Don't just dream green

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

Right. The regulatory environment is friendly enough to make new homes more comfortable and cheaper to run (see “Go green or go home”), but what can you do about your existing home? Can greening your home help to improve your investment? And who’s to say a house really is green – hmmm?

One great resource for information about energy efficiency and sustainable living – the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) – is currently running a sponsored project to see how a typical family can have a positive impact “by living a more energy-efficient and environmentally-conscious lifestyle.”

Pilot project saves family R18 000 on power

The project – My Green Home – followed the journey of the Ngewana family as they evaluated and analysed their lifestyles and consumption, learned the habits that’ll make the difference they want to see, and then installed the improvements that’ll help them achieve their aims (solar panels to generate some of their electricity needs, insulation in their ceilings to reduce their heating and cooling requirements, and new-tech light bulbs).

“GBCSA leads the transformation of the SA property industry towards environmental sustainability. We started by influencing commercial property market, primarily, but My Green Home moves to the level of our individual homes where we and our families can all get involved. We’re delighted that the Ngewana family took up the challenge.

“Over the months, we’ve shared the Ngewana’s experiences and and what they’ve learned on mygreenhome.org.za, where we’ve also provided a raft of useful information and ideas about things to do for homeowners who are concerned about the environment, and want to make a difference,” said Brian Wilkinson, CEO of GBCSA.

You can too!

He stressed that going green is definitely within everyone’s reach: in one high-profile project (the Cato Manor Green Street Retrofit, which was led by GBCSA with funding from the British High Commission), solar water heaters, insulated ceilings, efficient lighting systems, insulation cookers, rainwater harvesting tanks, and food gardens, were installed and set up in two groups of about 30 old houses each in this low-income, working-class suburb. (Download a pdf of the case study here).

“To those of us who know about the results for anybody who’s doing it, going green is a bit of a no-brainer,” said Brian. “With so many benefits – in the Ngewana study, the family will save R 18 000 per annum on its electricity bill alone – you’re left asking why anyone would choose to not pay attention to the environment by improving the efficiency of their home.”

Protect your investment

One argument in favour of greening is that it improves the value of your property.

In one large-scale study (Understanding the Solar Home Price Premium: Electricity Generation and “Green” Social Status, published by the USA’s National Bureau Of Economic Research) the value of middle-market homes that were fitted with solar panels in California’s San Diego and Sacramento Counties increased by about 3.5% over those without panels, between 2003 and the end of 2010.

This is a trend which GBCSA expects will be repeated here in SA – which is one of the motivators behind its introduction of the EDGE green certification scheme for individual homes.

We have the EDGE

Presented in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC; a member of the World Bank Group) and the National Home Builder Registration Council (NHBRC) in the wake of the success of the My Green Home Project, EDGE – Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies – was created to help transform the private property sector in rapidly urbanising countries by influencing the way in which homes are designed.

It was developed by by the IFC’s Principal Green Buildings Specialist, Prashant Kapoor, who said that, “South Africa was clearly the right choice for the debut of the EDGE programme at a national level. Here, buildings account for 48% of electricity consumption, with 37% of that amount attributable to the residential sector. We hope to make significant strides in remedying this pattern over the years ahead by working strategically with GBCSA on realising the potential of the residential market.”

Show savings to certify

“For a private residence to achieve EDGE certification, it has to show a minimum saving of 20% in energy and water consumption, and a 20% saving in embodied energy,” said Brian. “Embodied energy” is the energy used in the production of the materials used in the construction of new buildings. Architect Jacques Cronje used the examples of aluminium and timber: “Aluminium has a high embodied energy as it’s made from non-renewable resources, and the manufacturing process creates a high carbon footprint. But timber has a low embodied energy because it comes from renewable resources, and its production process has a low carbon footprint.”

Brian said that the introduction of EDGE is a new venture for GBCSA, which, until recently, concentrated on the commercial office sector via its Green Star SA rating system.

“Built on a user-friendly interface, the EDGE tool also assists in determining the financial viability of green building initiatives early in the design stage. Its aim is to reduce energy and water consumption by calculating upfront costs and potential operational savings,” he said.

“Having it available in South Africa will mean that green residential developments can now be recognised for their efforts.

“We hope it will have a huge positive influence on the increasing number of South Africans who are looking for innovative ways to make their homes greener and less impactful on the environment.”

It’s proudly SA

According to Manfred Braune, GBCSA’s Chief Technical Officer, EDGE has been adapted for the SA context in light of the SANS 10400-XA: Energy Usage in Buildings regulations.

“EDGE will undergo final adjustments with some industry input and review before being released to a few pilot projects later this year, and it will be launched into the market early in 2015,” he said.

He invites interested designers of medium- to large residential projects that are currently at concept stage to register to use the rating tool via edgepilot@gbcsa.org.za.

For more about EDGE, pleased visit the IFC.

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