SUSTAINABILITY THINKING STARTS AT HOME
Pam Golding Properties makes a contribution to promote green outcomes
Thursday 12th of July 2018
In an interview with Tony Korsten from Asset Magazine, Anthony Stroebel, General Manager Real Estate Services for Pam Golding Properties, describes the group’s commitment to taking issues of sustainability seriously into the future. Starting within the organisation itself, and slowly extending throughout its sphere of influence, PGP aims to make its contribution towards changing behaviours in a way that promotes green outcomes.
At present, much of what PGP hopes to achieve in this respect is part of a vision that still needs to become actionable strategy. Nevertheless, Anthony is passionate about driving it in whatever way possible, both because it’s the right thing to do, and because in the long term, it is going to make the best commercial sense for homeowners, both in terms of their lifestyle and, indeed, the value of their most valuable asset.
Starting in-house, the company will undertake a process of improving energy efficiency, reducing waste, finding more environmentally responsible ways to do things, and educating employees so that they buy into a green mindset. Part of this includes educating Pam Golding Agents – the sales force – as to the benefits of energy efficient and sustainable choices in the home, so that they are able to offer clients insight and knowledge, thereby adding tangible value to what, in most cases, is a person’s most valuable asset.
It is in this interaction with clients that the real benefits will begin to be seen, and green goals furthered, Anthony believes. And there are so many ways in which he believes that educated and informed property professionals can contribute to achieving a greener built environment overall.
For example, he sits on the board of directors of the Green Building Council South Africa, representing the residential property sector. The GBCSA, which is now well established in South Africa and which has made excellent progress in developing rating tools for the commercial property sector, launched its Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) tool in 2015. The move signalled the expansion of the GBCSA focus to include the residential sector. EDGE is the green building certification programme that empowers the residential property market to design and build resource-efficient buildings featuring solutions to achieve minimum savings of 20% energy, water and embodied energy in materials.
Sitting on the board of the GBCSA is one way in which Anthony says PGP can contribute to moving the residential property sector forward in the green space, particularly as far as new property development projects are concerned.
“Instead of only being consulted downstream when a residential product has already been developed, we have an opportunity to consult to developers and other players earlier in the product development process, in the interests of creating a greener product from the beginning.”
It is certainly far easier to achieve sustainable design and benefits when one begins with this in mind – things like orientation, natural light and air flow, all of which cost nothing extra if they are simply considered at the beginning.
There are, of course, additional aspects such as solar power, grey water systems and others which come at an additional cost. However, as we have seen in recent years, the cost of many of these technologies is steadily decreasing whilst they become more reliable and easier to manage. “There is still a perception amongst many residential developers that it costs more to build green. Their obvious question is whether they will get their premiums back – in other words, whether they can charge more for a sustainable home and whether the market will be prepared to pay that price,” he explains. “My gut feeling is that most people today probably would be prepared to pay a premium for a green home, but it’s early days yet and we don’t have enough data to properly quantify this. Certainly, though, these homes are becoming far more in demand and are indeed more ‘sellable’ over the traditional home.
He certainly believes that if the market isn’t there yet, it won’t take long to get there. Millennials are fast reaching the point where they are a very buoyant emerging buying segment, and just as they question the ethics and credentials of the companies they buy from and work for, they similarly want to live in a way that bears out their values when it comes to minimising our impact on the environment. And, as already mentioned, the cost of something like a solar energy system has come down dramatically in the past decade, to the point where one can be fairly sure it will pay itself off in around three years.
Where PGP’s sustainability drive can have real impact is in the general home owner market – making owners, sellers and buyers more aware of what owning a green home can do for them. “We value on average 15,000 homes a month – that’s nearly 180,000 a year. That’s a huge sphere of influence. If our agents can play a role in educating the general public about how to live a more sustainable life and create a better place for our children in future, we can reach a massive sector of society,” Anthony points out. He says that part of being green is to look at the role of domestic society in using power and water, and in creating waste, and to drive a greater awareness around these issues.
Estate agents could, for example, recommend to home owners that they implement certain solutions in their homes to bring costs down, or to make them more sellable. They could advise buyers about what to look for if they are keen on going green. This is not all that different, says Anthony, from recommending other changes which would improve the value of a home in the long run. “Our job is to give people the best advice to maximise the value of their home,” he comments. A well-informed estate agent who is on top of the trends, knows their market and is able to offer people good advice, becomes a trusted advisor.
Getting involved in as many initiatives as possible to become part of the ‘green movement’ is part of PGP’s activity in the market. In addition to playing a role in the GBCSA, PGP is also a founding member of the National Business and Biodiversity Network (NBBN), which aims to promote the concept of biodiversity in mainstream business.
The company has also been working with the Western Cape Government to pilot a green assessment to home owners. In essence, it is a simple questionnaire that asks questions such as whether one’s home has air conditioning, solar power, a variable speed pool pump, etc, with the aim of finding out how green homes currently are. “All our agents in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Somerset West are now conducting this study with their clients so that we can assist the Western Cape Government with developing initiative,” says Anthony.
He continues that what he dreams of seeing at some stage in the future is for certain sustainable measures to become ‘minimum credentials’ for a home sale – much like the certificates of compliance that one needs to have today.
“I’d like to see a home’s green credentials becoming a standard item on show-house attributes and features, so that prospective buyers know when they view the property what its power and water consumption are, for example, and I’d like to see buyers asking these questions as a matter of course.”
“We’re only just starting with this journey, it’s not an overnight fix. Right now, we are happy with getting the conversation going and developing strong third-party partnerships so that we can start to influencing the trend positively.
It may seem like a long road to travel before the market will do some of the things that Anthony describes – but then again, just look at how well the commercial property market has responded to the green movement. Hardly a significant new commercial development takes place in South Africa today without there being some kind of nod made to sustainability at the very least – and a good percentage of property owners and developers go the whole way and apply for a certification from the GBCSA. As with other markets around the world, top end tenants are now demanding green buildings and are willing to pay a premium for space in them. It’s not so difficult to imagine the residential market moving in the same direction. We look forward to seeing how it unfolds.
Written by Claire Cole for Asset Magazine
If you are searching for a green home, or wish to have yours valued, your Pam Golding Properties area specialist is a good place to start.
Main picture: This beautiful, energy-efficient Hemel-en-Aarde wine farm in the Western Cape is for sale through Pam Golding Properties.
Posted by Niki Jackson