The 2015 Green Star SA Leadership Awards were distributed at the Green Building Council South Africa’s (GBCSA) annual convention in Cape Town and celebrated outstanding projects and professionals in the green building industry.
Highest rated building
Hotel Verde near Cape Town International Airport received the award in the highest rated building category for its 6-Star Green Star SA Existing Building Performance (EBP) Pilot tool rating, which was certified in June 2015. Andre Harms from Ecolution was the project’s accredited professional.
Runner up in the highest rated building category was the Upper Grayston Building in Sandton, which was recognised for its 6-Star Green Star SA Office v1 As Built rating. Owned by Tower Property Fund, the accredited professionals on this project were Annelidé Sherrat and Marloes Reinink from Solid Green.
Best quality submission
The accolade in this category was won by Solid Green’s Dash Coville for his work as the accredited professional on the Monte Circle Building A project. The building received a 4-Star Green Star SA Office v1 Design rating and achieved a score of 98% of points targeted. Monte Circle is owned by Abland and forms part of the greater Monte Casino precinct in Fourways.
The runner up in the best quality submission category was Sally Misplon for her work on the Gatehouse Building at Black River Park in Observatory, Cape Town. The building received a 6-Star Green Star SA Existing Building Performance rating and is owned by Redefine Properties.
Established Green Star
This award acknowledges outstanding and ongoing contribution to green building in South Africa, and Alison Groves of WSP was awarded the Established Green Star for 2015 (see more below).
Jaco Kemp, who leads the sustainable buildings team at Arup, was named the runner up in this category. Among others, Kemp was the lead sustainability consultant on the No1 Silo project at the V&A Waterfront, which received 6-Star Green Star SA Design and As-built ratings.
Rising Green Star
Mauritz Kruger from RoyalHaskoningDHV was named the 2015 Rising Green Star (see more below).
Nick Gorrie from Agama was named the runner up in this category. He joined Agama Energy in 2013, and has worked as a sustainability consultant on high-profile projects, including the Portside development and the Centre Point Shopping Centre, as well as being involved in the Karl Bremer Hospital office block, which received a 5-Star Green Star SA Office v1 Design rating and was the first building in South Africa to receive a rating including the socio-economic category.
Profile: Alison Groves – Change Agent
With her passion for passive principles, and driven by the ability to push for profound change at the outset of a building project, Alison Groves has made a meaningful impact on South Africa’s green building movement.
Now at the helm of WSP’s sustainability division, Green by Design, and leading a team she describes as creative and fun, Groves scooped the ‘Established Green Star’ accolade.
Having always had an interest in buildings, and alternative technologies and the contribution they can make to society when done well, Groves started as the office manager at WSP Green by Design in 2007. This was a complete break from her previous incarnation in the travel and tourism industry, where she had started the first web-based travel agency in South Africa, TravelOnline. Friend and mentor Eric Noir, founder of Green by Design, convinced her to make the change.
Groves carved a niche for herself when researching the materials category during the development of the Green Star SA Office rating. “It was relatively easy at that time because we were trying to establish what was out there in terms of green building materials, and there simply was not that much available,” she says.
However, the work done at that time truly spurred local innovation and changes in the market. For example, there was no locally manufactured low-VOC paint available in South Africa in 2007. The solution at that stage was for global brands to import low-VOC offerings. Discussions ensued with paint manufacturers, and by the end of the process, Dulux had committed to manufacturing low-VOC paints locally. Now, almost all paint manufacturers in South Africa have a more environmentally healthy offering.
The materials research took place in conjunction with work being done by the Green by Design team on the first building striving for Green Star SA accreditation in the country – the Nedbank Phase 2 office. Groves assisted Marloes Reinink, who was working on the certification and who she commends as teacher. “I think the best way to learn about Green Star certifications is to get right in there and start working on a project submission,” she says.
As well as being involved in a lot of research on green building, over the years she has been involved in 13 successful Green Star SA applications, which collectively have a large impact on the built environment and add up to huge environmental savings.
Of those certifications, the one that stands out for Groves is the Vodafone Innovation Centre, which was the first building in South Africa to achieve a 6-Star Green Star SA Office Design rating in 2011. “Design of the building started just eight months before the building was opened, so it was an incredibly busy time with 16-hour days being the minimum. But it was the most amazing team to work with. All ideas, no matter how ridiculous they seemed, were considered. It was amazing to watch some of these ideas come to fruition on this pioneering project,” Groves enthuses.
Groves encourages developers not to be fearful of departing from set parameters and to explore passive principles. While it is anticipated many tenants will not want passive buildings, it is possible to have a technologically dense building that also uses the actual structure to deliver comforts – a building that allows for high-tech comforts but gives occupants more control.
This is why the design phase of a building is so important. And Groves admits this is her favourite time on the project – the two or three months at the start when sustainability consultants are able to influence design. This is when it is possible to make clients aware of what is achievable in terms of green building, what they should be striving for, and how they can enact that.
Constantly evolving industry
The marketing value of green buildings, as well as the improved investment profile they bring, means green buildings are much more commonplace today. Groves says she is encouraged by the diverse areas where this is gaining popularity, particularly in the public sector, as well as the fact that many tenants now demand green building space.
