The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) has awarded several buildings at Stellenbosch University with Green Star ratings, as part of a bulk certification of 18 buildings under the Existing Building Performance (EBP) Version 1 tool.  

This process indicates the university’s commitment to playing its part in supporting sustainability and epitomises the transformational capacity of the green buildings’ movement. 

 Committed to green 

The multiple building certifications form part of the university’s Environmental Sustainability Plan to ensure it achieves carbon neutrality by 2030 and net zero by 2050. 

The environmental sustainability manager at Stellenbosch University, John de Wet, emphasises that the process of certifying their buildings will ensure “a more environmentally sustainable institution which will be more resilient, reduce operational costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately the institution’s carbon footprint – healthier, cleaner and more productive spaces, while improving our biodiversity”.  


The JS Marais Building.

The benefits of green 

Certifying a green building is more than just acknowledgement of doing a good job and a certificate to put up on the wall. The benefits are tangible. 

De Wet explains that the certification is helping the university to benchmark its portfolio of buildings against each other and against best practices. Doing so allows them to identify the gaps in their processes and procedures. In essence, it helps them optimise their portfolio and manage their buildings more efficiently and cost-effectively. An added benefit is how the behaviour change of the buildings’ users leads to a more sustainable way of doing campus life.  

Environmental sustainability is a core principle that permeates all aspects of campus life and is deeply integrated into the operations and core business of the institution,” says De Wet. 


The Chemistry Building.

 Community impact 

 Simon Penso, Green Star accredited professional and founder of Imbue Sustainability, explains that Stellenbosch University is the first university in South Africa to achieve EBP certifications, which is an achievement not to be taken lightly. This has some knock-on effects. 

 Penso explains: “Stellenbosch University has approximately 400 buildings and is just one of many academic institutions in South Africa – therefore the positive impact that this sector can have with regards to sustainability is hugely significant. 

 A large percentage of the building occupants are students, which offers additional advantages:  

  • This is often a student’s first exposure to the green building sector and therefore starts raising awareness to a critical demographic.  
  • Those already aware of the importance of sustainability in the built environment are starting to demand change and progress towards a sustainable future.  
  • This commitment by the university drives the sustainability agenda forward beyond the bounds of the building itself. 

Certified buildings 

The heart of Stellenbosch University Main Campus, fondly known as “the Rooiplein”, but officially named The Jan Marais Square, consists of 18 buildings, of which the following have obtained Green Star EBP v1 ratings: 

Four-star Green Star rating 

  • The JH Neethling Building, built in 1922, has four floors with a GLA of 3 428m² and consists of offices, lecture halls and laboratories. 

Five-star Green Star rating 

  • The JS Marais Building, built in 1949, has three floors with a GLA of 3 112m² and consists of offices, lecture halls and laboratories. 
  • The Chemistry Building, built in 1955, has three floors with a GLA of 7 455m² and consists of offices, lecture halls and laboratories. 
  • The Polymer Science Building, built in 1966, has four floors with a GLA of 2 578m² and consists of offices, lecture halls and laboratories.  
  • The Jan Mouton Building, built in 2017, with a GLA of 3 473m², consists of large lecture halls.  

Six-star Green Star rating 

  • The Visual Arts Building, built in 1905, with a GLA of 6 731m², consists of offices, lecture halls and art studios. 

Sustainability initiatives 

  • Energy-efficient lightning and air-conditioning systems throughout the certified buildings. 
  • Careful metering and monitoring of usage to identify and address concerns. 
  • Green transport options include: 
  • The establishment of safe pedestrian routes and the encouragement of walking. 
  • The use of bicycles and campus shuttle services. 
  • Primary and secondary non-motorised transport (NMT) routes across Stellenbosch University Main Campus. 
  • Numerous bicycle racks and stands are available on campus and safe bicycle sheds are being erected, while the establishment of cycling lanes is being undertaken with the municipality. 

Awarding a green building certification on heritage buildings confirms that achieving a Green Star rating is achievable for all existing structures, not just new build projects.  

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to… for the information in this editorial. 


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