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How to estimate house building costs when going green

By 18th Jan 2021Feb 3rd, 2021No Comments
How to estimate house building costs when going green

Green building has become a hot topic in recent years, especially where home design is concerned. 

More and more customers, in and around South Africa, are turning to architects to bring their custom home design ideas to life while making a move to living more sustainably. But building the perfect home comes with its own set of house building costs and considerations. 

We examine what it would cost to build a home in more detail below.

Green House Building Costs vs Normal Building House Costs

Many customers, when designing their custom builds, want them to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly but are concerned about the impact of green house building costs and expenses on their budget. 

How different is the total build cost of building a green home compared to the average cost to build a house? 

According to the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), and the research conducted with the Association of SA Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) and the University of Pretoria (UP) the average cost premium of building green, over and above the cost of traditional construction, is a mere 5.0% and can be as low as 1.1%. 

There is a common misconception that green building is much more expensive than traditional construction, but this is not the case. 

Building a green home also comes with several benefits. According to the GBCSA, green homeowners not only save money monthly on utilities but can also up their property value when choosing to sell. 

Banks are also starting to take notice of green building certificates by offering lower interest rates and increasing the loan amounts available to those looking to build or buy a green home as well as those looking to renovate existing buildings to make them greener.

Factors impacting the house building costs of a new green home

Factors impacting the cost of building a new green home

It is important to note that several different elements impact the average house building costs of a home from scratch.

These include: 

  • Location – not all areas across the country are valued the same which will impact the price of the build. For example, in Limpopo, building costs come to around R10 550 per m2, due to the lower cost of labour and materials. Building a standard home in this province would cost on average R1.54 million. This cost is quite different compared to the Western Cape, where you can expect to pay around R14 050 per square meter, which is approximately R2.05 million for a standard house. 
  • Construction costs – these costs refer to the basic house building costs such as bricks, mortar, installation of doors and windows, builders, painting, plumbing, labour costs, plastering, tiling or flooring. These are costs necessary for the construction of the shell of the house and are also impacted by different factors, including location. 
  • Specialist items – these are the items that the client would generally choose themselves, for example, built-in cupboards, light fixtures, bathroom and kitchen accessories and appliances. Each of these expenses will add to the final price to build a house.
  • Building materials – the material cost to build a house is one of the most important aspects to consider when budgeting. The type of materials like finishes, timber, metal, glass etc. play an important role in terms of cost. If you are wanting to build a green home it is vital to look at using materials that are locally, ethically and responsibly sourced. You should also look at using materials that are known for their energy efficiency, recyclable and eco-friendly properties, like aluminium
  • Floor area and building design – building cost per square meter will increase as the size of the floor plan increases, as space determines the price. For example, the house building costs of a 2 bedroom house would be significantly less than the cost to build a 4 bedroom house. Building type also plays a role in this as the cost of building a flat would be different to a townhouse. 
  • Green building related solutions – when looking at building a green home, there are several elements that need to be factored into the design of the build. These relate to energy efficiency, ventilation and overall comfort levels. Examples include large aluminium windows that enhance the amount of natural light coming into the home, or looking at window and shutter systems for added insulation, or folding sliding doors that allow for airflow and added ventilation. Each of these design related elements will impact the house building costs.

Hiring the right professionals for the build

Hiring the right professionals for the House building costs

Building a home requires several professionals that each play an essential role in ensuring that the building plans are correct and that the home is built to the correct regulations and codes,  on time and within budget. These professionals include:

  • Architect – this is the team leader that coordinates all elements related to the build. Their professional fees are usually based on a percentage of the house building costs.
  • Quantity surveyor – is responsible for calculating the estimated cost for the build. They draw up the list and quantities of materials that will be needed for the build and use this list to compare quotes from suppliers. 
  • Structural engineer – designs and signs off the structural elements of the build, including all concrete and steelwork. 
  • Landscape architects – are often used for high-end residential builds to design, manage and build the natural environments which include gardens and pavements. 
  • Interior designer –  are also often used for high-end residential builds and work with the client to decorate the home. This includes selecting essential and decorative items such as colours, lighting and materials. 


Designing and building a green home comes with many different considerations relating to design, style, material choice, and more. Each of these impact the budget for building a house and the house building costs. 

What you can be sure about is that building a green home, big or small, has many advantages. 

It is essential when designing and building your clients dream home that you have a team of professional suppliers who are qualified and invested in bringing the design to life. For more building tips, take a look at our Architectural Design Brief Checklist here.

Mike Moore

Mike Moore

Mike Moore is a Director at Inso Architectural Solutions