She feels the health and wellbeing benefits of green buildings are still somewhat unrecognised, though: “It’s all well creating an efficient building, but if you are not supporting the high functioning brain of a human being, it’s not worth it. Are you building a building for HVAC, or for people?”
Having been involved in the industry from the beginning in South Africa, Groves is happy to see people are less afraid of ‘green’ now, and is upbeat about the fact there are now more players and a greater diversity in this market. “The different styles and areas of interest among different people means we will have a robust industry going forward.
“What we need to do now as an industry is advocate for more change. For example, we need to be more active in pushing for bylaws that enable sustainable activities, such as black water treatment plants and rooftop solar on buildings. We also need to take up the cudgels and put pressure on manufacturers to develop complete systems that perform better. For example, we have water-efficient 2-litre toilets, but the pipes that feed them don’t correspond.”
She says although important, buildings are just a part of the sustainable change that needs to take place. “When we are fighting to have bike racks put into buildings, we should also make sure we are lobbying for bike paths that reach out into the community – where the people in the buildings come from.”
As for the work being done at WSP Green by Design, she says: “We want to continue to set the bar high, and make the Green Star SA process as pain-free as possible, while pushing our teams to explore new ideas and to influence their thinking. Every building has its own personality, and every building has potential. We celebrate every little change towards a building meeting its potential.”
Profile: Mauritz Kruger – A green existence
Mauritz Kruger is fervently motivated by the huge difference consistent incremental improvements can have in transforming existing buildings and the resultant positive impact on the environment. He was presented with the 2015 Rising Green Star award.
Professional Architect, Green Star SA accredited professional and principal buildings specialist at Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV), he is no newcomer to the industry. In fact, while studying at the University of Pretoria, and inspired by renowned passive solar building expert Prof. Dieter Holm, Kruger was convinced green building principles benefit any design.
He has been involved in a number of sustainably designed buildings and projects over his career, which began with an internship at Stauch Vorster Architects some 28 years ago. However, the shift in gear came when RHDHV was appointed the lead technical consultant for development of the Green Star SA Existing Building Performance (EBP) rating tool for the GBCSA in 2013.
“The practicalities of developing a tool for a building that is performing and operational took us in a very different direction from the usual design concept scenarios,” says Kruger, adding it has been interesting to focus on how people use buildings.
Since being finalised and coming to market in 2014, the EBP rating tool has been described as a ‘game-changer’, and has seen the number of buildings with Green Star SA ratings skyrocket. GBCSA chairperson Seana Nkhahle told delegates gathered at the GBCSA convention in November 2015 the number of rated buildings stood at over 140. A phenomenal achievement since the first building was rated in 2009.
Because the number of existing buildings far overshadows the number of new buildings viable for Green Star SA certification, this is an area where considerable environmental gains can be made. The amount of energy and water saved by buildings that have gone through the EBP rating process is significant.
Currently Kruger is part of a team working on eleven EBP certifications, RHDHV’s own premises in a building at Monument Park in Pretoria being one of these.
Easy changes, big impact
“We are always looking for innovations and money saving, environmentally sustainable solutions. I am inspired to continually see just how many kilowatt hours and litres we can save, and how much waste we can divert from landfill,” says Kruger.
Having a multi-disciplinary team and approach to improving building performance makes all the difference, says Kruger. Facilities managers should be involved from the start of a project and it’s important to know where their expertise can be incorporated. It is also vital during commissioning to convey the design intent to facilities managers, and to hold workshops explaining the objectives of the design to building users.
Having a good user’s guide is very important, as is getting the tenant on board when pursuing a greener building. Poster kits informing building occupants of features and the reason behind them also help when refurbishing a building.
“People often don’t understand green buildings, but if you show the performance in a transparent way, and promote involvement of tenants and managers, this can help a lot,” says Kruger.
Having a green travel plan is another way in which building owners and managers can get tenants more involved. “Travel to and from the office in particular can make a huge change in a person’s quality of life. Having a scheme for a shuttle for Gautrain users, for example, gives people greater opportunities to link up with public transport.”
“As built environment professionals we are capable of making huge changes in people’s lives, and we need to ensure these are positive changes,” says Kruger.
He is encouraged by the growing interest in cradle-to-cradle concepts and the circular economy, where savings and re-use and the health of people are prioritised. Kruger prefers to look on the positive side of life and enjoys the idea of projects that make constructive contributions.
“When working on any project, we question how we can enhance society through engineering and change the way society functions. When working on a project, there are four important questions we always ask: Firstly, does the project meet the basic required output for all stakeholders? Secondly, how can we future-proof the building to make sure we will have a lasting result? Thirdly, how can we meet the demand while using a minimum of natural resources and energy? And finally, does it provide added value to the client and society?”
Kruger says architects and engineers often strive to create projects that are iconic and make people gasp, but reiterates there is beauty in the simpler things too. If each existing building is improved and makes a small difference, this will really add up.
“The small things we do incrementally and consistently make huge changes. If we really want to solve the climate problems we face, we must not miss the opportunities for continual performance improvements. Seeing how the market is transforming for the better is something we can be proud of,” Kruger concludes.
By Christy van der Merwe
For the full articles, see earthworks magazine Issue 30, February-March 2016.