China’s energy sector is lumbering under the weight of a coal power glut prompting the central government to step in, writes Feng Hao.
China’s central government has ordered local authorities to delay or cancel construction of new coal-fired power plants, as regulators attempt to reduce a glut in capacity, just one year after decisions were delegated to the provinces.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration (NEA) have ordered a halt to construction of coal-fired plants in 13 provinces where capacity is already in surplus, including major coal producers such as Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shaanxi. A further 15 provinces will be required to delay construction of already-approved plants.
Harsh punishments have been threatened for construction that goes ahead in breach of the new regulations. Operating licenses will be denied, connection to the power grid blocked, and financial institutions will halt lending to transgressors.
The curbs come as Chinese government departments are asked to make rapid policy adjustments in response to slowing electricity demand, as the country shifts towards a less wasteful and less energy-intensive economy, and aims to reduce the amount of coal power generation.
China’s central government decided early last year to decentralise the authority to approve environmental impact assessments on coal projects starting from March 2015 onwards.
But the problem goes back further, say analysts, pointing to the Chinese economy’s addiction to debt-fuelled capital spending.
“The document shows the government has realised how serious the overcapacity issue is, and that decisive measures need to be taken to solve it,” Song Ranping, developing country climate action manager at the World Resources Institute (WRI), toldchinadialogue.
“The government now needs to make sure this is implemented and evaluate how successful the measures are, so that controls can be further tightened if necessary,” he added.
Central and local governments need to address issues such as oversupply at an earlier stage, Song said. He pointed to the need for an ‘early warning mechanism’ that flags up local decisions that exacerbate the surplus.
A clear price signal that a surplus of coal-fired power is uneconomic is lacking in China, because the country’s power tariffs are state controlled. That means energy producers still receive a good price despite the oversupply.
The communique issued last week by the NDRC and the NEA comes in the wake of announcements made at China’s twin legislative sessions in March and in the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which placed a strong emphasis on greener, smarter economic growth.
CAPE Town is set to become home to a R14bn green village thought to be the first development of its kind in SA and on the continent.
Swisatec, a Cape Town-based architectural and project management firm, will spearhead the project in Somerset West, which is nestled among some of the Western Cape’s trendiest wine farms.
The project will constitute an upgrade of the popular Blue Rock Resort, where construction is expected to start in August.
The Blue Rock Village will become one of the biggest mixed-use developments in Cape Town.
Richmond Park, a multibillion-rand mixed-use property, is also being developed in Cape Town on a prime greenfields site in Milnerton, adjacent to the N7 highway.
The Western Cape government is also due to launch a multimillion-rand construction project of a mixed-use neighbourhood on the 22ha site in Pinelands of the former Conradie Hospital.
Swisatec, which has forecast that the project will take eight to 10 years to complete, said the village would be the first of its kind in SA and on the continent.
Plans for the mixed-use village include a multifunctional lifestyle centre, medical centres, boutiques, schools and colleges, nurseries, and restaurants and cafés.
Lukas Reichmuth, founder and director of Blue Rock Village, said yesterday that the project would be market driven, focusing on both the international and the South African markets.
Prospective investors can choose from flats in five different layout types for one-, two-, three-or four-bedroom options. Units started from €200,000 (just more than R3.4m at the current exchange rate), Mr Reichmuth said.
“Our apartments are designed to fit different types of individual needs. The development compromises 1,000 luxury apartments built on 40ha of land.
“As the first pioneers of car-free living, our vision of Blue Rock Village is to enjoy the magnificent beauty and natural surroundings where you can experience the great outdoors,” he said. All parking will be underground and the developers plan to construct a helipad.
In keeping with the development’s proposed green ethos, the units will use A+-rated energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting, as well as a water management system, and solar power.
Francois Viruly, a property economist and associate professor at the University of Cape Town, said mixed-use property developments were growing in popularity because of their ability to create a “lifestyle”. However, he cautioned that there were risks associated with such projects.
