The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) awarded its pilot socio-economic impact certification this month to the GBCSA 5-Star Green Star rated Karl Bremer office block in Cape Town.

The Karl Bremer office block in Bellville, Cape Town – a sprawling commercial structure designed to have a footprint of 1,927m2 and gross floor area of 7,520m2. It is the world’s first building to achieve the certification and serves as a veritable how-to for those GBCSA professionals looking to bring their buildings up to this standard of sustainability.

GBC South Africa worked together with World Green Building Council to develop a framework that enables the integration of the complex socio-economic issues faced by developing countries, such as poverty, poor public health, unemployment and lack of skills and education, into any green building rating system anywhere in the world. According to the The Global Green Building Council a more sustainable built environment can help to address these issues. To this end, there are seven possible credits for the GBCSA’s socio-economic impact certification that recognise achievements across a priority set of factors, these are: employment creation, economic opportunity, skills development, training, community benefit, empowerment, safety and health and mixed-income housing (the latter is only applicable to multi-unit residential projects).

The employment creation targets for the Karl Bremer office block development stipulates that at least 10% or more of total labour employed during the construction phase should comprise of disadvantaged people, who are collectively from the target groups of youth, women or disabled people. It will measure this by percentage cost of the contract value. The project’s skills development target is to be compliant with Construction Industry Development Board Standards of Developing Skills through Infrastructure Projects. It aims to do this by providing different types of workplace opportunities and mentorships for learning and skills development over the project period, which lead to recognised qualifications.

For safety and health, the Karl Bremer development aims to improve the primary health of construction workers and promote better safety practices. Besides standard construction regulations, the project’s contractor will have to conduct full medical screening tests and basic health awareness programmes for all construction-related employees. The Karl Bremer Office Block design team also conducted Hazardous Identification Risk Assessments of their designs.

When it comes to economic opportunity,the project targets three main impacts. The first is a minimum contract participation goal of 5% of the total project value on selected contracts to be undertaken by joint-venture partners or sub-contracted to developing contractors that are also beneficiaries of enterprise development support from the main contractor. The second is a minimum 30%, or 25% of contract value, of the procurement of project-specific goods and services during the construction phase from any SMEs or SMEs that are either black owned or black women owned respectively. Third, the project is targeting a minimum of 70% of the contract value for materials, products and services produced or generated within South Africa.

As the starting point for its positive impacts, the project’s design delivers green benefits that are good for the environment. These include zero discharge to sewer through a blackwater treatment plant and reuse of treated blackwater for supply to HVAC cooling towers. It will also have zero storm water discharge to municipal storm water infrastructure through multiple bioretention areas.

Read more here.