Myths

Many of the things we have come to believe about green buildings don't stand up to scrutiny... let's debunk some common misconceptions.

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Myth 1

Only rich people can afford to build green.

This is probably the most common misconception that prevents people from embracing green building projects – and it’s time to debunk it for good.

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Evidence shows that building green costs only around 3.9% more than conventional construction – and with the right approach and careful planning, that figure can be as low as just 1.1%. What’s more, unlike their conventional cousins, green buildings deliver savings throughout their lifetimes. The slightly higher costs of construction are quickly offset by savings on energy, water and maintenance. Operational costs can be up to 37% lower than traditional buildings.

And it’s certainly not true that only high-end projects receive the green treatment. Take a look at the Belhar Gardens social housing development in Cape Town to see how buildings can be affordable and sustainable at the same time. For the low-income communities that inhabit developments like this one, the lower electricity, water and maintenance costs can be an enormous benefit. (Read more about how green buildings can save you money here.)

And remember: building green isn’t all or nothing. Even if you already live in a conventionally built home, there are lots of easy and affordable changes you can make to improve its green credentials – take a look at our list of tips.

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Myth 2

No one else in South Africa is building green.

The green trend is more popular here than you think! South African homeowners, businesses and building industry professionals are recognising the many perks of sustainable buildings – from lower running costs to their resilience in the face of our electricity and water shortages. (Read more about the benefits of green buildings here.)

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What’s more, South Africa’s biggest urban metros are now working on new regulations that will increasingly require buildings to comply with green standards for energy efficiency, water usage, renewable energy sources and more. Find out about these upcoming changes here.)

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Myth 3

Green buildings won’t save the planet.

Sure, green buildings alone won’t fix the complex environmental challenges we face – but they have the potential to make a bigger impact than you might imagine. How we construct buildings and how we use them not only depletes precious natural resources but also generates a huge amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change-related impacts like extreme weather, droughts, rising sea levels  and more.

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We’re not just talking about the materials transported and consumed during the building process, but also about the massive amount of energy required to light, heat and cool our structures. In South Africa’s biggest urban areas, the building sector is responsible for 36% of total emissions. And because most of our country’s electricity comes from polluting coal-fired power stations, conventional buildings are a major climate-change culprit.

This is why transforming the built environment to ensure more buildings are efficient, run largely on renewable energy and constructed from sustainable materials is actually a major planet-saving opportunity. (Find out more about what building green actually means here.)

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Myth 4

Someone will fix climate change before it affects me … so why bother?

It’s dangerous to view the environmental crisis unfolding all around us as someone else’s problem to fix – especially because we are all feeling its impacts already … even if we don’t always see the connections.

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Those rising prices at the grocery store? That’s partly the impact of global warming on the world's food production. The water shortages in Cape Town and KZN? That’s climate change wreaking havoc on our rainfall patterns. What about the home insurance premiums you can no longer afford? That might be insurers hiking the costs of cover as our climate system malfunctions and extreme weather intensifies.

The truth is that there is no silver bullet or quick fix that will save us from the climate crisis. And the longer we wait before taking action, the more entrenched and damaging its effects become. It will take governments, companies and individuals all working together to tackle its causes and adapt to its impacts – and transforming our built environment for the better is an important part of this.

Top tips for promoting green building

There are many tools governments can use to change building behaviours and encourage green construction.

Find out more here.

What is a green building?

Find out how green design works here.

Green building news

From new technologies to exciting projects and industry updates, get the latest news on green buildings.

Read more here.

GREEN BUILDINGS SPOTLIGHT

Cato Manor Green Street Upgrade

Location: Durban
Date completed:  2011
Units: 30 low-income homes

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The housing units were upgraded with solar water heaters and related plumbing, compact fluorescent lamps, insulated ceilings and roof paint, eat-insulation cookers (Wonderbags), rainwater-harvesting tanks and efficient LED street lights.

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GREEN FEATURES

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Solar water heaters

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Energy-efficient lighting

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Ceiling insulator

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Heat insulation cookers (Wonderbags)

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Optimal building orientation

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Street lighting

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Rainwater-harvesting tanks