“It is never easy to get financing for such projects, because you are asking funders to fund different types of risks. Also, such projects take time to complete and things may change over time … in other words, people may change how and where they want to live,” he said.
Construction work has begun on Europe’s largest floating solar farm at the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near London as part of Thames Water’s plans to source a third of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
More than 23,000 panels will be floated on the reservoir, providing enough electricity each year to power the equivalent of around 1,800 homes. Due for completion at the end of March, the finished array will cover around a 10th of the reservoir’s surface – the same area as eight Wembley-sized football pitches.
The renewable electricity produced by the 6.3MW array will power a nearby water treatment centre, Thames Water said.
“Becoming a more sustainable business is integral to our long term strategy and this innovative new project brings us one step closer to achieving our goal – this is the right thing for our customers, the right thing for our stakeholders and most importantly the right thing for the environment,” energy manager Angus Berry said in a statement.
Solar energy company Lightsource is managing the installation, which will require more than 61,000 floats and 177 anchors to keep the array above water.
Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle said that as more industries look to decarbonise, the solar industry will need to develop new skills to ensure projects deliver maximum efficiency.
“There is a great need from energy intensive industries to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as the amount they are spending on electricity and solar can be the perfect solution,” he said in a statement. “We’re therefore constantly evolving new skill sets to ensure that all of our projects deliver maximum energy generation over the lifetime of the installation.”
Floating solar farms are considered an efficient way to maximise renewable energy generation in areas where land is scarce, by using the normally redundant surface area on reservoirs and lakes.
The largest floating solar array is currently under construction on a reservoir in Japan. Once completed, it will provide enough clean electricity to power nearly 5,000 households.
Advocates of the approach argue it can also reduce evaporation from reservoirs, while the cooling effect of the water is said to help improve output from solar PV cells.
KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu has given the go-ahead for construction of the R3.5-billion Clairwood Logistics Park and Distribution Centre near the Durban port. This is expected to end a three-year conflict between developers Fortress Income Fund and community groups in the South Durban basin, which have repeatedly appealed against approvals, citing multiple issues including increased traffic congestion, noise and environmental degradation. Print Send to Friend 1 0 Mabuyakhulu’s department stated that the amended environmental-impact report received from Capital Property Fund in September 2014 complied with stringent regulations and adequately addressed concerns raised during appeals. Capital Property, which has since been incorporated into JSE-listed Fortress, bought the strategic site from Gold Circle for R430-million in 2012. The race course was subsequently closed ahead of development into warehousing and distribution facilities measuring 350 000 m³.
The remainder of the site will become paved yards to service these facilities and will include a rehabilitated wetland area accessible to the local community. The site is the last remaining flat land available for development in south Durban. It is just 11.2 km from the existing container terminal entrance and 3.5 km from the site set aside for the proposed Durban Dig-Out port. The South Durban basin, in which the logistics park falls, is one of the oldest parts of Durban and is home to heavy industry including oil refineries, chemical plants and logistics facilities that are interspersed with residential developments. Infrastructure is dated and inadequate and the area experiences significant traffic congestion as a result of its proximity to the port. The environmental authorisation (EA) that accompanied Mabuyakhulu’s announcement noted that the shortage of flat land for development into modern logistics facilities, coupled with basic supply and demand market forces, had created a quantifiable need for a development of this nature. “The Clairwood Logistics Park will not only meet growing demand for A-grade logistics and distribution facilities in the south of Durban, but also improve the livelihoods of surrounding communities through job creation,” said Fortress development manager Nico Prinsloo. Construction, which is expected to create an estimated 18 900 jobs over the next four years, is expected to start in the first quarter of this year. The logistics park is also expected to result in the creation of more than 4 600 permanent jobs once fully operational in 2020. The EA has reduced the area for development of the site and has spelt out how Fortress must proceed with both construction and rehabilitation of the site to create a sustainable wetland area and incorporate indigenous fauna and flora. The R3.5-billion investment includes R110-million that will be spent on extensive upgrades of municipal roads and infrastructure surrounding the facility. “This will not only improve traffic flow into and out of the site but will ease overall traffic flow in the area and significantly improve road safety, especially for learners attending schools close to the site,” said Prinsloo. The Clairwood Industrial Park and Logistics Centre will significantly increase the eThekwini municipal rates base in the area once fully developed while also significantly increasing Durban’s contribution to KwaZulu-Natal’s gross domestic product.
