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What is a Green Building?

The World Green Building Council defines green building as follows: 

A green building is a building that, in its design, construction, or operation reduces or eliminates negative impact and can create positive impacts on our climate and natural environment. They preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.

In simple terms: 

Green buildings are purposefully designed to benefit both the environment and the people who inhabit them. These structures prioritise energy efficiency, resource conservation, and the use of eco-friendly and sustainable materials. They are also commonly referred to as high-performance buildings because their design pursues excellence in various aspects, such as the building’s economic viability, functionality, longevity, resilience, and occupant comfort. A green building can be at any scale, from a high-performance high-rise to a sustainable single-family home.

Green buildings embody the principles of sustainable development, prioritising the present while safeguarding the future.

What makes a Green Building?

Energy
Aims to reduce overall energy consumption from centralised energy generation, without decreasing building functionality. This results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Water
Aims to reduce overall water used by a project, and make sure that different water needs are supplied by sensible sources, such as efficient re-use and rainwater harvesting for non-potable requirements. Reducing the use of potable water can be achieved through the design of efficient systems, rainwater collection and water reuse.
Materials
Green materials used for green buildings are sourced as locally and ethically as possible, used and re-used efficiently and have low embodied carbon, while still performing excellently as construction components.
Innovation
Green Innovation writes the sustainability script of the future. This is about implementing new techniques and technologies, and reaching new heights of industry best-practice.
Emissions
Green emissions control recognises that both new and existing buildings are responsible for significant contributions to climate change and pollution, through the greenhouse gases and other contaminants they release. Green emissions control seeks to reduce that contribution as much as possible, to do the least harm.
Socio-Economic
Greening is for everyone, and sustainable projects are ultimately projects that benefit people. The Socio-Economic lens for green building is about improving some element of the socio-economic conditions around, or in some way connected to a project.
Transport

Green buildings connect building users to public and mass transport easily, and support walking, cycling, and other types of movement that don’t use fossil fuels, to reduce emissions from vehicle use. 

Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ)
Encourage the well-being of the occupants through addressing heating, cooling, lighting and indoor air pollutants. They are a comfortable temperature, well-lit, with daylight where possible, and well ventilated.
Management
Promotes the adoption of environmental principles from project inception, through design and construction, right through to the ongoing operation of the building. This also applies to the users and how they interact with the building.
Land Use & Ecology
Promote initiatives that improve or reduce the building’s impact on ecological systems and biodiversity.

Materials

Green materials used for green buildings are sourced as locally and ethically as possible, used and re-used efficiently and have low embodied carbon, while still performing excellently as construction components.

Water

Aims to reduce overall water used by a project, and make sure that different water needs are supplied by sensible sources, such as efficient re-use and rainwater harvesting for non-potable requirements. Reducing the use of potable water can be achieved through the design of efficient systems, rainwater collection and water reuse.

Innovation

Green Innovation writes the sustainability script of the future. This is about implementing new techniques and technologies, and reaching new heights of industry best-practice.

Indoor Environment
Quality (IEQ)

Encourage the well-being of the occupants through addressing heating, cooling, lighting and indoor air pollutants. They are a comfortable temperature, well-lit, with daylight where possible, and well ventilated.

Energy

Aims to reduce overall energy consumption from centralised energy generation, without decreasing building functionality. This results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Socio-Economic

Greening is for everyone, and sustainable projects are ultimately projects that benefit people. The Socio-Economic lens for green building is about improving some element of the socio-economic conditions around, or in some way connected to a project.

Emissions

Green emissions control recognises that both new and existing buildings are responsible for significant contributions to climate change and pollution, through the greenhouse gases and other contaminants they release. Green emissions control seeks to reduce that contribution as much as possible, to do the least harm.

Land Use & Ecology

Promote initiatives that improve or reduce the building’s impact on ecological systems and biodiversity.

 

Management

Promotes the adoption of environmental principles from project inception, through design and construction, right through to the ongoing operation of the building. This also applies to the users and how they interact with the building.

