CEO of Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA)
What prompted the theme of Y/OUR SPACE for this year’s GBCSA Green Building Convention, and what does the sustainable development space mean to you?
In a day/week/month/year/lifetime, we occupy spaces. We ask for space when we need time to think and contemplate. The theme asks everyone to contemplate all aspects of space and how we consciously make them more sustainable.
We are creating a space for redefining our thinking. A space for robust discussion that inspires actionable outcomes. A space for sharing innovative solutions and tried and trusted best practices. A space to connect the built environment as a force for change.
For me, a sustainable development space is where all stakeholders in the built environment are committed to a greener future, and we are finding and implementing the solutions.
How is the conversation about sustainable spaces changing, and are there any projects that you’re particularly fond of?
With the erratic climate that South Africa (and the world) has been experiencing has brought the reality of climate change to the forefront of conversation. More people are aware that we need to change. I have also noticed that people are more demanding about the spaces they occupy. Thus, more questions are being asked around how we make these changes and what can be done to improve our spaces.
I cannot choose one project out of all of them. Firstly, because I would get into trouble, and secondly, each of the 1 000 certified projects has its own properties that make it sustainable and unique.
What would you most like attendees to gain from the 2023 Green Building convention?
Attendees should come away with a sense of positivity and the knowledge that there are solutions to the many crises we are facing. These solutions are implementable and in their hands. We are going to have to come up with some of these innovative solutions at the convention. Networking – with intent – will be the foundation of these innovations.
For many of us, attending the convention is like “coming home”.
Chairperson of GBCSA; Executive Manager, Operations, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Please tell us about your personal experience in the sustainability arena.
My day job entails directing the operations and facilities services of the V&A Waterfront, a mixed-use property precinct and tourist destination in South Africa. Apart from the day-to-day managing of utilities, infrastructure maintenance, security, traffic management, parking, cleaning, hygiene services and waste management, I also drive the sustainability agenda.
I’ve been fortunate to be part of the desalination plant, which will start producing water in 2024, taking the V&A Waterfront off the grid.
To mitigate against the increased energy usage the desalination plant requires, I am directing the roll-out of an additional 1.8MW of photovoltaic solar installations, as well as a waste-to-energy pyrolysis plant, which we hope will deliver some 1.8 million kWh per year while increasing our landfill waste diversion ratio. This waste-to-energy plant requires an environmental impact assessment and we are roughly halfway with this process.
Then I am involved in are the deployment of a large-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) for the Victoria Wharf shopping centre to mitigate against diesel usage during load shedding, and the use of seawater cooling for the HVAC to save energy. The V&A Waterfront’s black water recycling system, which went live early in 2023, reclaims irrigation standard water from the sewerage, used for the flushing of lavatories in the shopping centre.
What do you think the sustainable development space of tomorrow will look like?
Given our context in South Africa, I think that in the short- to medium-term future, most focus will be in the renewable energy space as we try to recover from the effects of load shedding. The acceleration of energy wheeling will be a game-changer, allowing the property sector to move towards decarbonisation and, in the long run, it will boost the renewable energy sector. Until we sort out our energy constraints, new builds in the property sector will be few and this allows retrofitting and resource efficiencies to be targeted in the existing property sector.
In the long term, and predicated on the assumption that load shedding is a thing of the past, effectively unshackling the economy, the built environment will again lead the way in decarbonising the economy, although I think that green policies and sustainable development in South Africa will have to forge their own path, and at a pace to allow for inclusion of our society.
Are there any key takeaways you hope to gain by attending the 2023 Green Building convention?
Last year’s convention held interesting sessions on environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles, all of which I attended. This remains a fluid area for organisations and companies (listed or unlisted) and I again look forward to building my knowledge and expanding again on this both in terms of what investors are wanting as well as how reporting is evolving.
Explorer; Founder, 2041 Foundation
What does leadership mean to you?
We are all on a journey towards sustainability – a journey we must succeed on, as none of us inherits our time on earth from our parents. We borrow our time here from our children. Leadership needs to be creative and positive, and any leader who commits to anything on this sustainable journey MUST deliver. Above all, leadership should inspire trust.
What inspired you to create the 2041 Foundation, and how does it contribute towards combating climate change and the preservation of Antarctica?
Antarctica is Earthʼs last true wilderness, owned by us all. [Ocean explorer] Jacques Cousteau gave me this 2041 mission 32 years ago, and we have 18 years to go until the world will decide on the fate of the Antarctic. To preserve the Antarctic, we need to make it not financially worth exploiting it for fossil fuels. Therefore, I have devoted my life to the preservation of the Antarctic by trying to bring renewable energy to scale, which will also contribute towards halting climate change.
