Being “Green” is fast becoming one of the most spoken about topics and the latest trend. Older Buildings and traditionally-constructed buildings are now being looked at to be converted to fit a green profile. [tweetthis]Green buildings form an important part of the generation of sustainable built environments which includes infrastructure, services, buildings and networks.[/tweetthis] Buildings are one of the main contributors to climate change and retrofitting is an opportunity to make use of resources efficiently and address climate change. In turn, this will create a healthier and more productive environment for the community.
What is green retrofitting?
ˌretrōˈfit/ verb – retrofitting
1. add (a component or accessory) to something that did not have it when manufactured.
“drivers who retrofit catalysts to older cars”
provide (something) with a component or accessory not fitted to it during manufacture
It can be defined as “Any kind of upgrade to an existing building that is wholly or partially occupied to improve energy and environmental performance, reduce water use and improve the comfort and quality of the space in terms of natural light, air quality and noise, all done in a way that is financially beneficial to the owner. Then the building and the equipment must be maintained in order to sustain the improvements over time.”
What kind of tenants are driving this “Green” movement?
While reading up about this interesting subject I came across various articles where it states that there are 3 types of different tenants that are at the forefront in demanding greener or energy efficient workplaces. The first are called the “Fortune 500 multinational corporations” who have corporate sustainability reports. The second are the “Gazelles”…. the fresh new companies that want to build green from the get go. They see sustainability and energy efficiency as a given and not as an optional extra. Finally… the Government themselves. Yep, they say that they agree with going green and are pushing the demand because it’s a requirement in their policies. They have also implemented a few of their own projects where they have assisted a few communities in going green.
What are the other key reasons / drivers for this movement?
1. Cost, Carbon and Energy Security – Eskom, enough said…! Just kidding, this Is our number 1 favourite company and don’t forget the sole provider of nearly all the economy’s electricity!! In South Africa, a continual supply of electricity is unfortunately not guaranteed. Lets face it…the dreaded load shedding is here to stay. We know Eskom is battling even though they continue to invest in increased power stations which, in turn, results in us, the people, having to pay more for electricity. And just to add fuel to the fire ;)… South Africa’s grid electricity is fueled by coal!… Coal is one of the most carbon-intensive forms of energy. The more electricity you use, the more you are polluting the air.
2. Brand and reputation – Woolworths have gone green. Their Palmyra Junction store is a wonderful example and has made use of energy-efficient LED lighting that adjust automatically to natural light. They make use of vents providing natural light from the roof, and an underfloor heating system using recycled waste heat from refrigeration. Green buildings signal a commitment to the comfort and well-being of employees, customers or other stakeholders.
3. Stakeholder demand – Impahla Clothing installed a solar photovoltaic (PV) plant to lower its carbon footprint as per the environmental requirements of PUMA, its primary customer.
4. New Trend – “Keeping up with the Joneses”. The Empire State Building and the Willis Tower (previously the Sears Tower), have been retrofitted to fit the modern green profile. Other owners and investors have now been encouraged to follow this trend.
5. Environmental – There are clear environmental benefits including reducing energy consumption, lowering demand on the power grid and decreasing greenhouse gas emission. Research has shown how retrofitting offers the most significant emission reductions in the categories of climate change and human health as well as resource impact. Being green and energy efficient has a huge impact on the environment and all living things.
6. Financial Benefits – Increased workforce productivity as well as energy and water savings.
Why retrofit? Why not demolish the old buildings and build new modern buildings?
South Africa has many beautiful old buildings with heritage and significance. They each hold a story and represent our past but these older buildings consume way more energy than newer modern buildings. Retrofitting them with energy-efficient technologies can have significant impact on the building sector’s overall energy profile. We have to look at ways of improving the buildings to fit the green profile yet retain their character and the history they hold so that these buildings will last and be protected, making them fit for the future.