Over the past 20 years, green construction has gone from a niche enterprise to a major driver of new business. But in 2016, erecting sustainable, profitable green buildings will no longer be enough to stand out. Buildings will also be expected to directly contribute to the health and wellbeing of the people who live, work and learn inside them. For buildings, healthy will become the new green.
The performance of a green building – be it energy usage, water efficiency or just lower utility bills – is important to companies looking for rental space. As this healthy revolution emerges, more of these commercial renters will start concerning themselves with a building’s impact on the performance of the humans who use it every day.
There’s already some evidence to suggest healthy buildings have positive effects on the businesses and workers who occupy them. In a recently released peer reviewed study, researchers from Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment found that a building’s air quality can affect the quality of its residents’ thinking. The study demonstrated that exposure to common indoor pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are found in everything from paint to carpets, can affect cognitive functions. The researchers wrote: “For seven of the nine cognitive functions tested, average scores decreased as CO2 levels increased to levels commonly observed in many indoor environments.”
At the same time, researchers found that, on average, environments with better ventilation doubled their participants’ performance, especially in critical areas such as crisis response, strategy and information usage.
As the connection between where you work and how well you work becomes better established and understood, companies that hope to differentiate themselves as employers of choice will focus on healthier buildings for their employees.
Sustainability will mean transparency
Of course, understanding the built environment also requires understanding everything in it.
Think about the room you’re in right now: you might be sitting on a couch or a chair treated with flame-retardant chemicals that are linked to memory loss or fertility problems. Your carpet might be emitting more of those VOCs, leading to throat irritation or headaches. Your wood floor might be off-gassing formaldehyde. Almost every product in your room contains chemicals that even manufacturers don’t know about or don’t completely understand. And many of these chemicals have health impacts that we have hardly begun to study.
Fortunately, transparency is coming to the building industry. Already, there has been a push for more environmental product declarations, health product declarations and other labels that disclose the makeup of building materials, along with their environmental and human health concerns. And as these standardized reporting measures become more commonplace, so too will the use of materials that prove to be less hazardous to our health.
Rating your building – and your healthWE
As healthy buildings become more mainstream, market-based rating systems such as the Well Building Standard, developed by Delos, will help businesses and building professionals use health and wellness to differentiate their spaces. The first protocol to focus specifically on health in building construction, it prescribes technology enhancements and performance-based measures in seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
Formally launched in 2014, the Well standard is administered by the International Well Building Institute, a B Corp – meaning it has been certified as providing social and environmental benefits beyond the financial bottom line – that has partnered with the Green Building Certification Institute to provide third-party certification. More than 20m square feet of real estate in 12 countries across five continents arenow Well certified or registered, according to Well’s website.
As the world continues to focus on sustainability for the sake of the planet, our definition of environmental sustainability is moving beyond flora and fauna to include the humans in the ecosystem as well. And there is no better front line than the buildings where we spend most of our time. In the coming year, buildings will no longer be considered green if they only do less harm. More of the places where we live, work and learn will begin to actively and intentionally protect and restore our health.
MEDIA RELEASE FROM GROWTHPOINT PROPERTIES
Young environmental innovators from the University of Cape Town scooped both first and second prizes in the inaugural Growthpoint Greenovate Awards, which recognise innovation linked to environmental challenges.
The awards programme is an exciting initiative launched by Growthpoint Properties in association with the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) earlier this year. It is designed to inspire and encourage students of the built environment to discover, explore and invent ways to live more sustainably.
