South Africa is well on its way to positioning itself as the fastest growing STAG African country in the world. Driven not only by the environmental aspect, but increasingly so by the economic benefits of green building. More and more developers are adopting a sustainable approach.
The growth of green building in South Africa trumps that of established sustainability building regions such as Europe, Australia, United States, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Brazil, this was confirmed in a World Green Building Trends survey run by US-based McGraw-Hill Construction.
Leading the way in the student accommodation sector is STAG African, who changed their company direction in 2008 due to the property crisis and recession; “Developers were crashing right left and centre and we found ourselves in some serious trouble; we had to innovate in order to survive. During that time we identified an opportunity to develop, build, operate and finance student residences,” says John Schooling, MD and founder of student accommodation group, STAG African.
With university budgets facing major constraints and cutbacks from national government, student accommodation in South Africa is in a dire state. The knock on effect of poor accommodation is directly linked to the high failure rate at universities; “By creating optimally designed residences, the pass rate can be increased from 60 to 80%. Simply put, by not providing adequate housing, we’re setting up our learners to fail. The ramifications are huge,” says Schooling.
The problem for universities is that the cost of student accommodation is very expensive. Using green building practices, STAG African is able to reduce building time by 40% and the costs associated to it dramatically. At universities, where cost ultimately is the deciding factor, sustainable, environmentally building is an obvious economic choice.
Schooling sees STAG’s commitment to green development as one of the company’s biggest advantages; “In the very near future it will be it the preferred way of building. Our aim is to be known as the most innovative green company in Africa, not just in the student accommodation sector, but for all of our projects.”
With this in mind, STAG is already developing skills in its local areas of operation to prepare for a more environmentally aware construction sector; an initiative which fits perfectly within the company’s much more encompassing philosophy of enriching lives.
“Not enough is being done at the moment to promote internal development through green skills and green jobs. We are committed to creating unique skills in the use of new technology in the green building sector and have received a lot of support from the Department of Higher Education and Training to do so,” says Schooling. “We project around 6 700 employment opportunities based on our current work scope, this will go a long way in addressing high unemployment rates and upskilling young job seekers with sustainable skills.”
Over the next five years STAG African want to build 50 000-beds, with at least 30 000 of those being constructed under management; “We approach every development holistically and take the social, physical, financial, political and environmental impact of our proposal into account. We then apply our founding principal of developing green skills, for green jobs for a green economy,” says Schooling.
So far, expansion, outside of STAG African’s core South African operations, has incorporated Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia, with Botswana, Madagascar and Namibia firmly in the pipeline.