The fact is our economic and social development depends significantly on the state of the country’s biodiversity, also referred to as natural capital, and this, in turn, is increasingly becoming integral to how people perceive value in specific properties.
This is according to Dr Andrew Golding, CE of the Pam Golding Property (PGP) group, who says with this in mind, they believe it is their collective responsibility to conserve, maintain and improve their key biodiversity assets. Furthermore, he says with rapidly rising energy costs as well as ongoing increases in the cost of water, homeowners and home buyers are becoming more and more aware of the need to reduce these costs as well as help conserve the country’s natural resources.
As a result, Dr Golding says they see the start of a growing drive among a cross-section of those involved in the housing sector, from developers and architects to individuals building their own homes or ‘greening’ their existing homes with energy and water saving features, to incorporate a range of such features in homes.
The National Biodiversity and Business Network (NBBN), of which PGP is a founding partner, is therefore working with various companies to assist them in driving innovation and leadership to change the way biodiversity is perceived and to develop a collective accountability for its protection.
Dr Marie Parramon-Gurney, representative of the Secretariat of the NBBN, who is also head of conservation and business at the Endangered Wildlife Trust(EWT) and vice chair of the Environmental Law Association, says in this context, in collaboration with the Pam Golding Property group, they are trying to lead a shift in the way the real estate sector perceives its role in relation to biodiversity management and conservation.
She says the sector can play a massive leadership role in the way biodiversity is valued and incorporated in property development, design and management. Right now, an opportunity exists for this sector to enhance South Africa and potentially Africa’s natural capital at all stages of an asset’s lifecycle, from site location, site planning, design and construction to operation and maintenance, she says.
PGP is also working with the EWT and the NBBN in developing a biodiversity guide for new homeowners to assist them in increasing the biodiversity value of their properties.
Anthony Stroebel, group marketing director for PGP, says homeowners, especially in an urban environment, often forget the importance of nature and their role to protect it. He says they also often ignore the potential added value that biodiversity can add to their property, including economic value. With this guide, PGP and the EWT hope to support homeowners in understanding their potential role in preserving and enhancing the biodiversity value of their property, ultimately adding value to their asset and to the natural capital of the country.
The guide will provide practical, hands-on advice for homeowners on how to identify, manage and enhance biodiversity on their properties as well as tips on becoming more sustainable and responsible within the context of their environment, he says.
It is evident that such a guide will prove highly useful for homeowners and the real estate sector at large. This is according to Carol Reynolds, PGP’s area principal in Durban, Durban North and La Lucia, who says at present, while an energy efficient home is an attractive feature for prospective buyers, it is difficult to quantify the return on investment for the homeowner.
“Clearly the most practical advantage is simply that since monthly utility costs are reduced, this will assist any prospective buyers from an affordability perspective. On the whole, a ‘green’ home is desirable and energy efficiency is a positive feature that will enhance the value of a property, but what really matters most is the positive impact that these homes have on the environment. Often with property, value is determined via a combination of factors, and it is difficult to isolate each of these and determine the individual impact that each feature has on the value as a whole. Property owners should convert to energy efficient homes because of the monthly saving rather than the long-term capital appreciation.”
In Gauteng, both Davies and Jason Shaw, manager of PGP’s Fourways office, concur that as rising electricity tariffs bite deeper into consumers’ pockets, the need for energy-saving and cost-saving features become more compelling.
Davies, who is currently investigating all that is involved in getting ‘off the grid’ in regard to his own home and even feeding energy into the grid, says there are a host of measures one can put in place, from solar-powered geysers and LED lighting to solar-powered inverters, which run all appliances. He says if you consider the affordability of the costs of running a home, it becomes clearer. A family in a four bedroom home in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs may easily be spending R4 000 to R5 000 per month on electricity alone, he says. While the outlay costs of installing energy saving features is initially significant, the fact that one may achieve a saving of in excess of R40 000 a year makes sound economic sense, he says.
Shaw says there is a shift towards the ‘greening’ of homes. He says it’s becoming more than just a ‘nice-to-have’ as the break-even point becomes more achievable, making savings more meaningful over time. He says they are starting to see more energy and water saving features in homes, which also add to their appeal when owners wish to put them on the market.
Basil Moraitis, area manager of PGP on the Western Cape Atlantic Seaboard, says implementing green technology in homes is still a new concept. He says while this trend towards green technology is just beginning, and will take a couple of years to become more evident, they will head in that direction in future in order to reduce the strain placed on the electricity grid by their over-reliance on fossil fuels, thereby easing the depletion of the planet’s ecosystem.
“New developments are currently being fitted with energy-efficient heating and cooling systems to comply with Cape Town City Council’s zoning regulations. The Odyssey, a 65-unit luxury apartment building in Main Road in Green Point, is an example of a building where energy-saving measures were implemented and is fully compliant with council’s new regulations.”
He says this ultimately benefits the buyer by reducing energy consumption and saving money at the end of the day. Apart from solar-powered geysers, he says, other measures which can be used to reduce reliance on heating and cooling systems, and thus reduce energy demands, include using the heat generated by air conditioning units to heat hot water instead of being discharged into the atmosphere, while west-facing windows can be double-glazed to keep the apartment warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
Stroebel says it is incumbent upon them as the business sector to ensure that they look to take a far more responsible approach as far as the protection of natural capital is concerned and that they, in turn, look to utilise their channels and networks to drive consciousness and action around this critical issue. As the saying goes, “we are merely borrowing our planet from future generations”, he says.