The Growthpoint Greenovate Awards was piloted at the University of Cape Town, University of the Witwatersrand and University of Pretoria in 2015. For its premier programme, students were challenged to come up with ideas that would result in a research project that promotes a more sustainable built environment. Their projects could be applied to any aspect of a building – design, development, planning, construction, materials – anything that makes the way we live greener and our environmental footprint lighter.
Werner van Antwerpen, head of sustainability at South Africa’s largest JSE-listed REIT, Growthpoint Properties, explains: “Everyone is a winner when innovation for a greener, healthier, more sustainable environment is nurtured. The university students taking part in the Greenovate Awards, and the winners in particular, presented pioneering projects. Their smart and inspiring thinking shows how we can drive green building thinking forward, to ensure a better, greener future.”
The winners were announced at a gala dinner at the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Melrose Arch on 26 November 2015, with keynote speaker, well-known innovator and business leader, Michael Jordaan, who is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Montegray Capital. Groups from each of the participating university competed internally first, with the two top projects from each chosen as the six finalists.
The first ever winners of the Greenovate Awards are the UCT team of Rowan McKenzie, Dijon Ross and Miekie van der Merwe, with supervisor Saul Nurick. They focused on the role of the IPD Green Property Indicator in the South African property market.
This team of outstanding young green innovators took home R30,000 in prize money. They will also be fully sponsored to attend the GBCSA’s Green Building Convention in 2016. Here they will present their research project to property professionals and green leaders from around the country and across the continent. They will also be treated to green building tours to get an insider’s perspective on some of South Africa’s most innovative green buildings.
The UCT team taking second place, supervised by Dr Kathy Michell, comprised Alex Demetrious, Daniel Searle and Ken Toplis. They examined urban facilities management and the development of a sustainability rating tool for urban precincts. These students used the Central City Improvement District (CCID) of Cape Town as their case study. The team earned a prize of R8,000 for their insightful project, as well as tickets to the Green Building Convention in 2016. They will join the winning team on the green building tours.
The third placed group of young green thinkers came from University of the Witwatersrand. The team included Amy McGregor, Thabo Mthuthu and Wardah Peters, and was supervised by Dr Dave Root. This group of Wits students researched an Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) Framework to improve sustainability and green building practice in the construction industry. They won R2,000, tickets to the Green Building Convention 2016 and a place on the green building tours.
Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the GBCSA, who was also one of the competition judges says: “The award entries were all of an outstanding calibre. They show an exciting new wave of green thinking. Equally inspiring is the exposure that the many property, construction and quantity surveying third year and honours level students are getting to green building principles as a result the Growthpoint Greenovate Awards Programme. By learning about green building and sustainability early in their careers, the positive impacts this next generation of property professionals will have on our urban environment will benefit all South Africans hugely.”
Wilkinson was joined on the judging panel by Neil Gopal, CEO of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), Moeketsi Thobela who is CEO of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) and Technical Director for Buildings at Aurecon, Martin Smith.
For Greenovate Award participants the benefits go well beyond winning a prize. The programme provides students with an opportunity to work with leading green building thinkers in Greenovate workshops with industry professionals.
Van Antwerpen says the success of this year’s competition will see the awards programme becoming much bigger in coming years. “Based on the positive response from the universities, this programme to recognise and encourage environmentally innovative thinking among South Africa’s future property leaders is poised to grow.”
Ultimately, the Growthpoint Greenovate Awards programme will be made available to all universities in the country with the appropriate built environment faculties.
Growthpoint Properties Limited
Werner van Antwerpen, Head of Sustainability
Tel: 011 944 6282
Construction on the P-Grade (premium) 6,680sqm building, which boasts views of the Indian Ocean, began in June last year (2014), and is set to be complete by December (2015). Originally targeting a 4-Star Green Star SA office building rating, Growthpoint has been notified by the Green Building Council SA that the development had in fact secured a 5-Star Green Star SA – Office v1 Design Rating.
“This is a great achievement and will serve as a green building beacon in greater Durban and KwaZulu-Natal,” says Greg de Klerk, KZN Regional Head of Growthpoint Properties.
