Efficiency Standards and Regulations for Buildings and has been involved in Energy Efficiency since 2003. She serves on many committees in the SABS and within the energy management professionals’ space. She was President of the SAEEC from 2016 to 2019 and was the previous President of the ESCo (Energy Services Companies) Association. Lisa was instrumental in the formation of SAFEE (Southern African Females in Energy Efficiency) within SAEEC.

She has assisted the South African Government with its Green Building Framework policies, Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives and Energy Efficiency Strategies

Her passion for the “Green space” started with the birth of the Green Building Council in 2007. Lisa served on the Board and the Technical Committee of the GBCSA, as well as on several Technical Working Groups for Rating Tools and Criteria. Lisa. became CEO in June 2020.

Lisa has a BSc, an MBA and a CEM. Lisa’s awards include the 2007 ETA Award for Women, 2008 Individual Energy (SAEE), 2012 SABS Standards Writer Award; the 2014 Women in Energy (SAWIEN); and the 2016 Ian Lane Hall of Fame award.

Lisa is committed to growing the Green Economy within a Green Recovery.

Organisational categories

As an organisational member, you will fall into one of the below categories, and be charged according to specific size indicators. Please reach out to us for any further clarity on which category is best for your organisation

Property Developers

Annual Turnover

Investors, Owners, Property Managers

Total Asset Value

Major Corporate Tenants & Retail

Annual Gross Rentals

Building Contractors

Annual Turnover

Building Product Manufacturers & Distributors

Annual Turnover

Professional Services: Architects, Designers, Engineers, Quantity Surveyors, PM’s, Consultants, Legal

Number of employees

Research, Higher Education, NGO’S & Regulators

NGO or Research/Higher Education/ Regulators

Related Interests: Utilities, Financial, Insurance, etc.

Annual Turnover

Government

Local/ municipal/ provincial/ state 
Contact GBCSA to confirm your category