When we hear the phrase ‘green buildings’, there are some things that immediately come to mind – after all, green is the colour that has come to symbolise our collective response to the planet’s environmental crisis. In a broad sense, we understand that green buildings are designed, constructed and used in ways that help, rather than harm, the environment.
But when it comes down to the actual bricks and mortar, what is green, really?
Explore this section to learn more about what building green actually means – and what it takes to embark on your own green project.
It starts with energy
From water use to environmentally friendly building materials, there are a number of important features on the green-building checklist. But one stands out above the rest: energy use. The impact of buildings on energy consumption (and the associated emissions that drive climate change) is huge: the building industry uses about 40% of the world’s total energy. It’s clear that transforming our built environment for the better must start here.
The good news is that South Africa is making progress in ensuring our buildings use energy more efficiently – and get their power from cleaner, renewable sources.
Countdown to zero
The Green Building Council of South Africa uses the term net zero carbon to describe a building that is highly energy efficient. Net zero carbon buildings don’t just use significantly less energy – they are also capable of self-generating the little power they do need from clean, sustainable sources such as wind or solar.
The legal lowdown
South Africa’s building regulations already outline requirements for the energy efficiency of buildings – and more changes are underway to improve those rules in the near future.
The South African National Building 10400–XA Regulations (SANS 10400 XA) contain a set of standards that are designed to minimise energy use in all the stages of a building's lifecycle. And because meeting the country’s growing energy demand is one of our most urgent environmental and economic challenges, South Africa’s biggest metros are working on their own guidelines and bylaws to drive down energy use in buildings even further. (Find out how you can be part of this process here).
From optimal insulation and building orientation to the design of windows and roofs, many of these green building interventions target our heating and cooling needs, which usually account for the biggest energy share. With careful planning and design, these needs can be met without turning a dial or flicking a switch…
By making use of careful planning, smart design choices and new technologies, green buildings can still deliver on comfort – but without the high energy cost. In any green building project, active and passive design strategies come together to create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment.
“A ‘green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.”
- World Green Building Council