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The data is out – Green buildings have real benefits over time.

The data is out – Green buildings have real benefits over time.

What is the opportunity for incorporating sustainability into commercial buildings? As avid members of of the Women’s Property Network (WPN), the Commercial Exchange team was privileged to be inspired by an expert panel, led by Dorah Modise, (CEO of GBCSA) at a recent breakfast hosted by the Green Building Council of South Africa.

The panellists at the breakfast included:

  • Ilse Swanepoel, Incoming GBCSA Board Chairperson and Head of Utilities at Redefine Properties
  • Eileen Andrew, Vice President: Client Coverage at MSCI
  • Kedibone Modiselle, Acting Director: Climate Mitigation Programme at the City of Tshwane
  • Jutta Berns-Mumbi, Director and Principle at ecocentric
  • Nomasonto Matladi, Sustainability and Utilities at Growthpoint Properties
  • Vere Shaba, Founder and CEO at Greendesign Africa and Finland in South Africa Campaign Ambassador at Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Finland


The venue was Old Mutual’s new head office, a poster child for green buildings and sustianability. Everything from the recycled carpets, to the natural light flowing through the almost all glass façade, to the reverse vending machine which pays you in airtime and vouchers for your recyclable goods.Cutlery made from potato skins, while the automated blinds that sense the amount of sunlight needed at any given time of the day and air-conditioners adjust according to your seating and proximity to the window. Even the furniture was sourced for its longevity. All of this points to how sustainability was the starting point for the project.

Some key take home points from the panel included:

Air conditioners in the country are generally set to ISO 340 which was designed around European men in suits. The rest of us freeze. As indicated by one of the panelists – we need to de-colonise our air conditioners and save on power.

“The political will for sustainability is there”, the City of Tswhane told the audience. They have a building bible  with guidelines to developers – but these are still voluntary. GBCSA is pushing for real incentives to be put in place to encourage the construction of sustainable buildings.

MSCI , the collectors and publishers of data on everything real estate internationally, provide statistical data on green buildings. MSCI South Africa Green Annual Property Index, conducted in conjunction with the GBSA, measures investment returns of certified green  buildings against standard buildings. The message is that the data is out and this is demonstrating that sustainability is not only “the right thing to do” but provides a real benefit to building owners and tenants.

South Africa is an ever-developing”and re-developing environment. and as new cities and buildings rise, the focus will be increasingly on  sustainability. This is not only good for the environment and the people working in the building, but is ultimately good for the bottom line,  given long-term savings in terms of electricity and water costs. In a water stressed country like ours, with uncertain electricity supplies, green buildings are the future.


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