The first Green street lights up

South Africa’s first resource-saving “green street” was launched by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), the country’s official authority on green building, this past week.

The Cop17 legacy project involves thirty low income homes in a street in Cato Manor, Durban, which have all undergone a green refurbishment to demonstrate the range of possible social, economic and environmental benefits.

Cato Manor is a ‘retrofit’, which means an upgrade of an existing home. The green interventions include adding solar water heaters, insulated ceilings, energy efficient lighting, rain-water harvesting systems, food gardens, trees, heat-insulation cookers and also efficient street lighting.

Brian Wilkinson, the CEO of the GBCSA, says that with the world’s attention being focused on Cop17 and South Africa, the GBCSA and the World Green Building Council wanted to showcase the positive progress being made in the built environment, including the potential green buildings have for socio-economic benefits in lower income residential buildings.

“South Africa has built over 2.5 million low-income homes in the past fifteen years, and is targeting a further three million by 2025. So far, green considerations such as passive design, energy/thermal efficiency and water efficiency have not generally been a priority.

“However, this is something that needs to be addressed as living conditions can be improved in a way that minimises the drain on the earth’s resources, minimises the impact on the environment and avoids a ‘carbon intensive’ development path. This demonstration project thus will act as a positive legacy to inform policy and practice beyond Cop17.”

Research worldwide has shown that a third of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings.

“Green building can also improve the lives of residents by offering improved water and food security and creating opportunity for skills training and work opportunities.”

The Cato Manor community was actively involved and consulted before the two-month retrofit and have named the street, “Isimosezulu (which means “climate”) Cop17 Place”.

“With every 1kWh of electricity used in South Africa producing over one kilogram of carbon dioxide and using one litre of water, the benefits of efficiency interventions are very real.

“While the residents are enjoying the dignity of hot water in their homes for the first time – via the solar-heated geysers – there will not be the cost implications of a traditional electric geyser, further strain on the already over-subscribed national power supply nor will it generate the emissions associated with the electricity usage.”

The project is endorsed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and has been carried out in collaboration with the eThekwini Municipality.

The main funder is the British High Commission in South Africa, with contributions from other organisations, including Ascas (LED street lighting), Cosmo-Dec (insulation roof paint to test on several houses), Eskom (energy efficient CFL light bulbs and research), Isoboard (insulated ceiling boards), Natural Balance (heat-insulation cooking apparatus, Wonderbags). Going forward, Property Point, an enterprise development initiative of Growthpoint property company, will provide training and business development support for the people who worked on this project, while the South African Botanical Society will be planting indigenous shade and fruit trees in association with Greenpop.

The initiative was implemented by Carbon Programmes, the same team which conducted the award-winning energy efficiency retrofit in over 2300 houses in Kuyasa, Cape Town.  They were supported by Durban-based Khanyisa Projects.

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