“The five storey development was conceived as two corporate office buildings on a single four
Rudolf Pienaar, Growthpoint Properties Office Division Director, comments: “Our Lincoln on the Lake and Mayfair on the Lake office buildings in the Parkside precinct of Umhlanga New Town Centre were pioneering green building developments in the Growthpoint portfolio. We have come a long way and now have 23 Green Star SA rated buildings in our portfolio countrywide and several more under development, which have been submitted or will be submitted to the GBCSA for Green Star certification.”
Pienaar adds: “The Lincoln on the Lake office development secured the first 4-Star Green Star SA As-Built rating for a multi-tenanted office building in South Africa back in 2012. Growthpoint continues to be the leader in terms of green rated buildings within its portfolio in the country. Our new Ridgeview building being certified by the GBCSA as the first 5-Star Green Star SA – Office v1 Design rated building in Durban furthers our market leading position on the sustainability front.
“Growthpoint’s Ridgeview development in Ridgeside is a unique and leading-edge office project, which is located on an excellent site in this sought-after precinct of Umhlanga. We’ve developed a P-Grade office building that we’re justifiably proud of.”
De Klerk comments: “When it comes to thriving office nodes in Durban, there’s a continued move by business north into Umhlanga Ridgeside, Umhlanga New Town Centre and La Lucia Ridge. These nodes are experiencing the highest levels of office development in Durban.
“Around 50,000sqm of office space will come to market over the next year in these nodes, of which about a third is being developed by Growthpoint. We are looking forward to the completion of our Ridgeview development, which will be a great new addition to our office portfolio.”
Umhlanga Ridge has become one of the country’s leading nodes for green buildings. In addition to its ground-breaking Lincoln on the Lake and Mayfair on the Lake office buildings, Growthpoint is investing R117.3 million in another 5,500sqm new green office development, named The Boulevard, in the Parkside precinct of Umhlanga which will be completed in April 2016. Upon completion, The Boulevard will make up a city block of green buildings in Umhlanga New Town Centre, providing A-Grade office space of 20,000sqm.
Growthpoint is South Africa’s largest REIT and a JSE ALSI Top 40 Index company. It owns and manages a diversified portfolio of 471 properties in South Africa, 53 properties in Australia through its investment in GOZ, and a 50% interest in the properties at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Growthpoint’s consolidated property assets are valued at more than R100 billion. Its growing property portfolio in KwaZulu-Natal is valued at over R5.5billion.
Imagine a city rising from a lush bamboo forest, but this city uses no concrete and no steel; it doesn’t stick out of the forest, so much as blend in. This is the vision presented by penda, a Chinese and Austrian design firm, at Beijing Design Week this year. By 2023, penda claims, a city housing 20,000 people could be built entirely from their modular bamboo construction system, free to grow in every direction as the need arises.
The system uses no nails or screws – the bamboo is tied together with ropes – leaving the bamboo cane undamaged so it can be reused in other constructions. All of the materials in penda’s bamboo city are completely recyclable, allowing the city to rise and fall with minimal harm to the environment.
According to penda’s press release, “The project describes a true ecological approach of growth, which leaves no harm on the surrounding environment nor on the building material itself and is, therefore, a counter-movement to a conventional way of the present construction process.”
The bamboo city takes its construction materials from the bamboo forest where it lies. Since bamboo has a rapid growth cycle, the architects envision a never-ending supply of building materials, wherein two new bamboo trees are planted for every one that is removed. The system can grow to house 20 families within nine months, panda states, and as new families arrive, new modular buildings, including communal spaces, bridges and even floating structures, can be added in any direction. By 2023, they picture a city of 20,000 people nestled in 250 acres of bamboo forest.
As a proof of concept, penda created a bamboo pavilion at Beijing Design Week. During the event, visitors were invited to plant seeds into baskets which were then attached to the pavilion. The plants will grow along the bamboo structure, allowing nature to take over the design process where architecture leaves off.
