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GBCSA / All / Why South Africans should get a certified green rating for their home

Why South Africans should get a certified green rating for their home

March 28, 2020

The ‘Green Home Rating System for existing buildings’ will look to shift South Africa’s homes to align with the UN SDG’s and the South African National Development Plan (NDP), by creating a common language on sustainability in homes to incentivise change at a household level and through the supply chain.

What uses 27% of the energy produced in SA, generates 44% of municipal waste and buys 60% of water and sanitation sales? The South African household.

The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) wants to help reduce the environmental footprint of every local household. This bold ambition is remarkably viable, especially considering the significant costs of energy, water and waste, and the cash savings available through their efficient utilisation.

Informed by research stretching the length and breadth of South Africa, the GBCSA has created a tool suitable for its households. However, the question remains, why would a person get a certified green rating for their home, if the savings and efficiencies of solar power, or rainwater harvesting equipment are the same with or without a certified green rating?

The Sow and Reap Consortium of industry experts were appointed by the GBCSA to complete this rating tool and answer these types of questions.

Gap in the market

To assist in assessing the market, they localised various Sustainable Development Goals relevant to South African households and termed them ‘sustainable living indicators’. They are:

1. Water efficiency and security

2. Energy efficiency and security

3. Recycling and waste reduction

4. Fresh air

5. Access to fresh food

6. Comfortable temperatures

7. Good daylight

8. Responsible materials

9. Transport

10. Accessible safe, communities

11. Internet accessibility

12. Affordability

13. Access to nature and biodiversity

These indicators were tested and, besides insight into households, the study results showed various factors that help or hinder sustainable living among and interrogated the market gap for a green home rating tool among the products and services supply chain and the real estate sector.

These informed recommendations for the tool including, the requirement of making the rating process a personal one for individual households; South African’s high priority towards health and wellbeing; and how sustainability indicators can address social challenges.

Baseline assessment

Gathered data helped inform the current state and performance of local homes to both ensure alignment with targeted impact reduction goals in each sector and to identify best practice.

Energy, water and waste have measurable baselines and benchmarks that can be used to track a home’s performance in these indicators. However, community and health-related indicators such as fresh air, food, comfortable temperatures, daylight, transport and walkability are less tangible to benchmark, but still important.

It became necessary to rate assets and performance separately and know exactly what should be measured, and how. Instead of measuring litres per second of fresh air or luminosity levels of daylight, the team found that simplified survey-type questions can be drawn from best-practice standards to sufficiently assess the home.

Tool scoping

Using these lessons a framework was developed as the basis for the green home rating tool, and this informed a scoresheet focusing on utilities, health and community to address three spheres within the household: behaviour; performance (measuring water, energy and waste); and asset improvements (such as insulation). 

As it is likely that a formal certification may only be considered when a home is bought or sold, it became important to offer a ‘self-assess’ option for those looking to understand and improve the sustainability of their home. By individually working through the scoresheet and seeing areas to improve households will learn how to better reduce their environmental footprint. To formally certify their home, individuals can ask an auditor to verify the claims made in the scoresheet questionnaire.

Market in the gap

The business case for the rating system is also important and it is suggested that a partner and co-branding networks are suitable to pair with the GBCSA to make the required impact in the residential sector.

The marketable ‘green home’ certificate is aimed primarily at the rental and ownership transaction stage of homes.

Private and public sector relevance

For both private and public sector stakeholders, a clear framework for sustainability in homes creates a common language and roadmap. Planning, monitoring and forecasting is improved through access to data and trends from tens of thousands of households on performance, demand and uptake of sustainability in homes. Furthermore, strong marketing opportunities exist with access to incentivised, aware householders as well as brand association opportunities.

What’s next?

The ‘Green Home Rating System for existing buildings’ will look to shift South Africa’s homes to align with the UN SDG’s and the South African National Development Plan (NDP), by creating a common language on sustainability in homes to incentivise change at a household level and through the supply chain.

“It is envisaged that the GBCSA would be the operator of the tool, which has been developed through funding from the GIZ, and a proposed system launch date has been set for 2021,” said Grahame Cruickshanks, GBCSA Managing Executive: Market Engagement.

To find out more about the tool, or better understand the opportunities available, contact the GBCSA: info@gbcsa.org.za or call +27 21 486 7900.

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