The global trend towards green building has grown rapidly in response to the mounting concerns about climate change and environmental degradation and shows no signs of slowing down. Broadly speaking, a green building is one that is environmentally responsible by being resource and energy efficient, not only during the design and construction period but throughout its life cycle. South Africa’s recent rolling blackouts and the current water crisis in the Western Cape as well as the rapidly escalating utility costs make green building solutions a practical consideration and the only way forward.
Leading The Market In Green Building
In keeping with global trends, Horizon Capital’s commercial division recently developed Ibis House in Century City. This building achieved a 4 Green Star Design rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa in 2014. The purpose of Green Star SA is to set standards and benchmarks for green buildings and to promote awareness, encouraging the rest of the industry to follow. Ibis House was the smallest commercial building to achieve this rating in Africa and Horizon Capital was recognised for being a market leader in this space.
Decrease Operating Costs
Green buildings are shown to boast lower operating costs and provide “future-proofing” from an investment perspective. Additionally, Horizon Capital believes that green buildings have a positive effect on a business’ Net Operating Income, by lowering maintenance costs, costs of finding new tenants, and operating costs attributable to tenants. Green buildings provide countless unexpected benefits in the commercial sector such as occupants taking fewer sick days and report higher user satisfaction, while companies have experienced stronger employee attraction and retention. According to research, office occupants show an 8% increase in productivity. It goes without saying that an increase in productivity results in increased business profits. This therefore provides an attractive option to both landlords and tenants. On the one hand, tenants want to be in an environment that enhances their overall business performance and on the other hand, it benefits the investors because it increases the value and rentability of their office space as the demand for the space increases.
The orientation of Ibis House, the adequate sun-shading to glass facades, the low-E glass and good insulation to the roofing, were some of the initiatives implemented as part of the design of the building that contributed to its rating. Energy consumption was reduced by installing DSI occupancy sensors to control energy-efficient T5 florescent light fittings in the offices. LED lighting and motion sensors were also installed in the walkways and bathrooms. This all resulted in an electricity saving of 36% when compared to a conventional building.
The question of whether a ‘rated’ green building is actually any more productive than a well-designed unrated building is often raised and continues to be debated. Although Horizon Capital realises that the value of the rating is in the third party verification and from the market in their acknowledgement of best practice developments, we have not yet gone through the process again. This is because, after Ibis House, we found that the process of achieving a rating is a costly capital expense and an onerous process. Nevertheless, we recognise the potential that going green offers to its owners and users which is why Horizon Capital has chosen to implement green building principles into all of our current and future developments, both commercial and residential, without getting the certification through the rating system.
Regardless of whether or not a rating is achieved and besides the fact that green building is the socially responsible thing to do, there is definitely a solid business case for “going green”. Therefore we strive to make each of our developments as green as economically possible as we believe that the benefits are realised not only by the investors over the long term but also by the occupiers in the short term with the daily cost-savings in utility expenses.
Sustainable Residential Developments
On the residential side, our latest development, The Arum in Vredehoek, has incorporated energy efficient measures into the design. The development has a North orientation and each apartment has a deep balcony with movable screens that shade floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors. This prevents unwanted heat gain while also maximising the natural sunlight into the apartment. The building has solar geysers and water saving features such as low-flow taps, dual flush toilets and a heat pump ring main system for water heating. It also features dropped bulkheads with LED down lighting in the main bedroom and living area as well as LED strip lighting on the terraces, all of which reduce the electricity consumption.
Water shortages and the uncertainty regarding future electricity prices are a concern for businesses and therefore on a micro-level, the evidence of cost savings and risk mitigation that green buildings provide, will take away any current uncertainty that tenants and owners express. Owners of non-green buildings will soon find their investments outdated and therefore need to be proactive in making smart business choices. They need to think about the future in order to protect their asset value as green space increases land and property values.