Greening the inside

The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) launched the Green Star SA Interiors Pilot rating tool in December 2013, and about 15 projects signed up to take part in developing this tool. After an intense period of fine-tuning, testing and changing the criteria as these projects went through the paces of certification, the finalised first version (v1) was launched in February this year.

“At the start it was based largely on the Australian Green Star Interiors criteria but we quickly realised that wasn’t going to work as well in SA,” explains GBCSA Interiors project manager Lesley Sibanda.

She says the South African rating tool needed to recognise smaller players and innovation. “The tool is now more equitable and appropriate for other occupations beyond just offices.”

“I am 100% convinced it is appropriate for the South African market, and I am amazed at how well it is functioning,” says University of Johannesburg (UJ) Interior Design head of department Amanda Breytenbach. She formed part of the technical working group (TWG) of over 20 industry professionals who helped with the interior tool’s development.

Rather than investigating, rating and endorsing products itself, the council has gone the route of recognising existing, legitimate eco labels, which assess the environmental attributes of products. This is relevant for the materials category of the rating, which seeks to verify that furniture, flooring, wall coverings and sundry materials in the fitout have been selected because they have a reduced impact on the environment when compared to available alternatives.

Breytenbach expects the interiors rating tool will stimulate change among product suppliers. If interior designers want the accounts of top corporates in South Africa seeking Green Star SA accreditation, they will need to know where to source certified green products.

There are 100 total points available in the Green Star SA Interiors v1 rating tool, and these can be gained in the following categories: management; indoor environmental quality; energy; transport; water; materials; land-use and ecology; emissions; and innovation.

There were significant changes to the tool as it developed from pilot to v1, many in the water and energy categories, and for the first time the innovation credit will recognise the first ten projects to use an innovative green method or technology in the building fitout. Previously only the first three projects received innovation recognition. Projects can also receive innovation points if benchmarks are exceeded by a certain percentage.

GBCSA business development manager Sian Cohen says the reach of the rating tool is intended to hold broad appeal defined by certain eligibility criteria. It includes tenancies such as offices, retail stores, restaurants, hotels, galleries, public buildings and healthcare facilities.

“The certification affords property owners the ability to market their green space in a credible way as it has Green Star authority. This offers tenants peace of mind in that they can reap the rewards from the green space. Research and case studies have found that green offices boost productivity and performance, enhance worker satisfaction, reduce sick leave, stress leave and absenteeism, and are a powerful recruitment and retention tool,” says Cohen.


By Christy van der Merwe

The full article appears in the August-September 2015 earthworks magazine and focuses further on key aspects of the Interiors rating tool such as materials; acoustics; lighting; productivity; ergonomics and plants.