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SA Green Building Council to introduce net zero/positive certification

GBCSA CEO Brian Wilkinson.

GBCSA CEO Brian Wilkinson.

The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) has made an ambitious commitment to introduce a Net Zero/Positive building certification scheme by 2020, and six more meaningful goals, at COP21 in Paris

A total of 25 Green Building Councils from around the world unveiled national commitments to transform the sustainability of their buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that the building and construction industry plays its part in limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Buildings currently account for around one third of global emissions. But green building is one of the most cost-effective solutions to climate change, which generates significant environmental, economic and societal benefits.

Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the Green Building Council of South Africa, says its commitment to introduce a Net Zero/Positive building certification will cover energy and carbon emissions, and possibly also cover water and waste. It will leverage and be built upon the GBCSA’s current Green Star SA and Energy Water Performance certification schemes that already can assess whether a building is water or energy neutral or positive. However, it will also allow for specific recognition and acknowledgment of this net zero/positive aspect only, so as to elevate its importance.

GBCSA also committed to six further significant goals by 2020. They are:

  1. To secure statements of commitment in respect of the green building principles and practices for 60% of 50 of the leading and largest property owners in the country.
  2. To target 2,500 commercial green building certifications, representing around 10 million square metres of gross building area.
  3. A target of 10,000 residential green building certified homes.
  4. A target of 12,000 professionals to be trained in green building principles and practices.
  5. 10% of local government staff to be trained in green building principles and practices.
  6. Inspiring and assisting fellow African nationals to establish and capacitate GBCs in their countries by providing support with ratings tools, training, and so forth, with a target of five more established African GBCs.

The commitments were made at Buildings Day on December 3 – the official COP21 meeting led by Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology and former presidential candidate.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, said: “The Green Building Council of South Africa is demonstrating real leadership on green buildings by launching its ambitious commitments at these critical climate change negotiations in Paris.

“We know how to build bigger and bigger. The challenge is to build bigger and better. And it is commitments like these that will help to transform the global buildings industry so that not only is a 2 degree Celsius world possible tomorrow, but we can realise the benefits from this new way of building – today.”

The GBCSA has an extensive member base of over 1,300 organisations each represented by thousands of individuals who have become activators and implementers of green building, in both the private and public sector. The GBCSA exists to transform the way the built environment is designed, constructed and operated, to be environmentally sustainable. This includes a critical focus on radically reducing harmful emissions resulting from building practices.

The commitments form part of the World Green Building Council’s Better Build Green campaign, which has been focusing on COP21 and Buildings Day.

A summary of the commitments:

  • All 74 national Green Building Councils support the high level commitment of the World Green Building Council (the global network of which they are members) to achieve Net Zero carbon new building and energy efficient refurbishment of the existing building stock by 2050.
  • 25 Green Building Councils commit to register, renovate or certify over 1.25 billion square metres of green building space – almost twice the size of Singapore – and train over 127,000 qualified green building professionals by 2020.
  • 3 Green Building Councils (Canada, Australia and South Africa) commit to introduce Net Zero certification for buildings.
  • More than 125 corporate members of Green Building Councils have made commitments, including the French product manufacturing giant Saint-Gobain, Australian developer LendLease and Swedish construction firm Skanska.

Key statistics/messages:

  • To play its part in limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the buildings sector must reduce emissions by 84 gigatonnes by 2050 – the equivalent of not building 22,000 coal powered plants. WorldGBC has committed to achieving this goal by enabling a market transformation.
  • This large-scale reduction of emissions is possible – but it will take transformative action and collaboration.
  • By 2018, green building in the US will account for over 3,3 million jobs, more than one third of the entire US construction sector.
  • Green Building can improve people’s health, wellbeing and productivity – for example, improved indoor air quality can lead to productivity improvements of up to 11%.


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