Register to comment and receive news in your inboxRegister or Log in

Build green to benefit your business and the planet

Loadshedding, and increasingly also water-supply interruptions, are wreaking havoc with the lives and livelihoods of South Africans. Investing in green buildings, however, could rescue your bottom line as much as the planet, especially with the innovative financing available to entrepreneurs.

This is according to Gugu Mjadu, marketing executive general manager at specialist financier for small and medium enterprises, Business Partners Limited, who says it is a good thing that South Africa was an early adopter of the green building movement. “The Green Building Council South Africa was founded in 2007, in 2008 the Green Star SA rating system was launched and the first certification, for phase two of Nedbank’s head office in Sandton, was awarded in 2009,” she says.

Mjadu reflects on some of the statistics from Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) which indicate that by October 2022, South Africa had 905 certified green building developments; 165 of them completed in the past year, compared to the five years it took for the first 50.

“The impact of the 905 certifications is awe-inspiring: for instance, the 1 320-million kWh/annum energy saved is enough to power 91 500 households per year. The 1 220-million litres of water saved is enough to meet 1 672 800 people’s daily drinking water needs every year whereas the 1 590-million kgCO2/annum carbon saved is equal to 395 400 fewer cars on the roads every year. South Africa is definitely contributing to saving the planet,” Mjadu adds.

Even with those statistics, many entrepreneurs are still not sold on investing in green buildings. Mjadu says it should be an easy decision to make, particularly now with the ever-rising cost of doing business. She says, “Apart from benefitting the environment and sustainability, green-certified buildings offer excellent commercial value: operating costs are lower due to water and energy savings. Also, according to MSCI South African Green Annual Property Index green buildings attract and retain tenants far more effectively than their conventional counterparts.”

Greening your buildings also leads to more productivity and well-rested employees. “According to a 2015 Harvard-led study, workers in green, well-ventilated offices recorded a 101% increase in brain function scores when employees who work in offices with windows sleep an average of 46 minutes more per night according to an American Academy of Sleep Medicine report from 2013,” explains Mjadu.

Even if environmental sustainability is not your main concern, the rapidly rising cost of water and electricity, combined with unreliable supplies and the financial impact of disruptions on your business, is a powerful case in favour of green investment. The only question therefore that remains is if you can afford to invest in a green building or development.

“Considering the challenges that many businesses are facing and the fact that there is a wide range of  highly attractive financing options available, you have a winning strategy for either converting an existing building or development or constructing something new,” says Mjadu. She adds that in terms of affordability, it is important to bear in mind that green no longer means too expensive.

“According to the International Finance Corporation, the average premium for a building to achieve green building status is 4.4% of total Capex.”

Two reports mentioned on the GBCSA website bear this out. An international study involving 180 buildings, found the premium to be between 0% and 4%, while a South African study of eight local and 11 international buildings, found it to be between 1% and 10%. This data was collected from a small sample of buildings, all having been built early in the green building movement. All indications are that green building costs are rapidly becoming on par with the capital required to build a conventional structure.

Funding options

Mjadu explains that the Business Partners Limited’s Green Buildings Finance Programme provides up to 100% property finance, ranging from R500 000 to R50-million, to established entrepreneurs with a viable business who want to invest in green buildings and achieve green building certification.

The company finances the purchase, construction, and/or retrofit of buildings if their designs are certified under an eligible green building certification. The finance programme’s main focus is on industrial and retail spaces, but residential property developments, hotels, schools, hospitals, offices and mixed-use buildings also qualify.

“Considering that Business Partners Ltd offers entrepreneurs a rebate of up to 40 percent of the capital expenditure needed to green their buildings and the cost of green certification is covered by a non-refundable grant of up to R150 000, there is no better time than now to go green for your buildings,” Mjadu concludes.