Retrofitting is more favourable and viable than demolishing and starting over. They are also generally less risky because they involve fewer material expenses since the structural components are already in place. So it would cheaper than rebuilding.
Green retrofitting sounds daunting and seems like large scale changes etc etc. But, a green retrofit to an existing building can be as simple as installing new heating / ventilation and air-conditioning components, mounting solar panels onto the roof, or placing a bike rack outside the building for those gym enthusiasts – I mean this will reduce the carbon emissions as well as keep people fit right? 2 birds, one stone…
Steps to retrofitting:
1. Getting Started. Below are ways to retrofit simply. It is advisable to obtain a green audit however as this will tell you what needs to be done as well as the costs involved.
Lighting → The most common retrofit type. Upgrading lighting fixtures can result in an increase in the lighting level while decreasing energy consumption up to 70% which results in saving costs.
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning –> The efficiency of the HVAC system can be improved through maintenance and upgrades, resulting in improving users’ comfort and minimizing the negative impact on the environment.
Water Systems –> You would want to look at upgrading any faucets, toilets or shower heads fixtures that were made during the Noah’s Ark period. What about those taps at most malls and hotels? The ones that seem to make water softer, bubblier and just all round better… they have aerators and occupancy sensors to reduce the rate of water flowing through the faucets by mixing water with air while maintaining the pressure of the water and this results in significant saving… Oooh Bubbles! 🙂 Also, you can reduce water use by recycling it and rainwater can also be captured for irrigation or even to flush toilets.
Insulation → Good insulation helps by retaining heat in winter and trapping cool air inside in summer. An affordable way to make walls less absorbent of heat is by painting them lighter colours so they reflect light effectively – Genius! Also a double door entrance is an effective insulation measure, who would’ve thought?
On-Site Energy Generation –> Wind turbines are also becoming available and affordable. Ultimately, the right choice of energy renewable adoption depends on the location.
Plants – in the office, on the roof, anywhere. They also provide wonderful, much needed shade.
Solar → Install some solar panels, solar water heaters, or solar voltaic panels.
Equipment –> Replace old outdated office equipment with new energy star rated or energy efficient ones.
Recycling → Place recycling bins at the office like we have at Leads 2 Business
Lift Clubs → Catch a lift to work with your peers. This will save you fuel and is one step closer to saving the planet. Plus this could be fun and a good bonding session or time to catch up on how your day has been or how your cat’s birthday was.
2. Understand your usage
Measure every point of consumption and track and keep a record of these. The Green Building Council SA is in the process of developing a green star rating tool that will help various companies in measuring their buildings operations environmental performance.
3. Changing Behaviour
Educate employees / staff on how to be more energy efficient.
4. Learning from your peers
Sharing success stories with each other as well as failures could help people as some might have come across challenges and others might have solutions to these challenges that they have already overcome themselves.
5. The Right People
As mentioned, see what you can do on your own first and then establish where you need a specialist’s assistance.
6. What now?
Remember retrofitting is a long term plan and we need to encourage employees to continue to act with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind. Keep thinking…. Green, Clean, Hygiene, Coffee Bean, Ice Machine, sheesh….. its easy to get carried away but you know what I mean 😉 Don’t stop pushing the Green drive!
What is the GBCSA?
The Green Building Council South Africa are the people leading the transformation of the property in South Africa. They ensure that buildings are designed, built and are used in an environmentally sustainable way. They address what or where the major issues lie such as excess energy consumption, burning carbon fuels, pollution of air / water and land, depletion of natural resources as well as the proper disposal of waste.
Building owners submit their documentation to the GBCSA to achieve a Green Star SA rating. This is evaluated and assessed. Based on points they would either be awarded a 4-Star, 5-Star or 6-Star rating.
And in closing, please always remember:
“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”
“DEVELOPMENT, IF NOT SUSTAINABLE, IS A DEAD-END ROAD “
Just some of the many Green Projects on L2B: