The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) is a ‘movement’ not an organisation, says Dorah Modise, former GBCSA CEO, reflecting on its milestone 15th anniversary earlier this year. This is the second part of a two-part article.

The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) is a ‘movement’ not an organisation, says Dorah Modise, former GBCSA CEO, reflecting on its milestone 15th anniversary earlier this year. Image by <a href="">Freepik</a>

The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) is a ‘movement’ not an organisation, says Dorah Modise, former GBCSA CEO, reflecting on its milestone 15th anniversary earlier this year. Image by Freepik

Also read part 1

The Green Star SA rating system was launched in 2008 and the first certification of phase two of Nedbank’s head office in Sandton, Johannesburg, was awarded in 2009. The Green Star Rating and certification is a rigorous, standardised system that uses independent assessors to evaluate submissions and allocate points for the various green measures that have been implemented in a building project. Certification is awarded for 4-Star, 5-Star or 6-Star Green Star SA ratings and guarantees that businesses live up to their green building claims.

In 2011 the Energy Water Performance tool (EWP) was introduced for existing buildings, starting with office buildings. In 2014, GBCSA announced their partnership with the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, to launch the EDGE rating system, a green building certification programme for the residential property market, utilised for homes in South Africa. Net Zero certification assists building projects to completely neutralise or positively redress their impacts in carbon, water, waste and ecology.

Brian Wilkinson, GBCSA CEO from 2011-2017, says: “I was incredibly fortunate to see a huge uptake of Green Building principles and practices by not only the commercial property industry and professionals in the built environment, but also by corporate South Africa and even ordinary homeowners. The built environment offers an almost unique ability to really do something about climate change in a meaningful way, both in terms of mitigation impact as well as making commercial sense. It was inspiring to see how the early adopters saw their efforts become a competitive advantage and also how they proved to the sector that green building principles and practices were very doable, were not significantly more expensive and that the skills and products were absolutely available. It was not long before green building became the norm – to the point where the uptake in formal certifications increased exponentially.”

Former CEO Modise says, “Being at the helm of the GBCSA from 2017 to 2020 and prior to that as a non-executive director since 2009, meant that I was able to observe and be in the middle of its fast-paced growth. The level of ambition in transforming the built environment has always meant we were punching above our own weight – at times in the scariest possible ways, but the movement always emerged victorious.”

Grahame Cruickshanks is head of sustainability and utilities at Growthpoint Properties, a founding member of the GBCSA that has led the way in implementing green building practices: “The biggest impact of GBCSA is the introduction of green building as an active movement in the South African private and public property sector. The introduction of 3rd party verified certification systems to ensure the legitimacy of green building initiatives has provided benchmarks and targets for the South African property sector and achieved continuity for the green building movement.”

Reynolds adds that the work of GBCSA has been driven by many partnerships in the public and private sectors and collaboration is crucial to its continued success: “Support from government bodies, the private sector roleplayers and institutions driving sustainability efforts, remains one of the cornerstones of our programmes and we look forward to growing these important relationships in order to extend the green building economy.”

Manfred Braune, director of environmental sustainability at the University of Cape Town, says, “To have established a national standard for green buildings that is aligned with international best practice for green buildings, through which hundreds (close to a thousand) of buildings have been certified, is incredible, and a fantastic achievement for the first 15 years. GBCSA has also trained hundreds of people on green buildings, transforming people and equipping them to design, construct and operate green buildings.”

Jutta Berns, founder and director at Ecocentric, says: “The GBCSA has been the green property industry’s most significant trailblazer and advocate – indeed, without the GBCSA holding and consistently driving the narrative in South Africa and on the continent, we would not be where we are now, where green buildings are not only commonplace but are becoming standard practice. “We now have a shared vision and a shared language that straddles the interests of the investor, developer, designer, operator and construction community, which is essential in harnessing the opportunities that the green property sector offers in reversing climate change. Another key achievement is that we as green building professionals have managed to create an entirely new industry and are able to bring along others on the path to ensuring that all jobs are climate jobs. This is market transformation.”

Kerswill reflects on the GBCSA legacy, “For me, the convention is one of the most important and most enjoyable of GBCSA’s activities – it inspires the industry, promotes networking with local and global leaders and shares technical knowledge. The training courses are also inspiring – running through the different categories and the multitude of interventions that can be made to achieve a really significant environmental impact. I’m extremely proud of GBCSA and what it has achieved – and the fact that it has reached 15 years and is still going stronger than ever. I believe there are few other organisations that have such a direct, practical and extensive impact on climate change and so many aspects of sustainability.”

Supplied by Cooling Post and edited by Eamonn Ryan.