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  • Writer's pictureRoelof Kleynhans

Is Green Architecture the Future of South African Development?

Is Green Architecture the Future of South African Development?

For most architects, their main concern is staying within the allocated budget. This will certainly have an impact on what extent the building will be green. Trying to create something that is environmentally-friendly, but not expensive, can be a challenge.

South African designers and construction firms are getting better at allocating resources and making building deci

sions that factor in green elements without costing too much. There’s just so many benefits to going green. Apart from protecting the environment, making a city more sustainable can also help to strengthen its economy. And that’s exactly what South Africa needs.

In the US, green building development climbed by 5% in 2005, and has since reached 40% in recent years. In just the last 5 years, the country saw a massive US$7 trillion invested into creating sustainable buildings. South Africa is following suit, and there’s a high likelihood it could be the future of building design.

South African investors are certain that their building investments will see greater financial returns if they continue to invest primarily in green building projects. We’ve seen major success already in popular projects like The Sandbag Houses, Vissershok School, and Ecomo Homes.

South African architects should be mindful of the saying: “A building can look beautiful and even be constructed from very expensive materials, but not be ‘green.’ Likewise, a building can be very ‘green’ but visually unappealing.” To perfect green architecture, you must not only build sustainability, but be sure the design is useful and pleasant to look at.

For one, sustainable materials offer all of the traditional benefits and reliability, but at a lower carbon footprint. The South African industry is slowly moving towards incorporating more sustainable materials, like high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

The government continues to encourage building investors to be sustainable when they embark on development projects. It recognises the green economy, and has already outlined multiple channels in their Green Economy Summit.

Namely, green buildings and the built environment: programme includes greening private and public buildings.

The government has invested in initiatives like the National Framework for Green Building in South Africa (NGBSA) that promotes green development; the Green Economy Accord which partners with private sector developers; and the green building manual (Drakenstein Municipality) to guide local, sustainable development.

Ultimately, green architecture is there to ensure a building is fully sustainable. There’s many things that a construction company can do to ensure the building meets that standard. Among the most popular methods are using energy-efficient technologies and appliances, water-saving features, and non-toxic, earth-friendly materials.

Materials can be made from recycled products, and should be locally sourced. Further, when constructing the building, the architect or firm should minimise the disruption of any natural habitats, and pick a location that best uses the available surroundings (wind, water, sun).

We’ve seen massive success in South Africa with buildings being able to collect and harness graywater, sunlight, and ventilation.

Yvonne Soh, a popular speaker on the topic of sustainable development, stated that: “Buildings are constructed for people, so it stands to reason that occupants need to understand what a green building is and make necessary steps to help their building become truly green”.

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