Transport

Connects building users to public and mass transport easily, and supports walking, cycling and other types of movement that don’t use fossil fuels, to reduce emissions from private vehicle use.

A green building is characterised by:

High energy efficiency

Green buildings are designed to minimise energy consumption by incorporating features like advanced insulation, and energy-efficient systems for lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. This not only reduces energy bills but also lessens the carbon footprint. Some include renewable energy sources like solar panels, further lowering their impact on the environment.

Efficient resource utilisation

These buildings make efficient use of resources, both during construction and operation. They often use recycled or locally sourced materials, reducing the environmental impact of production and transportation. Additionally, they may feature rainwater harvesting systems to reduce water consumption.

Commitment to environmental responsibility

Green Buildings adhere to strict environmental standards aiming to reduce or eliminate harmful emissions, waste, and pollutants. They are mindful of their impact on natural systems and some even act as stewards of local habitats and species.

Integration of sustainable practices

A hallmark of green building is the seamless integration of sustainability practices throughout the building's life cycle. This encompasses design, construction, and operation. Sustainable design elements include natural lighting, passive heating and cooling systems, and green spaces that promote biodiversity.

Health and well-being

Green buildings are not only eco-friendly but also beneficial to the people who occupy them. They provide a healthier indoor environment by ensuring proper ventilation, reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and enhancing thermal comfort. The resulting increase in well-being and productivity can have far-reaching positive effects.

A green building can be:

Any size

from an individual family home to an industrial warehouse

Any age

From a brand-new construction to a structure built a century ago

Any typology

GBCSA hosts green building rating tools for residential, commercial, and a range of other building typologies

Anywhere

from remote education centres deep in the bush to skyscrapers in the centre of bustling cities

Case Studies
Lapala Wilderness Education Centre
Jewel City

Simple and cost-effective to build

Contrary to popular belief, and backed by the Cost of Green Research Report, green buildings are simple and cost-efficient to build.

Different Shades of Green:
Are all green projects the same?

The difference between Net Zero, green buildings, and Green-certified buildings

Green can mean many different things in different spaces and to different speakers – a good example is the concept of Net Zero buildings, which is sometimes used interchangeably with green buildings.

A Net Zero building is, by definition, green but it is also something more. Net Zero simply means that when the resources used by a building are subtracted from the resources created by a building, the answer to the sum is zero. This means that a building can generate or harvest all the resources of a particular type (say energy or water) that it needs to function.

Net Zero buildings are by definition green, but a green building isn’t guaranteed to be Net Zero. This can generate some confusion in the dialogue about green buildings, and what we mean when we use that term. Certification under a green building rating tool or system can bring some clarity.

Green building rating tools are very specific and are checked and endorsed by an industry authority. We can be confident that if a building is certified for a specific rating, we know exactly how green that building is, and in what ways that building is green.

One example of a Green Building Rating Tool is Green Star.

What is Green Star South Africa?

Green Star has been developed by GBCSA to cover a wider variety of South African buildings, and South African ways of greening those buildings, and allows us to know with confidence what green means for each building certified with this collection of tools.

Green Star is South Africa’s trusted mark of quality for the design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings, fit-outs and communities.

Benefits of certified green buildings

For South Africans
Certified green buildings have a key role to play in meeting our national targets towards mitigating climate change, in improving the quality of the indoor spaces where many of us will spend most of our time, and as practical demonstrations that to do better by our planet and each other, we don’t have to accept less comfort, but strive for better, more efficient, and more responsible design.
For Occupants
Certified green buildings have healthy indoor spaces, competitive utility bills, a low carbon contribution and design that has its eyes on a better future.
For Developers and Owners
Certified green buildings have excellent value as future-proofed assets, construction costs competitive with non-certified green buildings, lowered operational costs and tend to attract and retain high quality tenants (MSCI SA Green Annual Property Index).
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Explore examples of certified green buildings

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