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Building industry goes green

Building industry goes green

Jun 1, 2013

With green consciousness growing around the world, the spotlight is falling on inefficient buildings and aging infrastructures that are hampering organisations’ ability to become as environmentally sustainable as they would like.

Fortunately, there are many techniques available for retro-fitting existing buildings – although this isn’t as effective as developing and designing new buildings that are as efficient as possible.

Warren Gray of Solid Green Consulting presented a paper on the practical implementation of green building technology on behalf of Ron Henderson at the recent Champions of the Environment (CeF) climate change conference.

Gray points out that most of the climate change focus to date has been on lowering emissions by switching to renewable energy sources.

However, studies show that the world simply won’t be able to meet its energy requirements through different fuel sources, which will only comprise a small percentage of the total energy mix in the medium term.

There should be a greater focus, therefore, on using energy more efficiently in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

And, with cars and planes already running about as efficiently as they can in the short-term, the built environment offers the biggest potential for increasing efficiency.

In South Africa, the Green Building Council rates buildings on their management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use, energy, emissions and innovation.

The council has had a fair success rate, with more than 60 projects certified since its inception in 2009, and two six-star buildings have already been built in South Africa.

In fact, Gray points out that green building has taken off in South Africa even while the overall building industry has experienced a slump.

However, he says, designing buildings is a moving target.

Buildings are surprisingly heavy polluters, producing about one-third of the world’s carbon emissions – and the energy that goes into producing these gases is expensive. Since most companies are concerned about their bottom lines, controlled office spaces are getting more attention from C-level executives than ever before.

Not only can efficiently-designed buildings save money on energy use, but they can also help to increase staff productivity by as much as 5%, increasing profitability as well.

Although there are many good examples of green building in South Africa, Gray highlights the Hotel Verde, which aims to be the greenest hotel in Africa by the time it is completed.

This project is using a wide range of techniques to provide itself with sustainable energy. Among the elements it is implementing are vertical access wind turbines, photovoltaics and geothermal energy.

The use of geothermal energy is fairly novel, but Gray believes it could be well suited to a project such as the Hotel Verde.

He explains that it works by drilling wells into the ground and then storing energy – either warm or cool – underneath the building, to be draw upon when needed.

 

 

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