Eco-architecture is taking off in South Africa. Gone are the days when the demands on architecture were to create structures that were bigger, better, more impressive. Instead, the buildings at the forefront of modern architecture are greener, use less resources and have minimal impact on their surroundings.

Did you know?

The Green Leaf Environmental Standard was launched in 2008 to assess accommodation for its compliance with environmentally-friendly ideals. 

Some of the best examples of green architecture in South Africa can be seen in hotels and spas. They have risen to the challenge of maintaining luxury while still ensuring minimal impact on the environment.

The Woodlands Spa and Forum Homini hotel in the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg are both fine examples of buildings created using natural materials in harmony with the environment. Only indigenous plants have been used in the gardens, and the buildings themselves were designed to reflect their natural surroundings without harming them.

The Karkloof Spa in KwaZulu-Natal is similarly gentle on the environment. It is constructed from reclaimed bricks and natural materials, and recycles all grey water on site. It also has living roofs that small game can graze on.

While not a new construction, the Vineyard Hotel & Spa in Cape Town has made a commitment to living green, and implemented sustainable development principles throughout their buildings.

In the cities, large corporations are doing their bit, erecting South African green buildings at the highest level. The Absa Capital Building, Nedbank's Head Offices and Wesbank Headquarters in Johannesburg, along with BP South Africa's Headquarters in Cape Town, are cutting-edge examples. They make use of solar power, capture run-off water and are built from environmentally friendly materials, as well as being beautiful to behold.

And at the highest level of our justice system, the Constitutional Court of South Africa is a building that buzzes with symbolism and reverence. It too has paid heed to the need to minimise environmental impact, and makes use of a passive heating and cooling system that was a point of great pride for its architects.

In the relatively new area of eco-architecture in South Africa, it's possible to see the foundations of a conscientious future being laid.