How does your work leverage energy innovation and environmental action to further your mission?
Weʼve taken energy innovation to the ends of the earth, in the most hostile places. The work continues – I will soon announce that in 2025, I will be spending the “Polar Night”, six months, alone in the Antarctic, surviving only on renewable energy.
Have you seen any significant changes and transformations in attitudes towards environmental sustainability in your career?
When I started this journey, sustainability and ESG principles were not even part of the environmental vocabulary. Great steps have been taken, but sadly we need to take more. People still believe that if we do the same [as before], things will magically change for the better. However, if we do the same, we get the same – and more of the same is not the way forward.
Is there an overarching message you would like people to gain from your keynote presentation?
I hope to leave them with a sense of hope, a sense of urgency, and the inspiration to move forwards on this sustainability journey. www.robertswan.com
DR SARA CANDIRACCI
Associate Director at Arup
– Cities, Planning and Design, Milan
In your view, how can city spaces become more inclusive, and how does that impact sustainability?
The social pillar of sustainability has until recently taken a back seat to environmental and economic concerns – not surprising, given the constant push for economic growth and the climate crisis. But more and more professionals in the built environment industry are recognising the importance of social value in relation to spaces and are starting to take their responsibility towards the local communities they work in far more seriously.
For city spaces to become more inclusive, it is critical to consider and address the needs of the communities where we are working, in particular of the most vulnerable and excluded groups – children, youth, women and girls, people with disabilities, the elderly, the urban poor.
We need to engage with these groups and co-create solutions to ensure that projects, policies, strategies and interventions are designed and implemented to deliver positive quality of life outcomes, as well as equity and justice goals for those involved.
Could you describe a few examples of your work in urban planning and how they can deliver social value in cities today?
Together with the Bernard van Leer Foundation [which funds and shares knowledge about work in early childhood development], I led the development and piloting of the Proximity of Care Design Guide, a practical online tool that helps urban planners, designers, developers, and city leaders embed child and family-friendly design principles into their work. The guide provides a compendium of guiding principles, working tools and best-practice examples developed with partners worldwide, which can be used to assess, design and build healthy, protective, stimulating and supportive environments for children to thrive, with benefits for the whole community.
In collaboration with the Lego Foundation, I led the development and piloting of the Playful Cities Design Guide, which provides practical and inspirational ideas to help urban practitioners and city authorities to embed small-scale play elements in city design and planning, to enable play for everyone, anywhere. This guide has been used to inform the design of play strategies and interventions in Milan, Cape Town and London.
Together with the United Nations Development Programme and the University of Liverpool, I led the development of the publication Cities Alive: Designing Cities That Work for Women, which provides guidance and practical steps and case studies to mainstream a gender-inclusive and responsive approach in urban planning and design.
What key messages would you like people to take away from your talk?
Adopt a systemic approach to understand people’s interactions and relationships with spaces: to prioritise social value in urban planning and design it simply as recognition that a place is always its people, and that they all have different needs and priorities, as well as a different way to interact with their environment. Effective design that changes long-term behaviour and supports human interactions is rooted in the holistic understanding of the local context.
Move from box-ticking “engagement” to meaningful participation and co-creation: traditionally, most projects carry out some stakeholder engagement before moving into the design and development phase, then follow up with a final check-in late in the programme. A more socially valuable approach would be to engage with key stakeholders and the community that will benefit from and be impacted by your project, to listen closely and ask them what they actually need and would like to see.
Value and localise existing resources, skills and patterns: it is key to learn from international best practices to be inspired and push for innovation. At the same time, bear in mind that approaches that work in one context may not apply to others. Partner with local organisations or community groups with previous experience and knowledge on the community you are seeking to engage and support. Consider local materials and construction techniques, and utilise local expertise. This will boost local economic development and foster a sense of ownership of the project and its results. www.arup.com
PROF STANLEY LIPHADZI
Group Executive Manager, Water Research Commission, City of Tshwane
How can knowledge and technology support sustainable growth and development in South Africa and beyond?
Socio-economic development requires new knowledge (the know-how) and innovations (technologies), especially in this ever-changing environment. Although sustainable growth and development means many and different things to different people, many can agree that we all need an assured supply or access to food, clean water and energy. This is the meaningful definition of sustainability, as it informs our actions, governance frameworks and plans, investment choices and practices.
