Johannesburg September 2017 – Climate change is a real challenge globally and it is important that all industries, including the construction industry, go green and protect the environment. For a long time, going green has been considered an expensive way to build, which was only accessible to the affluent sectors of society. However, research by the construction industry has shown that eco-friendly methods and materials offer a viable and cost-effective alternative. Tommy Strydom, acting CEO of Inyatsi Construction, explains the benefits of going green for the construction industry.
As construction companies we have to be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently from planning to construction, operation, maintenance and renovation, as well as demolition. We have to construct buildings that reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by using energy, water and other resources efficiently, protecting the health of people who use them and therefore improving employee productivity. We also have to reduce waste, pollution and environmental degradation.
It is becoming less difficult and less expensive for the construction industry to go green and therefore green eco-friendly construction has become a fixture on lists of the top industries all over the world. In the US alone, green construction has increased by nearly 2 500%, according to the country’s Green Building Council.
The benefits of eco-friendly construction include lower cost, which is underpinned by the use of eco-friendly materials. Eco-friendly construction also ensures increased competition and innovation. The price of eco-friendly construction was, until recently, much higher, due to expensive materials, expensive construction methods and the high cost of certification. In less affluent countries, as in parts of Africa, cost usually determines the materials and methods.
However, the market forces of supply and demand have come into play, and materials and methods have become more affordable and more available, while it is envisaged that certification will also become more affordable and less time-consuming.
We must remember that, although construction is a service industry, it also uses and generates significant amounts of material resources. In addition construction also entails the use of water, which is a scarce commodity in southern Africa even before climate change; and land, where the impact of construction on biodiversity is a major concern.
Eco-friendly construction also extends to material flow to the construction site. Material flow has to be adequately controlled to ensure that the movement of materials do not erase the benefits of eco-friendly construction.
Competition and innovation in the construction industry to find more eco-friendly products and methods that meet sustainability standards, such as energy-efficiency and air quality, has made it possible for the industry to find better and more cost-effective materials through research. Window coverings, floor coverings, paint and roof materials have already been developed and I am sure that we can do the same here.
Eco-friendly construction is growing globally and its contribution to the bottom line of companies will continue to grow and I believe that it is where the future of the industry lies. Going green is becoming big business and construction companies in Africa must ensure that they are not left behind and stay informed about new innovations. It is therefore important that we ensure that we become experts on eco-friendly construction.
We can use the International Code Council’s International Green Construction Code as the focus of our efforts, as well as the Green Building Council of SA’s Green Star rating system. The code regulates site development and land use and the preservation of natural and material resources to improve indoor air quality and support the use of energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy systems, water resource conservation, rainwater collection and distribution systems and the recovery of used water.
The environmental impact of sustainable construction cannot be ignored. Energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change, while water consumption, land degradation and the destruction of biospheres exacerbates the effects of climate change. In turn, we can grow our businesses, exercise better control over our material flows and offer more cost-effective services. And going green will not only benefit our pockets, but our planet too.