The Green Alternative

Going green offers business opportunities.

The Green Alternative

The construction industry is blighted by a decline in project opportunities, fierce competition for tenders and late payments that cripple cash flow. But while the industry gets itself together, there is an alternative – getting into green will water your money tree.

Saving Where You Can

In the near future, going green is not just going to be for urban hippies. In the current climate, electricity is set to increase by 15% to 20% per annum and water shortages loom on the horizon. To deal with the pressure on electricity, Eskom is offering rebates ranging from R3 600 to R4 200 to businesses and residents who opt for solar systems and heat pumps.

And with municipalities set to implement a sliding rate scale for water consumption, installing water saving products like grey water recycling systems, rain water tanks, and low flow faucets and toilets are increasingly enticing for the general public.

Green Misconceptions

The biggest challenge facing green business at the moment is market perception, according to Ben Booysen, general manager of The Surgeon Group. Selling cost-effective eco-friendly systems to residents can be a challenge because the initial capital outlay is off-putting. People think that going green is expensive when in fact costs are recovered in three to four years.

Neville Bosman, former CEO of Bombela Maintenance (Gautrain) and MBA candidate at the Gordon Institute of Business Science researching green homes, says South Africa is mainly held back by many green materials not being approved by the National Home Builder Registration Council (NHBRC). This influences banks granting loans to early adopters.

If you look at the trends in Australia and how its green property industry developed, we’re in the early adoption stage and it’s not unreasonable to suggest South Africa will continue to develop along the same lines. For now though, early adopters have to self-finance their green builds until more materials get approval.

Sustainability Means People and Planet

Just as the UK experienced a 73% increase in the number of ‘green’ products available within the space of one year, South Africa is starting to follow the green products and services trend. Bosman suggests that South Africa’s move to a low carbon economy will see government spending more on eco-friendly construction.

This means greater demand for eco-friendly building material, LED lighting, solar panels, even rammed earth construction equipment (a technique approved by the NHBRC). When it comes to tenders, BEE companies have traditionally been favoured, but what’s happening now is that environmental considerations are also playing into selection criteria. Sustainability is as much about people as it is about the environment, says Bosman.

Divergence is the Name of the Game

The Surgeon Group is one example of a maintainance business diversifying its services to cater for the growing green market. The Surgeon Group is an established brand and known for its quality of service. After being approached by large corporations to assist with greening, we knew we needed to diversify our service, so we expanded with Eco Surgeon, explains Booysen.

Bosman shares the sentiment that divergence is the answer for businesses suffering in the construction industry. The entrepreneurial perspective is about doing things differently. This means reducing the timeframe of construction, innovating the construction process through modular building – that can be put together in the factory with greater efficiency than on site – and fueling the demand for green materials by producing them locally and cheaper.

As the green building movement gains momentum in South Africa and Africa at large, there’s increasing room for responsible businesses involved in sustainability, product development and supply, installation and construction.

With early adopters setting the example and government strategy set on developing a low carbon economy, going green is not just for hippies. It’s a serious business booster that has the added effect of creating jobs, fueling the economy, and lowering the price of green materials that put off current consumers.

The future of green construction

  • Solar panels – can be used to generate a supply of electricity for households or geysers to reduce dependence on the grid
  • Water savers – grey water is waste water generated from home activities like laundry, dishwashing, and bathing, and contains no human or toxic waste. It can be recycled for use in garden irrigation.
  • LED lights – the typical lifespan of a standard 40-watt incandescent light bulb is
  • 1 000 hours, whereas an LED can continue to operate up to 50 times longer.
  • Bamboo – a fast growing and sustainable plant, bamboo can be used in laminated flooring, insulation, and furniture construction. Today’s main producer is Asia.
  • Rammed earth construction – a construction technique thousands of years old that uses natural building materials around the construction site. It’s low-carbon, durable, non-combustible and thermally efficient. Plus it’s approved by the NHBRC.
  • Home automation systems – These devices moderate a building’s electricity usage by controlling lights, geysers, swimming pool pumps and other electrical systems. It communicates to owners through web or mobile app.
Tracy Lee Nicol
About the Author
Tracy-Lee Nicol is the managing editor of Franchise Zone Magazine and deputy editor of Entrepreneur Magazine. She studied her Masters degree in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University and spent the next two years working and travelling in Asia. Her love of people, business and teaching is reflected in telling the stories of entrepreneurs, franchisees and franchisors, inspiring others to take the leap to being their own boss and bringing about positive change in South Africa.

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