The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) and the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology recently launched the 2019 edition of Green Building in South Africa: Guide to Costs & Trends. This is the second publication and follows on from the first edition that was issued in 2016. The guide provides interesting trends and valuable insights about the influence of green design and construction on both capital and operational costs.

“The guide is available in electronic format and it will be of great benefit to the built environment. The thorough, peer-reviewed research and presentation of the results make it a one-of-a-kind publication on an international level,” says Karl Trusler, Edutech director at the ASAQS.

Challenging the notion of the ‘green cost premium’

With increased awareness and education in the built environment regarding the green building movement, a perception that green building attracts a significant cost premium when compared to conventional construction emerged.

To address this concern, The Cost of Green Building Study Committee was established in 2014. The 2019 edition includes the committee’s convincing results for the business case for green building.

“The green cost premium appears to be progressively diminishing over time, largely because of growing maturity in the industry,” says lead researcher on the project Danie Hoffman, senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Construction Economics.

Size and location matters

The report also confirms the 2016 finding of a strong negative correlation between green cost premium and construction size. The larger projects manage to achieve a Green Star certification at a much lower average green cost premium when compared to smaller projects.

GBCA, ASAQS and UP launch SA green building guide

The data however also confirms that the cost premium for buildings smaller than 5 000m2 has reduced significantly from 9.3% (2009/14 data) to 4.6% (2015/18 data).

“Office buildings that were developed for single corporate tenants had initially attracted much higher green cost premiums compared to buildings developed for a multi-tenant mix. Since 2015, this gap has been closed,” says Hoffman.

He adds that the business case for a comprehensive investment decision should include both the cost premium of constructing a building and the financial performance of a building in operation.

MSCI data confirms that Green Star certified prime and A-grade offices produced a total return of 11.6% in 2017 versus 8% for non-green certified prime and A-grade offices. Better work environments and a lower impact on the environment have led many developers to achieve a significant return on their green building investments.

“We hope the report will help guide future real estate decision making towards more sustainable, future-ready buildings in South Africa,” concludes Hoffman.