Construction of a multi-billion Rand 'green building' to house the Department of Water Affairs began in Pretoria on Thursday, signalling a new era in the country's response to climate change.
With R8 billion worth of investment in the construction and maintenance of the building, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the department was taking "a green and bold step" that signifies South Africa's commitment towards a low carbon economy.
She said the office block, to be situated a stone's throw away from the Union Buildings, will change the face of the construction industry.
"Through this green building we will propel the department above the construction industry players, setting a good example for other organisations and of course for the benefit of the environment and future generations," she said.
The building's features include rain water collectors made of recyclable materials, indigenous plants in the landscaping to reduce the need for regular irrigation and also occupants of the building will have direct access to sunlight and ventilation thereby reducing the use of electricity and air conditioners.
"We have, through this investment, taken that bold step which will ensure that our infrastructure can meet green output specifications outlined in our country's climate change response policy. This policy amongst others [encourages] the use of sustainable building materials which promote urban greening, energy and water efficiency," Molewa said.
Project leader Gugu Dingaan of Imvelo Concession Company said the designers paid careful attention to global trends to ensure that the building met all the requirements in terms of architectural design and land scape.
"This building talks to the overall goal of sustainable development and aims at being an example in the field...from the gardens right up to the roof of the building we have built in environmental design principles," she said.
With the global economy rapidly transforming to low carbon growth, the green buildings initiative is an investment by government to assist South Africa meets its carbon emissions reduction targets.
Research indicates that in South Africa, the building sector accounts for 23% of greenhouse gas emissions, while emissions from the manufacture of the major materials for the building sector amounts to around 18mt CO2 per year, or 4% of total carbon emissions.
Officials say although buildings are a large contributor of greenhouse gases, they have received little attention in international global warming protocols and initiatives, which tend to focus on industry and transport.
Molewa said South Africa had relatively high carbon emissions for a developing country, and this necessitated new strategies to change this. The country's green economy strategy has eight focus areas that include green buildings, sustainable transport as well as agriculture and food production.
"We anticipate that the urban area around us will become a green hub of creativity of green buildings that will influence corporate and state-owned companies around the country to follow suit."
Reported by: South African Government News Service
SOURCE: 7th Space