South Africa is emerging as a leader in green building, but one of its main challenges is finding enough skilled green professionals. Reducing
water consumption is a priority, and the importance of achieving healthy communities is also a key driver distinguishing this market.

This is an excerpt from a recent global study on Green Building Activity and trends.

Green building is already well established in the South African market, with survey respondents indicating that 41% of their work is currently green. However, respondents believe the green activity so far is just laying the groundwork for an overall shift in the market, with nearly two thirds (61%) reporting that they expect over 60% of their projects to be green by 2018. If this degree of commitment to green building holds, South Africa will be a leader in the global green market in the next three years.

SECTORS WITH EXPECTED GROWTH

South Africa is one of the few countries included in the study where the highest percentage of respondents expect to be doing green retrots of existing buildings in the next three years. Commercial building and low-rise residential projects are also expected to be relatively strong sectors for green in South Africa.

  • Retrots of Existing Buildings: 46% of South African respondents expect to build green in this sector in the next three years, notably more than the 37% global average, and roughly on par with the activity expected in the US, Mexico, the UK, Singapore and Brazil.
  • New Commercial Buildings (e.g., ofce, retail, hotel): 40% of South African respondents report expecting to do new green commercial buildings. While this is the second biggest growth area for South Africa, that is actually slightly below the global average of 46%. 
  • New Low-Rise Residential (1–3 stories): 31% of the South African respondents expect to do new green low-rise residential projects, roughly on par with the global average of 27%.

Influence Factors for Future Green Building Activity:

TRIGGERS
Consistent with the 2012 findings, the right thing to do is the top trigger driving future green activity in South Africa, selected by 40%. This is much higher than the global average. Another trigger that is consistent with the 2012 findings is healthier neighborhoods, which again is higher than the global average for that factor. This puts South Africa roughly on par with Australia, China and India in terms of the emphasis on health as a key factor, and may be associated with the relatively high level of green low-rise residential projects activity expected in the next three years.

On the other hand, client demands and market demands are both much more important triggers in the current study than they were in the past, suggesting increased understanding in the South African construction market of the value of green buildings.

CHALLENGES
Despite wider recognition of the value of green in the market, the highest percentage of South African respondents (37%) consider the lack of public awareness to be a top barrier limiting the growth of green building.

Three additional challenges were selected by 34% of South African respondents: 

  • Higher First Costs: The percentage who select this as an obstacle in South Africa are considerably less than the global average of 50%.
  • Lack of Trained Green Building Professionals: The percentage exceeds the global average of 21%. Other burgeoning green markets like Singapore, India and Brazil share this concern.
  • Lack of Political Support and Incentives: The percentage is roughly on par with the global average.

Social and Environmental Reasons for Building Green
The highest percentage (63%) of South African respondents by far consider encouraging sustainable business practices to be an important social reason for building green, but this is relatively consistent with many other countries in the survey.

However, increasing worker productivity was named by 41% of South African respondents as an important social reason for building green, which is notably higher than all other countries included in the study except Mexico (44%), Germany (41%) and Saudi Arabia (50%).

This, combined with the emphasis on healthier neighborhoods as a trigger for green, suggests a focus on health and well-being is important in the South African green building community.

South Africa is consistent with the global consensus on the importance of reducing energy consumption as an environmental reason for building green. In contrast, a much higher percentage (49%) of South Africans consider reducing water consumption important than respondents in China and India, and countries in North America and Europe, whose percentages range from 13% to under 30%.

Finally, like many other developing economies in the survey such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Colombia, South Africa also considers protecting natural resources important, with 46% regarding this as a key environmental reason to build green.

Business Benets
Most of the respondents in South Africa (87%) use metrics to measure the performance of their green buildings. While more modulated compared to the 2012 findings, South Africans still see operational cost savings on new buildings to a much greater degree than those in other countries included in the study. However, their payback period for their green investments of eight years is the same as the global median, possibly suggesting higher premiums to build green.

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