The communities of Oyster Bay, Jeffreys Bay and Cape St Francis will have their say in the next few months about the construction of a nuclear reactor at Thyspunt, one of three possible sites identified for the purpose.
Thyspunt has been identified as the preferred site in two previous draft environmental impact assessments and it is expected to also be the case in the final draft report that is likely to be published in September.
The other two possibilities are Bantamsklip near Pearly Beach in the Western Cape and Koeberg outside Cape Town, where the country’s only current nuclear power station is situated.
Eskom environmental manager Deidre Herbst told Moneyweb that the utility appointed consultants in August 2006 to start with the environmental assessment. Two draft reports were published, the last in June 2011. The process stalled earlier due to budget constraints, but an updated version of the draft environmental impact assessment will be published in September.
The independent environmental assessment practitioners will then hold public meetings to consult the affected communities, where after the comments will be incorporated and the report finalised, hopefully by the end of the year.
It will then be submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs for a Record of Decision within four months.
This decision may be appealed or challenged in court.
The application was brought by Eskom for the construction of a nuclear power station with a generation capacity of up to 4 000MW, Herbst said.
Government’s Integrated Resource Plan makes provision for a total of 9 600MW of nuclear power generation by 2030, which indicates that another project may be planned elsewhere, perhaps at a later stage.
The Department of Energy said in July that it hopes to complete its nuclear procurement and the selection of its strategic nuclear partner by the end of the current financial year.
Moneyweb visited the 3 800 hectare site at Thyspunt last week. It has about 8km of beachfront and is largely undeveloped with natural vegetation and only a handful of houses on the property, which Eskom bought from private land owners. If the project goes ahead at Thyspunt, some of these will be used for project offices, according to environmental and site manager Hennie de Beer.
De Beer says the footprint of the nuclear reactor itself, will be only about 3-4 rugby fields. The reactor will be situated about 5km from Oyster Bay and 12-13km from Cape St Francis.
He says preliminary plans are to use the current gravel road from Humansdorp for access during construction, but the permanent access will be from Cape St Francis.
He says according to current plans the nuclear building will be about 54 metres high. This is lower than the 65m high dunes behind it, which means the building won’t be visible from the land. It will be situated about 200 metres back from the water’s edge.
More than 200 holes have been drilled on the site to collect data as part of the environmental impact studies, De Beer says. Some holes were up to 80 metres deep. Ground samples were collected to compile geological, seismic and hydrological data. He says plant communities were also mapped and an in-depth archaeological study was done. While many middens (historic shell heaps) were found, nothing of significance was found in the nuclear footprint area, he says.
The wetlands on the site will be part of a conservation area and all developments will be separated from it by the adjacent dune ridge.
De Beer says a 5km safety zone is planned around the reactor, while some restrictions have been placed on developments in a radius of 16km around the proposed plant.
Local business people Moneyweb has spoken to are excited about the project.
Mandla Madwara, director of Lawrence Global Manufacturing in Port Elizabeth, says if the nuclear project comes to Thyspunt, there will be many opportunities for his engineering manufacturing company and it will increase the GDP of the Eastern Cape.
His company is currently working towards nuclear compliance in an effort to be able to register on a database of companies eligible to manufacture nuclear compliant components.
Rob and Shelley Wilson, owners of Aston Woods Bed & Breakfast in nearby Aston Bay say they would like more information on the proposed project. They are however excited and believe it will bring more business to surrounding communities and increase property values.
Leon Frolick (25) works at the till in a small shop in Oyster Bay. He says local people are struggling financially and the proposed project will make life easier for them by providing jobs and other opportunities.
Not all residents are however pleased with the prospect of a nuclear plant in their back yard.
The Thyspunt Alliance is opposing the project. According to its coordinator Trudi Malan, the alliance is not opposed to nuclear technology as such, but believes Thyspunt is the most costly of the three options due to the site specific mitigation measures required.
Malan says when Eskom started with the environmental impact assessments, they focused on the three sites that were originally identified about 25 years ago. Much has changed since then and they should have looked afresh and beyond these three for the most suitable site.
