GREEN BUILDING: Green Building Council Of SA Appoints a New CEO
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“I once received a very important piece of advice,” says Wilkinson. “In order for a project or an organisation to succeed, it must have two core components: a noble imperative and it must make common sense. I think that this philosophy is the driving force behind the vision for the future of the GBCSA.
“The nobility of the GBCSA’s imperative is unquestionable: to play a vital and active role in ensuring that the built environment makes the necessary changes and adopts practices that will ensure that we and our children and their children will have a viable planet on which to live. The magic happens when you combine this noble imperative with the strong economic argument that supports building and operating our buildings in an energy efficient and sustainable way. It’s a bit of a “no-brainer” – on a micro scale many homeowners would not have considered a solar water heater and low energy CFL lights just a few years ago. But with the doubling – and perhaps future redoubling – of electricity costs these investments now offer a very real payback. In the commercial context the argument is exactly the same – it’s just the scale that’s different and there’s significantly more opportunity than just lights and solar water heating!”
Wilkinson believes that his job will be done when the argument for or against the sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings – or green building – is no longer an argument. “The ultimate objective is to ensure that the need for, and economic benefits of, sustainable building practice becomes internalised in the minds of property owners, managers and developers to such an extent that it influences thinking at the conception of a project and informs and shapes all actions and decisions from then on.”
The Tasks of the New CEO of the Green Building Council
In his new role as CEO, Wilkinson has been tasked with the responsibility of implementing the Council’s strategic vision and direction, managing the GBCSA’s new growth phase and overseeing the day-to-day management of the organisation.
Launched in 2007 as the thirteenth Green Building Council in the world among the more than 80 Councils currently in existence, the GBCSA is South Africa’s official representative at the World Green Building Council and has made extraordinary progress, working closely with commercial property developers, owners and professionals as well as the public sector.
The GBCSA boasts 850 member organisations and has two rating tools – Office V1 and Retail V1 – active in the market. Another rating tool, the Multi Unit Residential Tool, is currently in pilot phase, while a Public Buildings rating tool is about to launch into pilot phase, and an energy benchmarking tool is in the pipeline. To date, the GBCSA has certified five buildings as Green Star SA Rated, and over 30 buildings are registered for a Green Star SA rating. This is an impressive achievement given that the organisation has been in existence for less than four years, and considering that it takes a year to 18 months to bring a new rating tool to market. The GBCSA has also trained over 2000 professionals in the application of the Green Star SA tools and more than 300 professionals have been formally accredited.
The Green Building Council Puts Pressure on Property Developers
Apart from providing a standardised Green Star SA tool for property professionals, Wilkinson confirms that ratings are starting to exert peer pressure on property owners and developers. “We’ve found that many owners, developers and professionals are incredibly proud to achieve a four or five star rating on a building. We believe that, in time, the demand for and pride in these ratings will filter down to property users and their clients. This has already been achieved in Australia, where you cannot rent out a building unless it is Green Star rated,” comments Wilkinson.
The commercial property sector has been the quickest to respond to the call for sustainable building practice and, as a result, the GBCSA’s office tool was the first to be introduced in South Africa. “A huge plus is that the public sector is keeping pace with the commercial sector and is an active member,” says Wilkinson. “The Department of Public Works has recently adopted and gazetted the GBCSA Green Star SA rating tool for government buildings as ’best practice’ for design. We expect that our Public Buildings rating tool (which includes government buildings as well as other public buildings such as schools), will be launched at the GBCSA Convention and Exhibition at the CTICC in Cape Town in October.”
But the positive influence and role of the GBCSA is not restricted to South Africa. “The GBCSA is in a unique position because it is the entry point of sustainable building practice into the African continent,” notes Wilkinson. “South Africa has a leadership role to play because in many respects it informs the actions of the rest of Africa – leading by example given our stage of development – and we’re also in a position to champion Africa on the global stage because of our status within the World Green Building Council.”
He notes that there is a convergence of all the above forces. “This underpins an even greater need for GBCSA to grow the organisation’s role and influence. There’s a raft of new projects awaiting accreditation, our course offering needs to be expanded, our advocacy and lobbying role with government – especially with SA hosting COP17 in Durban later this year and chairing COP for the next year – is more important than ever and we will be expanding the number of rating tools. The board has tasked me with driving this expansion and it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to,” says Wilkinson.
It is a grand vision of sustainable building across our continent, which is widely considered as the new growth frontier, and Wilkinson certainly has the expertise and experience to spearhead this exciting growth phase for the GBCSA. He successfully held various property, investment and management roles at Old Mutual Property and at Old Mutual Group Finance for 23 years, before taking on a position as a consultant for the iLima Trust, set up by Old Mutual with the aim of “ploughing back” management and specialist skills to organs of Government and the SMME sector. With this background in the property sector, an understanding of the public sector challenges and a management career spanning more than 27 years, Wilkinson brings impressive expertise and considerable experience to the GBCSA management, heralding an exciting new growth phase for the Green Building Council of South Africa.
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