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Embrace green buildings and sustainability

Saint-Gobain welcomes government commitment to embrace green buildings and sustainability.


At the opening of the 11th Convention of the Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA), the Department of Public Works stated it is responsible for more than 100 000 facilities at national level and it is imperative to ensure proper care of these buildings.

According to Jolene Blundell, head of sustainability at Saint-Gobain, throughout its life-cycle, a building designed, built or renovated and managed sustainably will not only be more energy and resource efficient but is also more comfortable and healthier, improving quality of life for various stakeholders. Energy efficiency, comfort, safety and well-being should be collectively optimised with environmental and economic aspects (jobs and growth, asset value, financing).

She says research conducted by the United Nations has indicated that between 2008 and 2015, an average of 26.4 million people per year¹ were displaced by climate disasters – referred to as climate refugees. Changes to weather patterns will lead to various problems, including desertification and sea-level rises. These trends are only likely to get worse with the expected global warming of 2°C. By 2050 experts estimate that as much as 150 to 300 million people² will be affected by these types of events. This phenomenon, in conjunction with the accelerated rate of urbanization in African cities, will shift where and how people live. Global environmental changes will have a significant impact on cities, especially poorly managed urban areas and the interface between these two forces must be better understood and planned for. ³

“It is important to realise the construction sector is responsible for a large portion of the energy usage, water consumption, waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that jointly, our industry, comprising of manufacturers, architects, contractors, developers, owners and clients, have a common responsibility to develop solutions which minimize the impact on the environment.”

“We are spending a large amount of our energy use on cooling and heating which is far from ideal for the environment as energy demand goes up, further impacted by significant annual energy price increases.”





Government’s commitment to embracing green building is indicative of global trends. Moving towards a sustainable built environment is both a challenge and an enormous driver for the construction sector. Globally, the number of certified green buildings was expected to double by 2018¹, with the fastest rates in emerging countries, so there is enormous potential within South Africa to reach these milestones.

This potential is underpinned in a study, World Green Building Trends 2016, Developing Markets Accelerate Global Green Growth, which finds that the percentage of companies expecting to have more than 60% of their building projects certified green is anticipated to more than double by 2018, from 18% currently to 37%⁴. In South Africa specifically, in 2018 the proportion of green buildings as a percentage of all building activity will climb from 41% in 2017 to 61% of all South African building project activity⁵.

However, for organisations like Saint-Gobain to play their role in the move to greener buildings, the climate mitigation potential of buildings has to be acknowledged and prioritised by governments. Despite some progress, industry and government need to work together to ensure that adequate plans and targets are developed and subsequently anchored into long term policy vision, and translated into clear political, legislative and financing commitments.

Blundell says there are three key drivers pertaining to sustainable development or redevelopment:

1. Driving a low carbon economy; Building systems must aim towards the improvement of the overall energy performance and the reduction of the associated GHG emissions. A full life-cycle perspective should be embraced when assessing these elements.

2. Circular economy; Materials must be sourced in a responsible way and when possible recycled into the existing or complementary manufacturing streams and secondary raw material, with a view to develop services in treating demolition waste.

3. Health & wellbeing; Lastly building and its component materials must aim toward improving the health of its inhabitants, as well as reducing the impact on society as a whole.

From a Saint-Gobain perspective, sustainability needs to be embraced and enhanced both in new constructions and in the existing building stock, leveraged with mandatory and voluntary policies aimed respectively to phase out the worst performing buildings, while awarding the best in class.

“Globally, Saint-Gobain is supportive of clear engagements by governments that clarifies the sustainable pathways for our sector. Steps taken in the Netherlands and in Finland are positive. They have already set requirements related to green or sustainable buildings. This is real testimony that public entities should lead by example, being the first to display the performances of their buildings and integrating core indicators in Green Public Procurement (GPP) guidelines,” Blundell comments.

It is encouraging to see that South African government is striving towards similar energy efficiency commitments through the recently-gazetted draft regulations for the mandatory display and submission of energy performance certificates for buildings. The impending implementation of the mandatory Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) in government and commercial facilities aligns with the new national energy efficiency strategy of achieving 50% energy savings in public and commercial buildings by 2030. Application of these measurement mechanisms in developed countries has demonstrated that EPCs are a proven tool to foster energy efficiency and can be linked with financial instruments such as green mortgages.

Taking a holistic perspective, there often is limited awareness of how indoor air quality, thermal and acoustic comfort impacts and influences the physical well-being and productivity of users. In hospitals, patient stay-time could be shortened by 30% by reducing sound levels with proper insulation and absorption. Poor air quality lowers office workers’ performance by up to 10% on measures such as typing speed. Concentration, manual dexterity, and occurrence of accidents are influenced by both high and low temperatures.

“We wholeheartedly support government’s stance on increasing the sustainability of built environments and the performance declarations, through the adoption of EPCs. We believe there is scope to shift the profile of the construction and property landscape, and we are ready to engage with government players in advancing the dialogue,” Blundell concludes.



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