These days it’s all about ‘going green’. Green cars, green energy, green manufacturing methods, green food and yes, green property. Reducing the impact of property has become an important issue over the last few years, particularly within the commercial sector says Karl van Eck, Regional General Manager Africa at Johnson Controls Global Energy Solutions.
“Internationally, laws relating to carbon emissions are driving businesses to become more environmentally friendly or risk facing large financial penalties, which, combined with the increasing costs of using energy derived from fossil fuels is accelerating the shift towards creating and maintaining greener, more efficient properties.”
This scenario is now playing out in South Africa with organisations and property owners across the board taking meaningful steps towards reducing their carbon footprint and improving their sustainability. There are a number of ways to reduce a property’s carbon footprint. These include the use of alternative renewable energy technology as well as the incorporation of simple behavioural changes. While renewable technology can be costly, behavioural changes typically cost very little, if anything, to implement.
“Renewable energy technology has evolved dramatically over the years, and while it currently remains an expensive option due to lengthy return on investment times, it is becoming an increasingly viable option as the technology matures, particularly for new property developments.” For instance, a number of South African buildings can take advantage of solar technology as they feature large roof ‘footprints’ which are perfect for harnessing solar power. Solar geysers are another step in the right direction as traditional geysers are incredibly energy-hungry.
Van Eck explains that wind power is another renewable energy technology which can be used to good effect in South Africa given the abundance of this element in certain parts of the country. “Wind turbines can either be connected to the grid or used to charge batteries. They can also be used to supply electrical energy to buildings that are not connected to the grid.”
There are many more renewable energy technologies, such as landfill gas power, hydroelectric power, biomass energy which creates renewable energy from plant and animal waste and geothermal energy. “However, while these technologies are available now, the cost of implementing them is still prohibitive in the majority of cases,” remarks Van Eck.
But there are other ways property owners can go green without spending large sums of money. Re-using and recycling is just one way to go about this. Grey water irrigation systems are a good example in this regard.
Property owners can also take step towards reducing their carbon footprint by reducing and optimising their current energy usage. Simple behavioural tactics can go a long way towards achieving this. Examples of tactics which could be in used in a commercial context include:
• Switching off appliances when not in use.
• Switching off lights in unoccupied spaces.
• Shifting certain operations such as running dishwasher and tumble dryers to off-peak periods.
• Using appliances appropriately such as dishwashers and washing machines only when they were full.
Says Van Eck: “Property owners can also employ the services of a consultancy to audit their energy usage and examine areas where improvements can be made. Doing so will enable them to reduce their carbon footprint and ultimately prepare buildings to take advantage of future renewable energy sources.”