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2016: another great year for the GBCSA

Despite 2016 being the year that everyone believes was directed by Quentin Tarantino because it’s been such an awful year, it was a really good year for us at the GBCSA. We made the big trek north, first moving our “forward facing” functions to Gauteng, opening offices in the fabulous six star WWF building in Braamfontein and finally hosting our annual convention at Sandton City for the first time.

Other wonderful achievements this year include the release of the inaugural Green Building in South Africa: Guide to Costs and Trends Report, compiled in conjunction with the Association of SA Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) and the University of Pretoria (UP), which found that the average cost premium of building green over and above the cost of conventional construction is just 5.0% and can be as low as 1.1%. We must of course remember that this was based on projects to the end of 2014 – we all know that there was probably an element of “early adopter” premium included in this early projects and that, as the experience curve starts taking effect, costs will inevitably come down.

I have always maintained that the “green” decision, implemented effectively, shouldn’t attract any premium! These findings, together with the joint MSCI/GBCSA Sustainability Index continue to show that in South Africa green buildings yield a higher return on investment, make a very strong business case for green buildings to developers, property owners and corporates. Our partners at the World Green Building Council also released some interesting research findings this year: the Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices report found that green offices that keep staff healthy and happy are improving productivity and boosting businesses’ bottom line.

One of our most significant partners in the public sector, the City of Tshwane, was selected as one of only four cities globally to work with their green building council under the World Resources Institute-led Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) to double the rate of energy efficiency by 2030. The City of Tshwane joins the mayors and staff in the cities of Bogota, Dubai and Warsaw to dramatically ramp up energy efficiency within buildings in these cities.

We also reached two milestones in terms of certifications this year: apart from playing a key role in taking the green building movement into Africa, with four certifications outside our borders so far, in September this year, we celebrated the major milestone of 200 certifications in the South African commercial property sector, 45 of which were existing buildings. From just one certification in 2009, we reached 100 certifications in May 2015 – six years later – and it took us just 17 months to certify the next 100. This means one thing: that green building is growing exponentially in SA.

To put this achievement into perspective, it means that there are over 2.8 million square metres of green certified space in SA – or the equivalent of 400 rugby fields. These spaces achieve the combined annual savings of 280 million kilowatt hours of electricity – the equivalent of powering a massive 19,500 households for a year and save a total of 366 million kilograms of carbon emissions – the same as taking 84,000 cars off the roads each year. Importantly in our water-scarce country with its various challenges, those 200 buildings save 260 million litres of drinking water, which equates to the water requirements of nearly 100 million people per day for an entire year.

And that’s just in the commercial sector. From just one rating tool in 2008, the GBCSA now operates ten rating tools, which address buildings across all sectors. In the residential sector, we have been selected as the IFC’s partner in South Africa to launch and operate the EDGE residential tool. With this tool, 13 projects have either been registered or initiated, representing more than 8000 homes, which is phenomenal given that the tool was only launched in 2015. We also offer the GSSA Multi Unit Residential Tool which is highly sought after by mid to high end residential developments that are seeking credible validation of their green building credentials and we have launched the #BringChangeHome toolkit, in order to drive awareness of green building in the consumer market.

We’ve also made great strides in the public sector. After signing an agreement with SALGA in September last year, which means that all 278 municipalities in the country are now GBCSA members, we set to work greening SA’s eight metros, 44 districts and 226 local municipalities: The City of Johannesburg and Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have signed Statements of Commitment to work closely with the GBCSA; the Department of Economic Development, PIC and CoJ have completed GBCSA Economics of Green Building Courses; and the GBCSA has delivered bespoke courses in collaboration with ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). Plus we have certified 13 buildings owned by national, provincial and local government and state-owned enterprises.

We have also trained a total of 9000 property professionals since our inception in 2008 – 1400 of which were trained in 2016 alone. We are very proud that our education offering is gaining momentum: 60% more AP’s were trained in 2015 than in 2014.

So where to from here? As you may know, the GBCSA committed at COP21 in Paris last year to work towards high-level transformation in the local built environment. Our 2020 pledge outlines the following ambitious but achievable targets by 2020:

• 2,500 commercial green building certifications, representing around 10 million square metres of gross building area
• 10,000 residential green building certified homes
• 12,000 professionals in green building principles and practices
• 10% of applicable local government staff trained to drive greening and sustainability in local government;
• Introduce a net zero building certification scheme to drive leadership and innovation in the green building space.

We will also secure statements of commitment in respect of green building principles and practices from the leading and largest property owners in South Africa; and continue to assist fellow African countries to establish and capacitate GBCs by providing support with rating tools, training, and advocacy, with a target of five more established African Green Building Councils by that year.

Under my leadership, I know that the GBCSA has taken great strides forward and is now leading the movement in South Africa to inspire you to design, build and operate properties in a manner in which people and planet thrive. I’ll be handing the reins over in February next year to my fabulous successor, Dorah Modise, to guide the organisation though its next chapter. Apart from the targets we have set for four short years hence, the GBCSA’s focus will be on sustainability in the public sector, developing green buildings at scale and building sustainable communities – all of which align perfectly with Dorah’s particular skill set and experience.

So it is a bittersweet moment for me to bid you a final festive farewell as CEO of the GBCSA. I am moving onto new challenges, but my experiences and time at the GBCSA will always remain with me and shape my decisions and behavior going forward. I know that the GBCSA is in good hands and I look forward to watching it lead South Africa – and indeed the rest of Africa – to a greener, brighter future.

Happy holidays to you and your family and I wish you well for 2017 and beyond.

Kind regards
Brian Wilkinson

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