A recent article in the Cape Argus, concerning the proposed expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, described how it would set standards for GREEN buildings.

Aside from any aesthetic considerations,  it seems to me that there is quite a large question about the "green-ness" of reducing a large building to rubble rather than "re-cycling" it.
Now a system of GREEN GRADING is most desirable, and has at last arrived, but if it works so that people can do very BROWN things and then score up by buying in irrelevant GREEN POINT paint to "greenwash" their work, and more particularly their public images, then I think we have a problem.       "Hogwash" is not green.

Phillip Newmarch

Article  page 2

11/24/2008 03:23:31 pm

Good on you...
For taking up your sword to challenge the "fake" Green brigade.
Nice touch too - You, with a rock pigeon sitting on you shoulder!

Suggestion: Make the title to your response form "Comments and Feedback". That way your users will be encouraged to give an opinion. You might also try "Comments, Suggestions and Feedback.

So, when is the "embossed" picture of you going? Two photos looks silly, especially as they are mirror images.


11/25/2008 02:25:31 pm

Thanks Peter,
You have sharp eyes - it is indeed a rock pigeon. But I am not a "Pigeon Hugger", the bird is a "People Pecker", an underbird standing up for itself!

GBC SA via email
12/3/2008 02:33:12 am

Hello Phillip,

Thanks for contacting the Green Building Council, and congratulations on launching your website. A few comments:

I would encourage you to contact the project team for the CTICC expansion project to get their input as to why they chose to demolish the Customs House building.

You mention questioning "the 'green-ness' of reducing a large building to rubble rather than 're-cycling' it." Perhaps you mean 'reuse' rather than 'recycle' here. It is my understanding that this project does intent to recycle as much debris as possible from the existing building, and to deconstruct it rather than implode the whole thing which would make separation of materials for recycling much harder. My suspicion is that you are trying to contrast demolition of the building with 'reuse' of the existing building in a retrofit project.

I would also encourage you to investigate the Green Star SA rating system. The way that the points work in the system is that projects with an existing building on site are provided with 5 available points for reusing the building. If they chose not to, they would need to make up those points with other design initiatives, most of which are worth only 1 or 2 points. Reusing an existing building for 5 points is not awarded equally to using low-VOC paints for 1 point, as your article suggests. Though there are no 'negative' points in Green Star SA system, projects with existing buildings are essentially penalised for not reusing them and have to implement additional measure to achieve the same rating. As a side note, if you do not have an existing building on site, the building reuse points are essentially eliminated from the scoring altogether so as to not penalise projects for something they do not have the opportunity to do. For projects that do have the opportunity to reuse a building, they are penalised for not doing so and have to come up with several more strategies to make up the difference.

Finally, simply because a project chooses (or is required) to demolish an existing building does not mean that we should not encourage them to build the best possible building, which they are going to build anyway. The point allocations in the Green Star SA system, while far from perfect, attempt to weight the relative environmental benefit of the different measures. The 5 points available for building reuse equate on a points basis to reducing the energy usage of the new building by 25%, for the life of the building.

Kind regards,


Technical Manager : Green Building Council of South Africa

Phillip Newmarch
12/3/2008 03:17:28 am

Thanks for your prompt, clear reply.

I await a response from the CTICC, who, I hope, will refer this to the project team, as at present I have no contact details for the team. I am forwarding a copy of this email to them.

I am sure they have not lightly decided on demolition, but I think it is important that their reasoning should be available to the public.
This might help to improve the quality of public discussion and in turn, produce better decisions.

You are quite correct about "reuse" as opposed to "re-cycling". That is indeed what I had in mind.

I have had a look at the Green Star SA rating system, and make the following observations:

The maximum possible score would appear to be about 150 points. Thus, the 5 points available for reuse makes this a relatively unimportant consideration. This may well be appropriate where the existing building are small relative to the proposal.

It seems the rating should correctly be applied on 'per site' basis. In this case, I think that what is done on the wasteland under the freeway, should be assessed separately from what is done on the presently quite distinct, and fully built, site of the Customs House.

I have no doubt that the tool is good for assessing a project that is either mainly a new building, or alternatively, one that is mainly the refurbishment of an existing building. But I see a problem when the project is to replace an apparently sound existing building with a new one of similar size, as would seem to be the case here.

The tool does not seem to be designed to provide 'greenness assessments' of existing buildings. Consequently, we cannot be certain that a new building, whatever its rating, is actually any 'greener' than the one it replaces.

As the tool is clearly intended for the assessment of OFFICE buildings, it is not clear whether its application to a HOTEL is appropriate.

With all due respects, I think you miss my point about "GREEN POINT paint" ( perhaps a little obscure). I suggest it is a variety of "Hogwash", a brand well known to publicity practioners, not a kind of "low-VOC" paint. If a sample could be captured and analysed, I think it would be found to consist entirely of highly volatile contaminants and large quantities of hot air.

The great value of the Green Star process is that, firstly, it helps to bolster economic arguments in favour of long-term environmental prudence, and secondly, that it assists in publicizing projects which can claim to be "Green", both of which are very important. But publicity campaigns never provide negative information, and that , I think, is their great weakness. Green Stars would be more valuable if they avoided that trap.

Finally, I would agree that there are some buildings that are so bad that their demolishers should deserve Green Stars, but I am not convinced the Customs House is one of them.

Phillip Newmarch


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