Inso Architectural SolutionsArchitecture

What is Green Building? Everything you need to know in South Africa

By 1st Dec 2020Feb 20th, 2021No Comments
What is a green building?

It is no secret that more and more industries, both locally and globally, are looking for ways to reduce their carbon emissions, their effect on climate change and their impact on the environment and the world around them. 

The building industry is no different, which is why the move towards green building has gained more traction in recent years. We examine the ins and outs of green building in more detail below, including its importance, benefits, and the certifications available.

What is green building?

The World Green Building Council defines this concept as the following:

“A green building is a building that, in its design, construction, or operation reduces or eliminates negative impact and can create positive impacts on our climate and natural environment. They preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.”

In simple terms, green buildings are focused on building for the environment, as well as the people living or working in these buildings. These buildings are designed to be energy-efficient, resource-efficient, and make use of materials that are eco-friendly and sustainable.

Green buildings are often also known as sustainable or high-performance buildings as the design takes into consideration the economy, use, longevity, durability, and comfort of the building. This can refer to an eco-friendly building or an eco-friendly house.

What are the components of green building?

What are the components of green building

Green building design looks at creating environmentally-friendly buildings, which include the following components:

  • Energy and water efficiency in green building is an essential component 
  • The use of renewable energy sources, for example, solar energy
  • The implementation of measures to reduce pollution, waste and enable recycling
  • Good indoor air quality with lots of natural ventilation
  • The use of non-toxic and sustainable building materials
  • Consideration of the environment in every aspect of the building’s life-cycle this includes design, construction, operation and maintenance of the building
  • A building design that can adapt to environmental changes 

Why is green building important?

Green buildings not only aim to reduce the impact on the environment but also enhance the experience and comfort levels of the people residing or working in these buildings. This design utilises building elements aimed at increasing the levels of indoor air comfort, acoustic comfort, thermal comfort and visual comfort. 

This is done by designing a space that creates open airflow, utilises natural light, insulates against sound and outside temperature etc. According to the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), this has the following benefits:

  • Lower Operating Costs – research has estimated that green buildings experience energy consumption savings of between 25% and 50%.
  • Increased Productivity – green buildings are known to positively impact the health and wellbeing of occupants which increases productivity and ultimately business profitability.
  • Increased Property Values – the decreased operating costs and green building properties have been proven to increase the value of the buildings, in the United States and Australia, by 11% and 12% respectively.
  • Reduced Liability & Riskeco-friendly house designs and buildings reduce liability and risk as they are often thought to be future-proof against increases in utility costs, energy, and water supply issues, new building regulations, carbon taxes, etc.
  • Higher returns on assets – research in the United States and Australia have shown that the rental rates of green buildings are between 5% to 6% higher than non-green buildings.

What is a green building certification?

From the above, it is clear that green building construction is not only important for the environment but has many positive benefits for the building owners and occupants. For a building to be considered a green building, they need to be certified by green building councils

There are different rating tools and systems, associated with green building certifications that relate to new buildings, existing buildings, design, construction as well as operational practices. Two of these rating systems and bodies include:

  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification – this is the most widely used rating system in the world and it provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. Hotel Verde in Cape Town is an example of one of the LEED-certified buildings in South Africa. This was the first hotel in Africa to achieve a platinum LEED certification by the United States Green Building Council.
  • Green Star Certification – this an internationally recognised and trusted mark of quality for the design, construction and operation of buildings, interior fit-outs and precincts, and is certified by the Green Building Council of South Africa. 

An example of one of the Green Star certified facilities is the 1 Discovery Place building in Sandton. This building, which is approximately 147 000msq, boasts a high-performance double-glazed curtain wall, green roof, air-side economy cycle on all central air handling units, harvesting of greywater and rainwater for irrigation, and more.

With new governmental legislation and regulations and a move towards sustainable construction, we are expecting to see an increase in the number of certified green buildings and green eco houses. In the future, this may even become a prerequisite for building design and construction.

Aluminium as green building materials

Building materials play a significant role. It is therefore essential, as green architects, that you choose the right sustainable building materials. 

The use and application of these materials need to be both practical and eco friendly. We are seeing a trend towards the increased use of aluminium as a building material within this space. This is primarily due to the various applications associated with the versatility of this lightweight and robust metal. 

Aluminium can be used structurally for windows, doors, shade and shutter systems, and more. This metal is not only corrosion-resistant but recyclable and environmentally friendly. If utilised effectively, this material can also enhance the energy efficiency, insulation and comfort levels of a building, which are all essential for green building design, construction and certifications.


Green building is a trend that we expect to amplify in the years to come which is a result of the benefits that sustainable building construction has on the environment as well as the health and wellness of the people in the building. 

Architects are challenged to adjust their views on building design and incorporate sustainable, eco-friendly principles and materials. 

As a business, we are excited to see how this trend evolves, and we look forward to helping our clients design and build the green buildings of the future.  

Mike Moore

Mike Moore

Mike Moore is a Director at Inso Architectural Solutions