Green Building Past, Present and Future

Green Building Past, Present and Future

With the GBCSA certifying its 200th project in 2016 and with ten rating tools in operation, green building is quickly becoming the new ‘business as usual’ across all building typologies.

Over the last six years, the directors at Solid Green have noticed significant changes in the way that green buildings are perceived, planned and implemented. Legislation, market awareness and expectations have put pressure on professionals to up their game when delivering green buildings – which in turn has led to teams who are better educated and experienced in this sector.

Renewables are cheaper and more in demand than ever before, simply because they make good business sense. And sustainable transport, particularly electric vehicles and bicycles, are no longer treated as tongue-in-cheek nice-to-haves, with electric charging bays and bicycle facilities now being specified for almost all new developments.

In 2016, the most significant progress was undoubtedly the conscious move towards health and well-being, with tenants no longer asking property brokers whether a building is certified, but rather what its rating is. The fact that it must be rated is a given; and the statistics around user productivity are now well known.

With all of this in mind, we look at the green-building sector’s past, present and future – with our experts at Solid Green offering their predictions for where the market is headed in the coming years.

Green Building Certification


  • Most buildings that target green-building certification developed by their owner-occupiers.
  • A few early developers building for tenants pursue green-building certification, speculating that it will be valued in the future.

The Google Offices in Johannesburg


  • Green building becomes the norm for upmarket office space as tenants drive demand.
  • Many international tenants are required by policy to rent only green space.


  • The business case for green building proven in offices is followed by healthcare and residential buildings.
  • Energy-performance certificates factor into the valuation of properties.
  • With efficient and zero-carbon energy systems making business sense, green certification becomes centred on water and indoor environmental quality.



  • Water-saving features in buildings driven almost entirely by needing to achieve green building points.

Water Conservation Becomes Essential


  • Mirroring the energy crisis of 2008, water conservation is driven by quality of supply issues.
  • Reduced consumption is needed to allow buildings to operate for longer periods when municipal water is shut off.


  • Alongside decreasing clean-energy costs, water costs start to increase as rainfall patterns change.
  • Pioneered internationally, desalination sees trial usage in coastal parts of South Africa.

Energy Generation


  • With solar power costing almost R30 per Watt, only showcase projects make a foray into the technology.

Rooftop Solar


  • Solar power is now R14 per Watt on larger installations.
  • Rooftop PV has started to give a better return on investment and risk profile than other financial instruments and, as such, represent business as usual for many large corporates.


  • Reduced battery prices driven by widespread electric-vehicle adoption and second-hand electric-vehicle batteries result in off-grid projects going mainstream.
  • Vehicle-to-grid applications start to enter the market, eliminating the need for batteries where electric cars are used.



  • Alternative-fuel-vehicle parking bays are allocated with the view that they will never be used.
  • Public transport options are not considered a viable alternative for the car-owning demographic, although the launch of the Gautrain represents promise.

The Solid Green EV


  • Alternative-fuel-vehicle parking bays are fitted with electric-vehicle charging facilities.
  • Developers are preparing for a near future with electric cars, as hydrogen vehicles and hybrids start to lose the race.
  • Bicycle facilities are common. However, public-sector infrastructure lags the green-building curve.
  • Gautrain and Rea Vaya in Johannesburg and MyCiTi buses in Cape Town start to displace cars on the road.
  • Some early adopters sell their cars and use Uber exclusively, realising reduced transport costs.


  • Ride-sharing services like Uber start to become a significant portion of all ground transportation, overtaking public transport in the same income group.
  • Underground parking garages start to be repurposed, possibly as server or battery space.
  • Self-driving cars are commonplace in many international cities and are being trialed in South Africa amid conflict with labour interests.
  • Electric vehicles reach price parity with their combustion-engine counterparts.
  • Driven by emissions regulations in Europe and Asia as well as higher running costs, petrol and diesel cars start to lose market share.
  • Business districts with very high density start to become pedestrianised and cycling increases, although it is still not mainstream within the nation as a whole, as cheap electrically-powered ride-sharing is available to all.

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