Malan says the local Kouga municipality cannot cope with infrastructure and service delivery as it is, and if the project gets the green light, residents will see the nuclear site and related needs prioritised over those of people who have been living there all along.
She says business people who expect to make lots of money are short-sighted. “Eskom’s own document shows that the tourism industry will decline by 8% during construction”.
The other pillar of the local economy, namely the chokka industry, has not been consulted properly, Malan says. She believes the industry, which supports 4 000 jobs, will suffer as chokka requires good quality water with good visibility to breed, which she fears may be compromised by the nuclear plant.
Malan says the Thyspunt Alliance had made submissions to the environmental consultants earlier, based on expert reports it commissioned. She believes the process is already flawed and says if the approval is granted, the Alliance may very well challenge the process and any substantive issues that arise from the final report in court.
As they net better investment returns than traditional buildings.
Over the last eight years, the jury was still out on whether energy-efficient buildings delivered better investment returns than those built to traditional standards.
Up until recently, energy-efficient buildings were said to have better investment fundamentals, but there was a dearth of research to back this up.
But over the last two years, further research has been conducted and is now shedding light on the matter.
In fact, the latest research by the Investment Property Databank (IPD) and the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) points to energy-efficient commercial buildings being better investments. The research is now in its second year.
The results of the research for the year to December 31 2014, indicate that energy-efficient buildings have higher net income growth and capital value per square metre and higher occupancy levels compared with less efficient buildings.
Vice President of MSCI-owned IPD South Africa Phil Barttram, says energy-efficient buildings consume less energy and water per annum. This is an indication that landlords and occupiers are spending less on operational costs at an energy-efficient building.
The study tracked performance of the 597 most energy-efficient buildings (referred to as the top quartile efficient), which are benchmarked with about 1600 buildings that are not as energy efficient (referred to as the rest of the IPD universe).
The water and energy use of buildings in both categories were pitted against each other.
The buildings had a collective value of R167 billion in excess of 20 million square metres. “It represents over 60% of professionally invested commercial property market in South Africa and we have been collecting the data since 1995,” says Barttram.
Property funds like Emira Property Fund, Delta Property Fund, Growthpoint Properties, Hyprop Investments, Liberty Property, Old Mutual Property, Pareto Limited, Attacq Limited, SA Corporate Real Estate Fund and Vukile Property Fund contributed to the study.
Even on an investment perspective, green buildings are getting better total returns than buildings that are not as efficient.
According to the research, buildings in the top quartile efficient netted total returns of 12.1% compared with buildings in the IPD universe which recorded total returns of 9.4% in one year.
South Africa has over the years rapidly adopted the green building movement in light of the country’s worsening energy crisis, with rolling power outages now seemingly a part of daily life.
In fact, US-based McGraw-Hill Construction in its World Green Building Trends survey notes that South Africa’s adoption of green building trumps most developed regions which include Europe, Australia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Brazil.
While South Africa is only playing catch-up to its developed and developing counterparts, the survey expects the country’s take up of green building to grow three-fold, from a measured 16% in 2012 to 52% by 2015.
When South Africa’s green building movement started in 2007, the GBCSA only certified one building, but now 100 buildings are certified. “This is a clear sign that green building has gained rapid momentum in South Africa. The Green Star certified projects have also demonstrated world-class, innovative implementations that benefit people, planet and profit,” says GBCSA CEO Brian Wilkinson.
Associate and sustainability consultant at WSP Africa Alison Groves supports Wilkinson’s views saying there is now a deep understanding of the benefits of green building.
Green initiatives – such as replacing conventional light systems with energy efficient lighting, upgrading chillers, investing in rain harvesting technology, waste disposal, solar panel heating – have been largely driven by tenants in buildings.
“Tenants understand that they would rather pay more in their square metres and reduce their risks in terms of energy costs. Those tenants are demanding green buildings because they see the benefits of going green,” Groves says.