South Africa has many communities ravaged by poverty, unemployment and inequality, and our experience here is that it will take many years to address those challenges, especially when the growth of our economy is almost stagnant. The societal needs (demands) are outstripping the capabilities, competencies and resources that our institutions have. In consideration of all that, I’m convinced that our best bet as a country and society is to embrace and use available knowledge and innovations (including technologies) to address current and anticipated future challenges. There are relevant innovations and knowledge applicable in rural, semi-urban and urban environments, offering great prospects of enhancing sustainable growth and development. However, we need to be agile in decision- making to optimise the benefits promised by the new knowledge and inventions.
We should use new knowledge and innovations to improve resource-use efficiency, to enable availability of more water, energy, space/settlements and food. When all people have adequate access to these resources, their livelihoods and well-being also improve. It is when innovation and knowledge enable improvement of the present and future generation’s well-being that sustainability of our growth and development can then be realised.
Could you give some examples of how living spaces have been improved through innovative solutions in a water-scarce environment.
Improved access to clean drinking water in (urban, peri-urban and rural) settlements: there is continuous effort to produce new innovations that improve quality of our tap water to be always suitable for drinking purposes. As such, there are developed protocols and process that ensures production of water quality by waterworks or treatment facilities, and they can be used in both rural and urban environment.
For instance, the Water Research Commission (WRC), with partners, continues to create and improve membrane technologies for drinking water treatments. There are technologies available for treating drinking water, such as VulAmanz technology, which can be used at small scale and on site, and are deployable in even in deep rural settlements to increases access to portable water.
What is the key message you would like conference attendees to gain from your presentation?
Be aware that South Africa, via the WRC, has developed innovations and provided knowledge about alternative options in resolving water and sanitation challenges for rural, semi-urban and urban settlements or dwellers. Developers and individuals (at all decision-making levels) should consider tapping into these innovations to improve their well-beings and livelihoods. The WRC is always ready to work with all decision-makers and innovators to improve water and sanitation access to all citizens. www.wrc.org.za
MARCELA GUERRERO CASAS
Co-founder, Local South
How do public spaces serve as a catalyst for sustainable development – and how can they drive positive change for people and planet?
It is often said that public space is the “living room” of our cities. It is where the good and the bad are on display. While it serves as an indicator of where social challenges lie, public space can also galvanise the type of positive energy that leads to sustainable development.
Educating and engaging residents across the board is essential in this process. Interventions need not be a technical exercise; they can be creative and fun. Indeed, the potential for experimental and interactive initiatives is greatest in public space and it can show us a better future for people and planet alike. Public spaces can provide the opportunity to transform our cities, making them more pedestrian-friendly, dynamic and liveable places.
Please tell us about some of your work in shaping the urban landscape, specifically with regard to transforming neighbourhood-level engagement.
There is no shortage of ideas when it comes to improving our cities; the challenge lies often in finding an appropriate way to implement them. At Local South, we support organisations and individuals working at the nexus of public and private sector with a special focus on urban issues. We believe that, in most cases, knowledge is already available, and unlocking ideas requires testing and validation. At the neighbourhood level, residents are best placed to guide those processes.
We work to bring together experience, knowledge and dreams, while building on the opportunity to share across similar contexts. We help to localise ideas with those who – like us – believe in the enormous potential of Global South cities. We do this through urban interventions, research and content development, strategy and project management, creative public engagement, and facilitation, brokering and special projects. We work with a range of partners across the private and public sectors.
What would you like people to gain from your participation at the 2023 GBCSA Convention?
Appreciation for the untapped potential in the Global South. It’s easy to feel despondent in South Africa because of the myriad challenges our cities face. This feeling is often exacerbated when we look to cities in the Global North. However, there are other cities with similar conditions, creatively addressing and overcoming challenges.
There is a great opportunity for building new thinking, learning and collaboration across the Global South – to strengthen local work on the ground in different contexts, provide an opportunity to reflect in powerful ways, and allow for new thinking from the South to enter the public conversation in a meaningful way.
When it comes to the built environment and public space, it is crucial to work towards global standards, while looking at how implementation is happening in similar cities. The work at Local South highlights the opportunities, particularly between Africa and Latin America. www.thelocalsouth.com
Founder, Green Scooter and Scooter Treats
What led to your conception of Green Scooter, and what do you hope to achieve?
I founded the company with the aim of introducing first-mile and last-mile transport options that could be adopted and applied in all types of markets. It was a problem that was marginally being solved in developed cities through technology, but none existed through the use of electric mobility. I’m working on building a technology company through automotive and other related products that could be used to advance all or most parts of the planet. People first need efficiency to understand what that translates to in the environment.
Have you encountered any barriers in the course of your eco-friendly transportation solution?
There are several, but top of mind are, firstly, finance – nobody was willing to fund my venture and it was all risk, so I had to start another business as a cash cow and I used that to build what I have today. Secondly, access to market – everyone wants to stick with the “trusted” traditional brands and not risk new products they don’t understand first-hand, so I had to offer many free demonstrations!
Any key takeaways youʼd like people to gain from your participation in the 2023 Green Building convention?
Green Scooter is working on a few interesting concepts to make the entire ecosystem work – from an Electric Urban Society to the rural environments. Green Scooter has answers that many in the room would pay for and we would like for them to work with us and champion this new era of technology and a cleaner planet. We would share our SDGs and detail how we have conceptualised these frameworks to actually work. www.greenscooterza.com
CEO and Founder, Kusini Water
What inspired you to create water purification and distribution systems for communities in need – and how does renewable energy play a part?
In Venda, where I grew up, water was always a topic of conversation and a part of daily life, for a variety of reasons. Many had to collect from rivers, tanks and hand-dug pumps – my grandmother would tell us many stories relating to fetching water from her youth, from crocodiles to unfortunate drownings.
On a professional level, I became a public servant at the City of Cape Town, and then a water scientist at Johannesburg Water. I got to hear stories from many parts of the country that were similar to mine or that of my grandmother, and after nine years I knew I had to do something about it. The biggest cost in producing water is the energy it takes. In a country with scarce energy resources, we need to ensure our systems can operate optimally, and at all times.
Tell us a little about your Water Champions programme.
Our organisation strongly believes solutions to local problems will come from local communities. Water Champions is a skills and technology-sharing programme: we share our model and know-how with youth from communities that are affected by a lack of access to safe drinking water. We train them to run our system, so in the communities we operate in, the first people to react to any maintenance issues will be the youth.
Is there a key message you would like people to gain from your presentation?
Water is a precious and essential resource, but in South Africa, it has become a source of concern due to persistent challenges related to scarcity, pollution and mismanagement. The nation’s water issues are multifaceted and require a coordinated effort to ensure a sustainable and equitable supply for all.
With annual rainfall averaging around 464mm – far below the global average of 860mm – our limited water supply is further exacerbated by increasing population growth and urbanisation, as well as the impacts of climate change. Operational models for buildings, owners, businesses and regulators need to change to reflect this. As a scarce resource, water should be priced correctly and overuse should be disincentivised. That should mean mandatory monitoring and reporting to a set standard. www.kusiniwater.co.za
Author and Adjunct Professor, Toronto Metropolitan University
In terms of lowering your carbon footprint, what kind of impact can one person have?
I am author of the book Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle, in which I spent a year trying to keep my total lifestyle carbon emissions below 2.5 tonnes. I found that the impact is considerable in terms of physical health (less meat, more walking and biking!).
I will admit that one person reducing their footprint makes little difference, but if a lot of people do it, it sends a message. It leads to political action (More bike lanes! Safer streets!) and can directly affect corporations if we are not buying what they are selling.
How do you help achieve a culture of sustainability?
I teach at Toronto Metropolitan University, where it is important to set examples. I can talk all I want, but if there is two feet of snow on the ground and I am still cycling to class, the students get the idea. When I never have a disposable cup on my lectern, they soon are bringing their own refillable bottle. We lead by example.
In your view, how can transforming a space help redefine sustainability in the built environment?
I teach sustainable design and, absolutely, transforming a space can help. You can reduce heat gain with exterior shading and heat loss with insulation; you can use healthy materials that do not release harmful VOCs; you can install proper filtered ventilation; and you can reduce water use. www.treehugger.com
Founder and CEO, The Carbonauts
The Carbonauts teaches people how to live a low-carbon lifestyle. Can a single person make an impact?
The world is made up of 8 billion single humans. To have our species survive, we’re going to have live a little differently than we have in the past 100 or 200 years. Your impact matters in that you make a difference but, more importantly, you influence others around you. If we can get a third of the population living compelling, lower footprint lives, the rest of the population will quickly follow. Your living in this way specifically fights climate change, and helps support building the social norms necessary to get us to where we want to go.
Many companies are developing sustainability strategies, but to succeed, it’s important to develop a culture of sustainability. How do you aim to help achieve this?
We help develop cultures of sustainability by helping inspire and educate staff at large companies regarding their footprints at home. We do this as the home is the most personal aspect of people’s lives and therefore the most likely to engage them. We teach live, cameras-on, highly interactive workshops in groups – that’s the best way to get people engaged with the content.
How do you believe transforming a space can help redefine sustainability in the built environment?
Quite simply, one space that transforms – such that it can be used for more hours of each day – means you need less space, and therefore you save on materials and energy. Less space means a lower footprint. www.thecarbonauts.com
Regional property consultant
What key roles does the real estate sector play in driving transformative change within the built environment?
Now, more than ever, the built environment post-pandemic is responding to very human needs – making the spaces we interact with aesthetically pleasing, with pleasant ambient heating and cooling. The changes demanded by tenants in the built environment are key drivers of changing the built environment. Green alternatives create real, tangibly better environments.
Any your thoughts on the intersection of sustainable building and commercial viability?
The commercial viability comfortably intersects with sustainable building in lower operating costs over time. In the battle to protect margins, landlords and tenants would rather opt for the lower operating costs of green buildings than “older” conventional buildings. The win is all round. The landlord wins with a better return.
The tenants win with lower operating costs. The occupants win with an improved operating environment, meeting the very human needs of fresh air and natural light. www.twitter.com/KuraChihota
Managing Executive, Property Finance, Nedbank CIB at Nedbank
How do banks recognise and back sustainable properties?
Banks can help facilitate change in how they elect to deploy capital within economies. Given the size of Nedbank’s property finance business and the diversity of our client base, we recognise the importance of creating products that meet the sustainability objectives of our clients. These products cater for the development of new buildings built to green standards, the greening of existing buildings and the creation of a more energy-efficient and sustainable environment.
What insights and innovations does the banking sector bring to the sustainable building table?
I believe banks should be working as part of a broad group of sector participants in innovating and developing solutions for efficient and sustainable properties. The collective will come up with significantly better solutions than any one individual, provided objectives are aligned.
Nedbank is focusing on a number of initiatives, including solutions that allow clients to benefit from technologies that measure energy efficiency and providing solutions to reduce the costs associated with the greening of buildings. www.cib.nedbank.co.za
General Manager, Corporate Services, Rand Water
How does water play a role in sustainable development?
Water is a finite resource that is fundamental to human well-being and only renewable if well managed. Smart water management is a pre-condition of sustainable development. Water is fundamental to the three dimensions of sustainable development, including social needs, economic development and environmental limits, and a cross-cutting driver.
Water and Agriculture: agriculture accounts for about 70% of water withdrawals worldwide (61% for South Africa), although this figure varies considerably across countries. Agriculture is by far the largest consumer of water.
Water and Industry: industry is a broad sector, comprising manufacturing, extractive industry, power generation and agriculture. Industry accounts for 20% of water demand (3% for South Africa).
Water and Energy: 90% of all power production is water-intensive.
Water and Sanitation: water is very critical for sanitation. A lot of poor areas lack both and thus development becomes difficult. If we are to develop areas, water becomes a key factor.
Please expand on Rand Water’s initiatives in ensuring reliable water solutions for green buildings.
Rand Water is working earnestly on ensuring sustainable provision of water to all those in our area of operation, including for green buildings. Recently, Rand Water launched the new purification plant, Station 5, which added about 200ML/day capacity to our operation. This means we will be able to supply more. Rand Water formed the Innovation Hub to focus on innovation that will improve how we supply water, and also how we ensure or improve the quality of water. www.randwater.co.za
Chief Operations Officer at Property Point; economic transformation strategist
What sort of role can small businesses play in building a sustainable future?
Small businesses in South Africa are said to be responsible for almost a third of the business sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. This indicates the need for small businesses to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and adopt more sustainable practices. Previous research1 has found that energy-efficiency measures are the most widely adopted by SMEs to reduce emissions, and South African small businesses are eager to be more sustainable. Though difficult to quantify, they are already at the forefront of providing innovative solutions towards building a sustainable future, using renewable energy sources (wind energy, bioenergy, solar and hydropower).
Secondly, it is said that 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce2. Should enough attention be given to the development of small businesses, they can serve as engines of job creation in a sustainable manner, addressing both issues of climate change impact and high unemployment rates, particularly among the youth.
How are small businesses contributing to the green building movement?
Small businesses can and are making pivotal contributions to the green building movement by adopting sustainable building practices, offering eco-friendly products and services, and overall creating healthier and more sustainable built environments. The businesses we support through our green programme offer a wide range of services. Resource efficiency management services for energy, water and waste materials, solar installations, land rehabilitation, vertical gardens, wetlands maintenance and recycling services are a few examples of these small businesses’ green practices and technologies.
Moreover, we support the businesses on our green programmes to acquire the necessary green building accreditation and certification, which not only provides them with the framework for achieving high-performance and environmentally responsible buildings, but also demonstrates their commitment to sustainability. The element of support is essential for small businesses to effectively contribute to the green building movement as they face resource, expertise, and financial constraints. By providing support in these areas, organisations and industry players can empower small businesses to overcome barriers – not only for their own benefit, but also for the broader goal of creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly built environment. www.propertypoint.org.za